~ Chapter 64: The stalker (Part 1) ~
[Reginald’s point of view]
Of all the things I loathed in this world, my own flesh and blood brother had to be in the top ten on my list. Always so easy to quit half-way through anything, always eager to punish the innocent, always acting and thinking like an idiot without so much as taking into account what would happen if he were to give a certain unreasonable order. All of these things represented and identified my one and only brother Reynolds.
Initially, I went to the outskirts of our kingdom to see how our troops were faring. Although they survived in terrible conditions, I didn’t ask for their share of food or the blankets with which they kept themselves warm. I lived as they did to see what it was like, and at the end of this experiment, I understood one thing… A human cannot live under an oppressing rule for too long. They will go mad or revolt even if it costs them their own lives. At the same time, I gained their trust, and by now, most of the army listened to me rather than my idiotic brother.
As I marched towards Elora, the capital of the Aunnar Kingdom, I found myself plotting to form a coup and rip all the political power from my brother’s grasp. I would let him live merely as a simple noble, nothing more and nothing less.
I remembered this city as one harboring a very oppressing and sad aura. Everyone looked down, and no one dared to speak against the royal family. If Reynolds even so much as heard you speak ill of him, he would throw you to the gallows or turn you into a slave. It wasn’t a very lively city because of this, but people still managed to hold their heads up high and maybe smile from time to time. This very fact was proof of the indomitable strength of my people.
“What’s this?” was my first question the moment I stepped through the gates.
The first thing I noticed were children running through the streets, and to my left, a slave merchant being forced by city guards to free his slaves. I was both surprised and dumbfounded at the same time. No one except for my brother had the authority to give out such orders!
“You there, young lad!” I called out to one of the children, a nekatar boy.
“Mew?” he looked up at me and tilted his head to the right.
“You were once a slave, weren’t you?” I asked him, pointing at the collar marking around his neck.
“Yes, sir…” he nodded and lowered his ears.
“Do not worry, I mean no harm. I am just curious as to why are there so many free slaves here.” I asked him.
“I do not know of the rest, but I was bought by a rich man named Illsyore. He made slave master Deroak free us and take care of us until we are old enough to take care of ourselves.” he replied and then let out another mew.
“No, Tullos! That’s not right! He won us fair and square at the coliseum! Since old-man Deroak didn’t have enough goldiettes to pay him, Illsyore made him promise to take care of us instead of giving him the money.” a young human boy came over and corrected the nekatar.
Both of them were slaves, but to hear of such generosity in this city was amazing. I couldn’t believe my own ears. This man deserved a medal!
“What of the other ones, the adults?” I asked him then.
“Oh, Illsyore destroyed the palace and forced Prince Reynolds to free all slaves. Since he couldn’t do it in the entire kingdom, the prince decided to first free them in the capital and forbid slave trading here.” Tullos replied with a big smile while waving his furry tail left and right.
“What?” I furrowed my brow when I heard him and looked towards the palace.
Even from here, I was supposed to see the glistening white towers, but there was no such thing. I was starting to reconsider the whole medal thing.
“Thank you, lads! You may return to your play.” I told them and then walked back to my group.
“Master, what do you think of this?” asked Zoreya, a very powerful and well trained crusader of the Melkuth Order.
She was a beautiful, tall woman with blue eyes and blond hair. Many have called her a priceless jewel of indisputable quality. Both brave and smart, this woman was incredible addition to any squad’s battle force. To top it off, her Adventurer Rank was that of Mid towards Superior Supreme. Some tested her strength at around 2000. How exactly she became so strong, it was a mystery, but she didn’t use either boost or gear to raise her status. Despite all of these, she had the tendency to be a bit clumsy at times, like accidentally stepping on a very obvious and easy to spot trap in the middle of a dungeon.
Zoreya was also my most trusted adviser and guard. She stood by my side ever since I first met her when she was sent to our kingdom by the Melkuth Order of Crusaders.
“I find my brother’s movements to be rather odd, but at the same time, I’m curious about this Illsyore fellow. Hm…” I looked back at the ten knights standing behind her.
There were two of them who were rather agile and well versed in the art of gathering information. I motioned towards them to come closer to me.
“Your highness?” they asked after they saluted.
“Go and see what you can find out about this Illsyore fellow. Where he comes from, whom he has spoken to, what he ate, anything!” I ordered them.
“Understood!” they saluted again and then dashed off in different directions.
“Now then! Let us go and meet my brother! I feel like our time apart has brought some significant changes in both of us!” I smiled and looked back at the road leading to the palace.
This should be interesting! I thought.
Not even an hour later, we arrived at the gates of the royal palace. They were still standing, and the wall to my left was still under repairs. If Zedor, the Demigod Dungeon didn’t finish already, that meant the palace had taken considerable damage. This assuming of course that he was still alive.
“His royal Highness, Reginald D. Lagrange, has arrived!” announced the guards.
Followed by Zoreya and my other knights, I stepped through the gates and entered the courtyard. This place was a mess, but I couldn’t understand how exactly it was damaged. I had seen many spells and ways of destroying a building, but the way the towers and walls were cut was unreal. It was almost as if some sort of hot blade was passed through the solid stone and melted away.
