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Published at 1st of May 2023 10:45:05 AM


Chapter 598

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The four of them left the club building where Dettomorian was and returned to the Royal Class Dormitory.

Their original purpose was to ask whether the heretics in the refugee village could turn the remains of the saints into the undead.

However, Ludwig heard a prophecy about his death.

And when Ludwig refused to back down from it, Dettomorian seemed to reluctantly give a hint.

But the hint was strange.

Find the already dead friend, Asher.

What connection did this have with the incident? The connection was so weak that it was impossible to know what it means.

"That guy, he's gone completely insane."

Heinrich frowned, as if Dettomorian was disgusting.

"No, Heinrich. Dettomorian is trying to discourage us. You know that."

"If he knew, then he should’ve explained it properly. What's going to happen? Just ignore him. He's a madman. You know how many people went crazy because of the war, right? You know too, don't you?"

All of them had been on the frontlines.

Everyone knew that it was common for people to lose their minds in the horrors of war.

The death of comrades, the horrors of battle, the pain of injury, and the fear emitted by monsters drove many to madness.

There were countless people who became disabled, unable to wield weapons or even lead a normal life.

All four of them in this place had seen firsthand the madness of war and those who went crazy in it.

"Don't worry about those unlucky words. And what's with the talk about Asher? I thought that guy was gloomy, but sane."

"Youngest."

At Heinrich's rough words, eventually, Louise stepped in.

"…Yes."

"Magic is an unknown power, and mages are beings we don't know."

"…"

"But even though it's an unknown power, haven't you seen the person?"

Louise looked at Heinrich.

"I didn't see him as a child who used power wrongly, nor as one who used his heart wrongly."

"But… it's just confusing. Too… rather, why didn't he tell us properly what's going on? Why did he say that?"

Heinrich's argument that Ludwig's impending death was nothing more than a curse wasn't entirely wrong.

"Since we don't know another mage who can give examples, that kid must have a good reason for doing so."

"It's meaningless for us to discuss why Dettomorian said that now."

"…"

Louise's restraint and Ellen's words left Heinrich with no choice but to be silent.

Ellen looked at Ludwig.

If they pursued this matter, Ludwig would die.

No one knows how or in what way he would die.

But Ludwig knew that his death wouldn't be in vain, and he was determined.

Would it be okay to destroy that determination?

You should stay out of it.

Was that the right thing to say?

"I don't believe I'm going to die."

As if understanding the meaning behind Ellen's gaze, Ludwig spoke with a determined expression.

"I don't doubt Dettomorian, but I believe I can do something. If I die in the end, it's not Dettomorian's fault, but mine."

"…"

People chose to believe what they want to believe. Even if it was a lie, they believed it, so how much more for the truth?

Death wasn't to be believed, and the process of dying wouldn't be meaningless—that was the belief.

"Yes."

Ellen silently nodded her head, looking at Ludwig's resolve.

Ludwig's stubbornness could not be broken.

If Ludwig, who had already been bent too many times, were to bend again, he would wither away while still alive.

That expression seemed like living through something worse than death, surviving in a misery greater than death.

"The shaman said you would die, but not when."

The shaman had said that he would die, but not when it would happen.

Anyone could predict that a person would eventually die, so the prophecy of his death was something even a non-shaman could make.

Ludwig decided to deceive the shaman's prophecy instead.

Ellen also decided not to think about Ludwig's death. It might not be true.

Death had become so prevalent that it was easy to predict, but not everyone would die.

There was plenty of possibility that the prophecy was wrong.

Excluding Ludwig now, he was the type to seek another death.

So rather, it was better to keep him in sight.

"What on earth does it mean to find Asher?"

The next problem.

To find Asher.

What on earth did it mean that he would find out then?

It could be dismissed as nonsense. If Dettomorian was just a crazy person, then it would just be malicious nonsense.

However, it was too random.

It would have made sense if they were told to find the Five Great Religions Popes or to visit the scene again.

It was so unexpected and unimaginable that it was grotesque.

Where was he supposed to find Asher, who was already dead?

From the story of finding a dead friend, there could be only one conclusion.

"Is it... a suggestion to find Asher's tomb?"

At Ludwig's words, everyone couldn't help but think they knew even less.

The shaman's words were leading them further into a labyrinth.

Ellen slowly nodded her head.

"Even if going to see it might be meaningless, it can't be a bad thing."

The person they had sent away.

Although finding his tomb might make everyone feel miserable, it couldn't make the situation worse.

------

All four of them left the temple.

Their steps were cautious, as the Holy Knights or some other forces who had detected their pursuit might be watching or chasing after them.

Asher, who had talent in divine power.

Asher had taken on the role of a priest healing soldiers from the rear.

And he was torn to death by a rear attack of flying monsters.

It was difficult to even properly look at the gruesome state of his body, which they had barely recovered.

The bodies of those who had achieved enough merit in the war were laid to rest in the National Cemetery in the northern part of the Imperial Capital.

Most of the Royal Class students were those who had gained merit in the war, and although Asher had not fought directly, he had saved many lives.

