Chapter 195: The Hero and Witch
"…During that period, I remember that a fairytale poem was very popular among the bards," Nemo sighed and muttered in a low voice. "’Heroes and Witches’, don’t tell me it’s about…"
"Yes." Medes’ voice is like a dying old man. "Except for the rumor that ‘Flint is a liar who seeks fame and fortune’, that’s what the ‘truth’ looks like in the eyes of people."
Nemo had heard that song countless times…
[Once upon a time there was a hero who fought bravely and won many battles. He brought countless miracles and made the people he protected very happy.]
[But this caused the enemy to be dissatisfied that they sent a demagogic witch to his side. The bewildered hero gave up the princess that should have belonged to him and fell in love with the evil witch.]
In the illusion in front of him, Medes was still in a daze until he sat down opposite Flint.
His former commander was dressed in a simple civilian outfit, without a hint of a smile on his face. Flint just glanced at Medes’ clean and tidy image lightly and opened his mouth lightly.
"Don’t do anything stupid. Your death won’t change anything, Balthazar." He lowered his gaze, looking as pale and thin as ever.
To Medes’ surprise, Flint’s right arm, which should have been given to the king, was still attached and moved freely.
But his commander did lose something. Medes looked bitterly at the man across the table— Flint’s eyes were dim, his face was numb with pain, and his breath bore an eerie resemblance to refugees who had lost their homeland.
They didn’t meet in the tavern. Flint chose an abandoned dilapidated house near the capital— He even brought two bottles of dusty bad wine and threw one bottle to Medes, who was sitting opposite.
"Let’s talk," the former commander of the Tin Soldiers said coldly.
"…" Medes pursed his chapped lips. He wanted to speak, but countless words were stuck in his throat, and he couldn’t spit out a word.
"If you don’t want to speak, I can start." Flint sharply uncorked the bottle and gave himself a few sips of the dust himself. "You told the king about my situation, and I think we all know this."
Medes gritted his teeth and nodded extremely slowly.
"I should have thought of it a long time ago," Flint said in a deep voice. "I remember you mentioned a long time ago that your family was lifted out of poverty because of King Sampson’s innovations, and you admire him very much. To be honest, Medes, logically I can understand what you thought… but I can’t understand it from the bottom of my heart."
"Commander… Flint, I know it’s useless to apologize to this extent. As a friend, not only can I not share your pain, but I also pushed you down the abyss." Medes closed his eyes. "But if time were to be repeated countlessly, I think I will still make such a choice and regret it forever. I can’t risk it— Flint, I can’t risk it."
The young Medes shook so badly that he almost dropped the wine bottle in his hand to the ground. "I failed your trust, and I failed to trust you from the bottom of my heart… You can retaliate against me any way you want, in the cruelest way. That’s the punishment I deserve."
"What did Sampson tell you?" Flint asked as if he hadn’t heard what the other party said, in a tone that could be considered scary.
"He didn’t like Miss Ramon from the beginning, but he thought you wouldn’t be serious, so—" Medes didn’t react for a while.
"So I was rewarded with a period of ‘rest time’ to amuse myself with lowly women, isn’t that right?"
"Yes, you know, the status between the two of you…" Medes took a few breaths in pain. "The king…"
"’Flint is like a child of mine. He should be a man who knows the importance of the lesser. I know very well what he will choose in the face of personal affairs and righteousness, but he has changed. You are his friend so you can tell. He was cursed by that woman, and she disintegrated his fighting spirit— When Alban was in urgent need of a hero, she tempted him to abandon his people and go live in seclusion’ His Majesty, no, was what Sampson would say."
Flint gave a wry smile very lightly and clenched the bottleneck of the bottle.
"’It’s almost half a year since the end of the expedition, and it’s time for Flint to collect himself. He’s not yet thirty, and he is at the peak of his strength. He abandoned the people when Alban needed him most. A refugee of unknown origin is suspicious enough, and now what she’s doing is no different from treason.’" Medes repeated the words as if they were sharp blades.
