51 – 10. Stalker vs. Stalker (6)
Guns and bombs, collectively called ‘firearms,’ are highly criticized in this pre-modern fantasy world.
The so-called ‘weapons of the void.’ It’s a fact. In a world with mana and detectable magic, long-range projectile weapons are never good material or crafted by skilled artisans.
After all, those who have only mediocre skills shoot at others of the same kind, mostly missing, lacking romance, lacking knights, lacking justice, and indiscriminately spilling blood.
Therefore, just by holding a gun, you can assess the opponent’s skill. Using explosives meant it was already over.
Materials for creating a sufficient quantity of high-quality magical explosive are managed as strategic resources at the national level. Therefore, preparing to level a building is close to impossible.
Even if dozens of casualties occur, on the contrary, it means that the personnel resources prepared for all those difficult processes are consumed at a mere exchange cost.
However, like a kitchen knife can harm a person if it stabs into the body, even a firearm that is not effective against supernaturals is nothing less than an assassin to civilians.
This simple tool of death that brings about death with just a pull of the trigger is a way of bestowing inexplicable courage and excitement to the wielder.
“Why are you back so soon? You should have held your ground!”
“No, damn it… How am I supposed to deal with that knight roaming around! If I lingered a bit more, I might have faced a blade like last time!”
“That cowardly bastard… The knight in that house won’t be able to keep up anyway, guarding that kid. It’s just a matter of making a good escape!”
“If that was the plan, why didn’t you do it? Because you couldn’t bear to see that son of a b*tch get stabbed right in front of you.”
The man grumbled, shivering. Isabelle’s house, the daughter of a warrior, was under his surveillance as part of his duty.
No matter how exceptional his talents were, he was just a kid. Whether it was tracking or espionage, it wouldn’t be difficult.
However, it was a different story if there was a guardian. Dealing with a well-trained knight as a bodyguard posed a bigger problem.
Bullets were meaningless against them. This was common knowledge.
If one had to approach them armed with just a single bullet within their range, it was as good as putting their head in a lion’s mouth.
“So, it’s supposed to be the day of reckoning, but why is there still no word from above? I can’t stand this nonsense anymore. It’s been a week already.”
“Dionar Kye is expected to arrive in Fritsanka by today or tomorrow. Well, then, things should start happening by the day after tomorrow.”
“I’ve heard that gentleman’s name countless times. Is he coming from Drôan?”
“He’s almost here. It seems he walked here due to strict border inspections these days.”
“Really, all the way from Drôan to here?”
The men muttered as they moved through the alleyways. Checking Isabelle’s whereabouts was important for now, unless she suddenly moved today; it wasn’t crucial.
As long as they were in their positions on the day of reckoning, it would be enough.
“That’s right. Dionar Eriksen.”
Two men, strolling through a deserted alley, stood upright.
Their eyes met.
– Did we step on a tail?!
– No, we came very cautiously.
– Then what’s this guy?
The men exchanged glances and abruptly started running.
It didn’t matter who the opponent was. The important things were two.
That the opponent knew the name ‘Dionar Eriksen’ and that they hadn’t realized the distance at which the two men could overhear their conversation.
So, the mysterious man was the stronger one. The tactics of the weak were always the same.
“Son of a b*tch!”
The man who had been running ahead took out a small bead from his pocket, tossed it, and then leaped out of the alley corner.
The bead exploded, filling the alley with thick smoke. Smoke bomb, nothing fancy or poisonous.
Ivan chuckled and followed the fleeing men.
He didn’t hurry. He knew that, rather than rushing to catch the escaping strong ones, the weaker ones catching up despite the speed difference invoked greater terror.
Interrogation is a refined art. Mindlessly barking, torturing, and making threats are malicious moves that blur the quality of information.
The acquisition of accurate information should begin with dismantling the psychological foundation of the subject.
Ivan walked through the smoke, continuing in the direction the men had fled.
Taking a deep breath and reminiscing about the past.
Ezidis stared blankly at the night sky from the bedroom terrace.
“Uncle is dead.”
Her father even offered condolences for her uncle’s death. Although the situation was precarious, preventing him from attending the funeral directly, he had been somber and drowned his sorrows in alcohol for quite some time after returning.
She raised her hand absentmindedly.
Somewhere around her mouth, hesitatingly.
Apart from the beard, it seemed somewhat similar, or maybe it was too frightening to look straight at, but it also seemed like an entirely different person.
Bright blue burning eyes, neat eyes, elegant eyebrows, and nose.
Yeah, it seemed somewhat similar.
Ezidis shook her head. This was a wicked thought.
Uncle Ivan died as a great warrior. After slaughtering the Seven Dragons, he sacrificed himself, allowing a few surviving members to live.
That was a remarkable feat. The Seven Dragons were formidable opponents even for the warrior parties that had to pass a rigorous qualification process in those days.
Confusing such a noble man with someone just because they looked alike was an insult to him.
From the beginning, Uncle Ivan had teased Isabelle, slept with Professor Enrique, and simultaneously stalked university students to satisfy his s*xual preferences. (It was only natural.)
Considering him on the same level as such a lowly man was an apology in itself. With a rueful expression, Ezidis lowered her head.
Droan’s religion followed the common religion of the Union Kingdom, ‘The God of Light.’ However, it had a peculiarly distorted afterlife belief mixed with traditional customs.
A great warrior believes in continuing eternal struggle by the side of the ‘God of Light’ after death.
As the enemies of light are always darkness, warriors wield their swords against the darkness on behalf of the god late at night.
Those traces are the stars. The countless stars in the sky are the warriors who have departed to be with the god.
So, thinking that Ivan’s star might be somewhere up there, Ezidis politely bowed her head and whispered.