Since Asher was not affiliated with the Holy Knights, his tomb was in the National Cemetery.

"I should have at least tried to find it."

Ludwig sighed with self-reproach, drowning in his despair and not even considering the thought of visiting his friend's tomb.

Heinrich and Ellen felt the same.

With the magic train not running, they had to cross the large river, pass the north, and even the Imperial Palace, so the journey was long.

On the street, there were soldiers clearing the snow, as well as familiar faces to the Royal Class members Ellen, Heinrich, and Ludwig.

-Whooosh!

A supernatural who manipulated the wind swept away the piled-up snow in an instant. From a distance, they could see their senior at work.

“Wow!”

“It's supernatural power!”

As the children found the snow-clearing supernatural powers fascinating, they playfully ran around and followed the senior. Despite looking troubled, the senior continued to herd the children, creating a bittersweet scene.

This supernatural had once used wind blades to pulverize monsters.

Now, the wind supernatural, who had displayed abilities almost matching Heinrich, was nothing more than an unknown person showing off fascinating powers to the children.

“Ah! Kids, it's dangerous. Don't come any closer!”

Seeing a war hero struggling with the encroaching children, Ludwig and Heinrich exchanged wry smiles.

Once all this was over...

Everyone wished for a day when supernatural powers, like controlling fire and wind, were merely fascinating abilities.

In a world where their powers were not crucial, it would be a peaceful one.

Hoping for peace, the four of them walked.

They walked to uncover the truth about the death that had already occurred.

Facing the death that would soon come.

Heading towards the grave of their deceased friend.

They walked through the streets, where snowflakes scattered.

------

All four of them were first-time visitors to the Imperial National Cemetery.

Ludwig and Heinrich had only heard later that Asher's body had been transported to the Imperial Cemetery after a brief funeral at the Allied Forces' base. They didn't know that the bodies of the meritorious were buried at the National Cemetery.

Ellen, one of the busiest people in the Allied Forces, hadn't even been able to attend Asher's brief funeral.

As for Louise, there was nothing to say.

So they hadn't known for long where Asher's grave was.

"Is that... the National Cemetery?"

The guards standing in front of the massive gate, despite being hit by snow, were diligently protecting the entrance to the cemetery.

And in front of the cemetery gate, visitors braved the weather, waiting for their turn to enter.

The line wasn't long due to the weather.

Although Ellen could have easily ignored the queue, she naturally stood in line with her companions.

Worried about exposing their identities, they remained silent.

However, they couldn't help but think about the various reasons for visiting the cemetery in this weather.

Those who came to the cemetery in this weather must have had a compelling reason.

What could be the reason for visiting the National Cemetery in this weather, even enduring the snow?

They must have been relatives.

Visitors related to the deceased must have come to pay their respects.

They couldn't help but watch the diverse group of visitors waiting in line with a heavy heart.

After some waiting, Ellen's turn arrived.

"Uh... Hero?"

Since Ellen's face was well-known, the appearance of the Hero amongst the visitors caused a stir among the guards.

"I'd like to keep it quiet."

"Yes, yes! Understood."

With her request to avoid drawing attention, the guards were surprised but warned their colleagues to avoid causing a commotion.

Ellen's face was practically an ID in itself, so the verification of the other three's identities proceeded rather casually.

Ellen and her companions quickly made their way after learning the location of Asher's tomb from the desk beyond the guards.

They all shared the same thoughts.

It was natural to feel somber at the thought of going to a friend's tomb.

At the same time, they wondered.

What clues could possibly be found in this cemetery blanketed in pure white snow?

Probably none.

Perhaps Dettomorian only mentioned it to remind them of something they had forgotten.

But then, what was the meaning behind the statement that they would learn something once they found Asher?

The interior of the national cemetery wasn't cleared of snow like the other streets, so their feet sank deep into the snow.

"It's vast…"

Ludwig muttered as he stared blankly at the national cemetery.

The national cemetery was located at the northernmost edge of the Imperial Capital.

Now, a refugee camp had formed beyond the edge, but in the past, it would have been completely outside the Imperial Capital.

"It must not have been this big originally."

"Ah…"

Heinrich let out a small exclamation at Ellen's words.

Even without knowing the exact details, they could predict.

The national cemetery in the northern part of the Imperial Capital had inevitably undergone two expansions.

The first during the Great Demon War.

The second after the Gate incident.

War took away countless lives, and inevitably, more tombs were needed for the meritorious dead.

That was why Ellen could tell just from the map of the national cemetery which areas contained the tombs of the Great Demon War veterans and which areas had been expanded after the Gate incident.

Now, the four of them were heading to Asher's tomb.

To the cemetery area expanded after the Gate incident.

"So all these tombs… are from after the Gate incident?"

As Ludwig murmured, Heinrich nodded.

By now, they weren't thinking about finding clues at Asher's tomb; they were simply overwhelmed by the pervasive presence of death.

So many had died and been buried here.

This cemetery, too, had only a small fraction of the total number of tombs.

Yet, its scale was still overwhelming.

Countless deaths.

But compared to all the deaths that had occurred since the Gate incident, it was but a speck.