[She worn out his will. The mighty hero could still fight, but he no longer had the will to fight. He turned his back on the people who believed in him, ignored the tragic war that was taking place, and ignored the people who were suffering because of the smoke.]
[The wise king couldn’t let his warriors be taken away. He wanted to save the confused hero, so he killed the witch.]
"It seems that the last time he summoned me, he wanted to confirm my ‘confused’ state." Flint’s voice began to tremble a little. "This is really…ha."
The hero who had lost his wife let out a smile that was worse than crying.
"I admit that he is a good emperor, Medes. No king has ever revitalized Alban as fundamentally as he did. I also understand your concerns. If I kill him now, the young princes will not be able to resist Willard’s offensive at all— If this is what you fear. I understand, but…"
"But you worship the king too much, just like everyone who has received his favor. Sampson Alastair is a great king, but it has nothing to do with whether he’s a ‘trustworthy’ person. No, it is precisely because he is too successful that he’s terrible— A gentle and benevolent person is not suitable for sitting on the throne, and he has long seen through this."
"I thought your friendship… It was a mistake in my judgment." Medes tugged at his hair.
"You thought he would not force me to this point for the sake of your face?"
Flint put the almost empty wine bottle aside and stared at the broken clods of soil on the ground that were cracked by dryness. "Abbas once told me that sometimes a spell that does pure calculations gets a more effective strategy than a sage. Do you know why?"
"……No," Medes lied. He knew, but the answer that should have been seen through a long time ago twisted his heart.
"Because calculation doesn’t require feelings, and people can be swayed by ‘hearts’. Sampson Alastair is more like a sophisticated machine than a human being— If you predict all threats and kill them all in its initial state, of course you can succeed. He is the ultimate form of rationality, and there is no gap between the parts left to human nature. Now I am not "Flint Lopez" to him, but ‘the calamity of Alban’."
"After all, I didn’t see through it at first, and I was deceived by his enthusiasm."
Flint’s grief finally found an outlet.
"In his opinion, my body is not crippled, so I can fight again… No, perhaps in yours and his opinion, right?"
"…Yes." Medes didn’t plan to hide his thoughts anymore. "Because you are the most powerful person I have ever seen, Flint. You always have a way of pulling yourself together."
"I’m not strong at all!" Flint roared. "You don’t even know what happened when I was at the bottom of the Abyss—"
He stopped oddly.
"Sometimes mental wounds are more difficult to heal than physical ones." A few seconds later, Flint changed the subject wearily. "But everyone is never willing to agree with what they can’t see. Sonia… Sonia, she knows how fragile I am. Only by her side can I breathe normally and collapse wantonly. I don’t have to worry about being considered a coward or a lunatic."
The truly brave hero fell into a daze after these words, seemingly unable for a moment to accept the fact that his wife had departed.
"What do you know at the bottom of the Abyss?" Medes asked cautiously. "Maybe I can…"
"No, I won’t tell you. I won’t tell anyone. Balthazar. This is my last favor as a former companion." Flint shook his head feebly, his eyes red. "But I’m really…very weak. Only she can see me like that. No, she can accept the weak side of everyone."
"You have been emphasizing class and strength. Yeah, I never told you how I fell in love with her."
Flint looked like a dead person, and he continued in a ghostly tone.
"I arrived earlier that day and heard her companion talking to her. Her friend was also worried about the differences between us and advised her not to be really tempted. ‘Flint Lopez is currently the number one powerhouse on the surface, and he won’t really fancy lowly people like us." — Her friend said so."
"‘The number one in fighting skills. Yes, his fighting skills are much better than mine, but compared with me, his dancing is terrible. He’s just a pretty boy with clumsy hands and feet, but I like his smile. ’–she said so."
"At that moment, I understood that it was her. Balthazar, all this time I could feel that my spirit was nowhere near as strong as hers. Aren’t you curious why I refused to reorganize the Tin Soldiers? I can’t fight anymore."
"I don’t have the strength to continue fighting— Not out of fear, but because when I look at the world in front of me again, I feel tired from the bottom of my heart. If it weren’t for Sonia, I might have found a quiet place to end my life a long time ago. She didn’t tempt me to turn my back on Alban. She was just saving my life… with a warm home. Saving my life."