“Uncle, I miss you. Lately, a bit more. In response to your advice to play an instrument, I’ve been practicing it. It’s not easy, but I’m working hard. I’ve made a lot of friends too. I’m doing well.”
During the day, since the stars don’t appear, you won’t be aware of what happened during the day.
“So please watch over me. When I graduate, and I become proficient enough, I’ll play a eulogy for Uncle in front of Uncle’s grave. So that Uncle’s sacrifice won’t be in vain, and the world remains as beautifully as it is.”
She sniffled, clutching the handkerchief and sobbing.
She didn’t dare to think of playing at night. It was a duty she couldn’t fulfill, to reveal her unskilled talent to Uncle.
So, Ecydis wiped away her tears decisively and stood up.
Due to the confusing situation during the day, it was hard to fall asleep early. Since tomorrow was a day off anyway, she decided to take a night stroll.
“Uncle Mord! Let’s go out for a bit!”
“Well, let’s do that then.”
Mord, who was cleaning weapons downstairs, shrugged and stood up.
The two of them set out into the summer night streets of Freechanka in casual attire.
King Einar had numerous brothers. Huscál, the king’s confidant. They were killing machines who willingly obeyed the king with emotions like loyalty, friendship, love (not in a strange sense), hope, and other bright and happy feelings.
These lively executioners usually stayed in the king’s palace. They held festivals every night, enjoyed meat and alcohol, and dedicated their lives to fighting among themselves.
From Ivan’s perspective, they were organized criminals. It wouldn’t be wrong to call them organized and violent.
But even thugs had their rules. Their only law was their ‘boss.’
As long as you consistently provided them with meat and alcohol and maintained a force they could respect, there was no more loyal and robust force on the continent than these thugs.
Therefore, cases of Huscál betraying were extremely rare. The crucial point here is that they were extremely rare.
The word ‘rare’ implies that it did happen at some point in history.
And history proves that once something happens, it can happen again.
Isn’t betrayal by those you trust the most severe?
“A spring for the citizens?”
“Yeah!! Th-that’s it! I don’t know anything else! Dammit… th-that, that’s it…”
“A healing potion?”
“Don’t be ridiculous! How can that be a healing potion!!”
Ivan, after looking down at the poor man who writhed in pain, straightened his back and stood up.
Even with that small movement, the man, shivering and hunched over, let out a small yelp.
“A spring for the citizens. Quite poetic for a rebel’s name.”
Ivan smiled bitterly. In this backward pre-modern society, oddly enough, the group to which this man belonged had the characteristics of a multinational human rights organization.
Of course, only on the surface.
‘One person’s longevity and one sword should not wield power over the majority….’
Isn’t this the slogan of a democratic revolution?
However, Ivan knew that this was nothing more than sweet propaganda.
Unlike Earth, this world had mana. Mana, the universal resource, was a special substance that could be a nose ring when attached to the nose, an earring when attached to the ear.
It enhanced an individual’s strength, allowing them to split mountains and soar through the sky. It also strengthened a person’s hearing, smell, and vision to an animal level.
The ability to create magic that could demolish fortresses and massacre legions, a special substance that could make an individual overwhelmingly powerful with just talent and effort, rendered democracy meaningless.
He could be so sure of this because he had lived in a democratic society.
Contrary to the misconceptions of many, rights did not simply originate from obligations. They were based on a social system that allowed the acquisition and maintenance of those rights.
And that social system was, naturally, maintained by force. Overwhelming force. The driving force that allowed the state to enforce obligations on individuals.
As long as mana existed, people could not be equal. It was a sad truth, especially in a world with demons, elves, and dwarves.
So, this was a wicked propaganda of a nature trying to sound benevolent with pleasant words.
And one more thing.
‘In a world where there are no means of communication other than messages and letters, an international organization.’
Even in a world where phone calls and video calls were common, establishing an international organization was extremely difficult, let alone in the pre-modern era.
Naturally, it meant that there were powerful figures behind the scenes who could maintain such a large organization.
Isn’t it paradoxical? The nature of the organization created by those in power is democratic. At first glance, it could be seen as a beautiful ‘revolution from the top,’ but the world is not a utopia.
All those in power act rationally for their ambitions.
“Aleksandr. I don’t know what you’re up to or where you’re going, but you’re using your head well.”
Ivan chuckled and shook his head.
‘Targeting the members of the Hero’s Party itself was part of the propaganda.’
Their slogan was the ‘salvation of the majority ruled by the few powerful.’ If the reason for targeting the members of the Hero’s Party was a terrorist act aimed at their hereditary power, it made sense. It was an accomplishment that could directly show the people, who were trying to sound benevolent, their achievements.
Ivan nodded at the story of the past days, which now unfolded.
‘The on-site practice terror was no coincidence.’
Recalling the demon insurgents who accurately understood the location and nature of the on-site practice, attempting to assassinate the members of the Hero’s Party, Ivan narrowed his eyes.
Someone in the Krasylov royal government, military, or administration had sold and leaked the information.
And this will be nothing more than a preview of the countless terrors to come. An organization of this magnitude won’t be discouraged by just one or two failures.
Ivan smiled bitterly. What thoughts occupied the mind of the once jovial royal youth, and what deeds was he planning now?
What does he desire? What advantage does dismantling the monarchy, collapsing the United Kingdom, and undermining the authority and public opinion of the nobility bring?
And why was Veolgrin pursuing Alexandre?
Where did Maximilian disappear to?
Thoughts piled up distinctly. Ivan sighed.
The simplest way to unravel a complex knot is to cut the knot itself.
Ivan raised the axe, placing it on his shoulder.
“Where should I go to contact Dyonar Erikson?”