Even that speck of a cemetery was enough to overwhelm those who saw it.

Ludwig muttered blankly.

"Just how many people died…"

"About 95 percent of all cities were destroyed."

Louise spoke.

"You can assume that about the same percentage of people died."

Most cities had been destroyed, so it wasn't an exaggeration to assume that the population had decreased by a similar scale. In fact, it could be even more.

If 5 percent of all humanity had died, it would still be an enormous number of deaths.

But the opposite.

Around 95 percent had died.

It was impossible to count, so they had to speak in terms of ratios.

------

A cemetery was a place where one couldn't help but think about death.

Speculating about the lives of the deceased while looking at their graves.

Thinking about one's own death.

In the end, life.

One couldn't help but think about how to live.

Ironically, being in a place where death was displayed made one think about life.

What is life?

What is the reason for living?

A cemetery was a space where every human being has to confront the stark truth that everyone died, and as a result, one couldn't help but think about what it meant to live.

Ellen, Heinrich, and Louise.

And Ludwig, who heard that death was waiting.

Each walked silently, lost in their thoughts.

Crossing the snow-covered, vast graveyard, Ellen and her companions soon arrived at Asher's tomb.

Blessed with a talent for divine power, Asher had healed countless wounded soldiers.

He had joined the army not to kill, but to save lives, and met his death in the process.

"Asher…"

Ludwig stared quietly at the tombstone.

No one wept.

Not that they had tried to forget, but they had become unable to think about their friend's death, swept away by the war.

When winter passed and spring arrived, and the army resumed its march, the three, excluding Ludwig, would return to the battlefield. Worry was for those with nothing to do.

Ludwig was the one who would stay here, contemplating life and death.

Ironically, those who lived closest to death on the battlefield were too busy to even find the time to worry.

Ludwig continued to gaze at the tombstone.

He wished the prophecy of Dettomorian were true.

Rather than feeling guilt for surviving in front of a friend's grave, he wanted to do something, anything.

Even if death lay at the end of it.

He wished for a role.

It didn't have to be as significant as Ellen's.

He didn't need supernatural powers like Heinrich.

He didn't have to be a commander like Louise.

Even a pebble on the battlefield would do.

For those who had been sacrificed, and for those who would be.

He wanted to fight.

"…"

Ludwig sat in front of the tombstone for a while before standing up.

Everyone looked frostbitten, but no one was shivering.

"So…"

Louise opened her mouth quietly.

It wasn't something to say in front of someone's grave, but in the end, there was an uncomfortable conversation that had to be had, no matter the risk.

"I don't understand the meaning of this place…"

Louise, of course, didn't know the temple students well.

So, she looked at everyone, thinking that if there were any clues, they would be something she didn't know.

Heinrich wanted to dismiss Dettomorian's words as nonsense.

But even if they were nonsense, they were too unpleasant and upsetting.

The claim that visiting the tomb of a dead classmate would reveal everything.

"No matter how much I think about it, it's strange. Even if he's insane, there's no reason to play such a prank…"

That's why Heinrich, finding himself in front of Asher's tomb, was more suspicious than ever of Dettomorian's words being too unpleasantly false.

What could possibly be the reason for such nonsense? Neither the speaker nor the listeners, who had walked all the way to the northern part of the Imperial Capital for nothing, would find it enjoyable.

"Do you figure something out…?"

Ludwig looked at Ellen as if asking for salvation.

Leaving everything else aside, Ludwig had continuously seen Ellen make smarter judgments and moves than himself.

Ludwig couldn't understand anything now, but he thought Ellen might know something, so he kept staring at her helplessly.

However, in this case, it wasn't that Ludwig was too stupid to realize anything.

"I have no idea."

Ellen couldn't grasp anything either.

"What does Asher have to do with the tomb raiding incident involving the Holy Knights and the deaths of the heretic inquisitors?"

As Heinrich had said, they had done something stranger than finding a needle in a haystack. They had only acted on the belief that Dettomorian possessed a peculiar foresight.

"We'll have to go back and ask. If we grab him by the collar and ask why he said such nonsense, he'll have to say something."

Heinrich couldn't help but get increasingly agitated. Dettomorian should have either spoken clearly or not said anything at all, instead of making vague statements without directly mentioning anything.

Seeing Heinrich begin to get worked up, Ellen spoke.

"Calm down. Dettomorian... I don't think he said those things to us with bad intentions. If he didn't speak clearly, there must be a reason. It's not like we're in trouble if we can't find any clues here."

Even if Dettomorian's clues turned out to be meaningless, they were not in a difficult situation, nor had they fallen into a trap.

Heinrich sighed at Ellen's words.

"Ellen... I get what you're saying. I might be getting angry for no reason, but there was no basis for what he said. There's no connection between us coming here and the case we're pursuing. The only commonality is that the Tomb of The Saint was a graveyard, and this place is a graveyard, but that's it…"

"…?"

"There is one commonality, though… isn't there?"

Although they couldn't figure out the connection, there was indeed a commonality.

No matter how it happened, both places were graveyards.



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