But everything had come to naught.
"Flint." Medes’ tears finally gushed from his eyes.
"Disappointed in me, right?"
"No, I… I don’t know. I’m sorry."
"Now that I have determined the king’s thoughts, I don’t have any questions now." Flint stood up and patted the soil on his clothes.
"Wait, Flint! Your right arm—"
"Oh, this." Flint moved his right arm, which looked extremely normal. "Because it couldn’t recover normally, I asked the people from the ‘butcher shop’. It’s made from demon flesh."
"…But it will corrode your body!"
"Enough for me to live until my child grows up. If he can survive, if he’s still breathing, I can continue."
"Even if you lose your strength, your swordsmanship should be enough…"
"You know the child’s physical condition. My teacher has taught me a lot of theories of abyssal magic. With this arm, I finally have the chance to use them. If necessary, I’ll use abyssal magic to heal him… and." Flint’s voice dropped.
"If he can survive, I hope to be like other fathers— I can hold him with both hands while he rides on my neck to watch the fireworks."
Outside the illusion, Oliver closed his eyes. Medes, who had already turned into a dead bone, lowered his head, the red light in his eyes was so faint that it appeared to be invisible.
"Goodbye, Balthazar Medes. Thank you for giving my child a chance to live. Although it’s very sad, I understand your choice to guard the king. There is only one thing I can never forgive you— You let my child get caught up in the king’s order to hunt him down when he couldn’t survive on his own. That’s it. I think this is the last time we’ll see each other."
Flint grabbed the empty bottle and grinned with difficulty. He repeated it again. "…Goodbye."
[But the witch’s spell was too powerful, and the hero quickly weakened after that and passed away, leaving behind the war-scorched land.]
Nemo clenched his fists. He could feel Oliver’s hand trembling while holding him.
"Then I never saw him again." The memory disappeared, and Medes whispered in the tumbling white mist. "That’s all I know, Oliver."
The white mist slowly dissipated, and poured back into the skull, turning back into a bright white light source.
"No wonder my father has always hated bards." After a long time, Oliver finally spoke out. "Mr. Medes, how did you become like this?"
"After doing such a thing, no matter from any point of view, I can no longer live a normal life as a ‘human’. Perhaps in the eyes of the people, this is righteousness, but I can never forgive myself. I completely ruined him— If it weren’t for me, he wouldn’t need that demon right arm."
The necromancer rubbed his skeleton hands. The joint colliding made a soft sound. "I was too young at the time, and I was tortured by right and wrong to the point of collapse. In these years here… I have thought very clearly."
"Many times, there is no right or wrong between good and evil, only acceptance or not— What I want and what I don’t want, what I agree with and what I don’t agree with. Most of the time, right and wrong are just weapons."
"But I understood it too late."
"I am not qualified to forgive you on behalf of my father." Oliver lowered his head slightly and saluted. "But thank you for being willing to tell me this."
Medes smiled bitterly and shook his head, wiping the blood and tears from his face with his robe. "I don’t need forgiveness."
"Since you haven’t left and you’re still willing to talk to me, next step would be for me to help you figure out the condition of your body and to find a way to treat that little girl. About those things in the past, all I want to tell you is one thing… Oliver, let me be thick-skinned and advise you as an elder."
"Never go to the bottom of the Abyss. I don’t know what your father found there, but it really changed him. Sometimes, ignorance is the greatest happiness."
The author has something to say：
I know it’s easier to deal with conflicts by writing the emperor as a faint monarch, but…personally prefer this kind of conflict (whisper)_(:""∠)_
Dad was probably suffering from… very severe PTSD + depression at that time, and he really couldn’t fight.
It’s true like they say, ignorance is bliss. I really like the morality of it all. Looking at different perspective, there is truly no right or wrong, and things aren’t black or white. The emperor has a duty towards his country and what he did to some would be considered evil, but he has the population of Alban to protect. Life isn’t simple when things like war and strife is going.
Still… I would raze Alban to the ground if I was Flint. After all, everyone is making choices (irrelevant of right or wrong).