Fascinating! I thought as I looked at my statue, which was cut in half at the waist.
“WOW! Reynolds managed to piss off someone very powerful!” commented one of my knights.
“Indeed.” I replied and then made my way to the remains of the palace.
The soldiers and servants who saw me, immediately bowed down to show their respect towards me. I stopped only once, and that was to ask one of them of my brother’s whereabouts. Apparently, he was crying in the library at the second floor.
I made my way up there, and entered the room.
Unlike the city’s library, the Royal Library held a significant amount of books for the royal family’s personal use. Rows upon rows were kept on the golden shelves reaching all the way up to the ceiling. Surprisingly, this was but one of the few spots untouched by Illsyore’s merciless attacks, and this was only because it was located on the other side of the palace.
I could still remember how I came here as a young child searching for a book to bring back to my father to read for me. Now, in that same chair, I found my brother Reynolds looking up at the ceiling. His eyes were bloodshot and surrounded by dark rings, a sign of him having missed out on quite a few hours of sleep. On the table in front of him and all around him were countless books opened and marked at various pages. Scribble parchments and empty ink canisters could be see on the floor.
I see he kept himself busy? Since when was this idiot brother of mine interested in reading and writing? Also… did he lose weight or are my eyes deceiving me? I asked myself as I walked closer to this mess.
“Brother, I have returned.” I announced myself.
“Hah? That’s good… fine… I’m doomed!” he said and then started to cry.
This reaction surprised me. I never saw my brother in such a deplorable state.
“The nobles are jumping on my back, the slave masters are cursing me, the world hates me, and above all… I’m cursed to die in one month one week and four days from now! Hah! Congratulations brother, you’ll be ruling this kingdom alone starting from then! Hahaha!” he began to laugh hysterically before bursting into a loud cry again.
What is the meaning of this? I asked myself as I looked at him with a furrowed brow.
“Brother… do you know what I did?” he asked me without even throwing me a glance.
“No… what?” I replied shaking my head.
How could I know what manner of storm swept through the kingdom and dropped Reynolds on his knees like this?
“I angered a peaceful Godlike Dungeon Lord, and he cursed me!” he said and then laughed again.
“You did what?” I was surprised to hear something like this.
The strongest dungeon that I knew of was Zedor, the Demigod Dungeon with a level of 258. To hear that there was a Godlike Dungeon Lord roaming around cursing people was quite a shocking piece of information. I found myself at a loss of words.
“Hey, brother? I tried my best, but I can’t figure it out… I can’t figure out a way to get rid of slavery and not drop our kingdom to the bottom of a Merion dung pile!” he said as he lifted two books up “Look! Our entire workforce from the smallest to the largest are all dependent on slaves! You can’t even go to the barber shop to get a haircut without having a slave either take you there or helping out some way. I don’t know what to do with them after they are set free either! For now, I left them do as they please, but… it won’t last long. They don’t have a home, they can’t work… it’s hopeless I tell you, hopeless…” he dropped the books and then looked back up at the ceiling with tears in his eyes.
He’s trying to integrate former slaves? How did this Godlike Dungeon Lord manage to scare my brother so badly that he’s seriously thinking of this sort of stuff? And what’s with this thing about him dying in more than a month from now? I asked myself as I looked at him.
While true that I was already planning to overthrow him. The reason I wanted to do so was to start reforms in regard to the slavery system. After seeing and experiencing by myself the conditions in which my people lived, I wanted it gone, but since my brother was working so desperately on it, I was starting to have second doubts about my coup.
“Brother, are you serious about this?” I asked him.
“Serious?” he started to laugh. “He asks if I’m serious? Hahaha!” he got up from the table and walked over to me. Ripping his shirt open, he showed me a black, pulsing tattoo carved directly into his flesh “Does this tell you how SERIOUS I am? Brother dearest, this is a Godlike Dungeon Lord’s curse that will ensure I will die a most horrible death if I don’t bring a change against slavery in this country! As selfish as I may be, I do not plan on tossing my life away because of it!” he glared at me.
I had never seen such a strength, determination, and will in my brother. To be more precise, he never showed these qualities even once when I was around. His desire to slack off and not do anything was the most visible of all of his traits. Judging from my old impression of him, I was thinking that he was going to give up on this whole matter, go somewhere to live the rest of his days, or try to sleep with as many women as possible before the time was up, not actually try to do something about it.
I guess I don’t know my own brother… I thought and then took a step back from him.
“Tell me, what’s the name of this Dungeon?” I asked.
“Illsyore, the destroyer of the Supreme Dankyun!” he laughed it off and walked back to his desk.
Where have I heard that name before? I thought.
“Your highness, did you just say Dankyun? As in Dankyun Alttoros?” Zoreya asked as she took a step forward.
“I don’t know. He only said Dankyun. How many Supremes with that name do you know off? Oh, and he’s a draconian too.” Reynolds waved it off.
“Draconian? So it was him… Dankyun Alttoros… This means that my brother is dead…” Zoreya said as she gripped the hilt of her sword.
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