Chapter 368: Dante’s Greatsword
Translator:?EndlessFantasy Translation??Editor:?EndlessFantasy Translation
Thales’s brain was in a mess. He was wrapped in a blanket and had just recovered some of his strength. He felt like he had just been scooped up from an icy cold lake.
‘Sellswords… What is that?’
He looked at the smug Quick Rope in confusion. At this moment, a loud and powerful female voice appeared from behind them,
“Mercenaries. We are mercenaries. As for the term ‘sellsword’, which is how some people call us, perhaps it’s because it literally means what it says, so it’s simple and easy to understand. But besides the new rookies who joined our field of work, we generally do not call ourselves that. Just like how merchants wouldn’t call themselves ‘someone who wants money’, and how apprentices wouldn’t call themselves ‘someone who is just here to loaf around’. The women who can’t find men and men who can’t find women wouldn’t call themselves ‘unwanted people’ either.”
The excited Quick Rope, a rookie who had just joined the group, let his expression fall and made a silly face at Thales.
Thales could not help but notice that although the other party was conversing in the lingua franca, the way she pronounced her words was strange. Her pitch was high, and her accent was very different from the Northland version of the lingua franca he was familiar with, and it did not match with the accents he remembered in Eternal Star City as well.
Three masked warriors moved swiftly while they stepped on the sand beneath their feet, appearing in his field of vision. They looked quite worn from their journey. When the people around saw them, they avoided them.
They walked into the camp. Then, one by one, they removed their headscarves and masks, which protected them from the wind and sand.
One of them was a young man with a slightly darker skin tone. His whole face was painted with ambiguous black stripes. He carried two machetes, crossed over each other on his back. The handles were visible over his left and right shoulder. His gaze was filled with wariness when he looked at Thales.
Another one of the trio was a gray-haired warrior in the prime of his life. He set down a hammer that had a scary spike on the hammerhead. There was a full beard on his face and he watched the warm bonfire with a pleasant expression.
The last to arrive was the owner of that loud female voice. She was a medium-sized female warrior with curly brown hair. Her facial features were sharp and simple, but a little cold. A bow hung off her straight back with the arrows, and her bandaged arm was always pressed against the sword at her waist.
The three people walked into the small campsite together and they each found a comfortable position next to the bonfire. The hammer-wielding, middle-aged warrior even ruffled Quick Rope’s hair happily, making the latter protest in dissatisfaction.
“By the way, I am Louisa Dante.”
The female warrior who spoke, Louisa, put down her longbow, untied the sword at her waist, and grinned slightly at the frail Thales, “It’s nice to see you wake up. Child, you are lucky. Not everyone who is trapped alone in the desert can survive.”
Her smile was bright and gentle, leaving a good impression in others.
Thales was a little stupefied before he immediately returned a grateful smile to her.
Mercenaries. He had heard of these people before. In fact, he had a similar group of people before in the past.
Six years ago, when he first arrived in Mindis Hall, there was a small group of people whom were instructed—or deceived—by the Duke of Iris Flowers to investigate a property belonging to the royal family that was brought to the hall and was visited by the king during late nights, and they ended up sacrificing their lives.
But that summed up his experience with mercenaries.
In the chaotic districts of Eternal Star City, many people were willing to perform unusual labor for the sake of a few silver coins, and they would do their work using methods that were not commonly seen and usually illegal. They could be debt collectors, prostitutes, pickpockets, killers, scammers, bounty hunters… As long as it did not affect their collection of protection money and did not cause trouble, Black Street Brotherhood would often turn a blind eye to their own members’ personal activities. Even the sixth house where Thales was located had caused some havoc on the streets just for several copper coins.
But Thales had never seen what was considered the peak of this line of unusual work in the high walls of the capital in Constellation, those who would commit violence purely for money, full-time mercenaries who only appeared in poetry and rumors.
It was said that they would generally only be in the wilderness far away from the kingdom and the law. They would be at the borders where the political situation was unstable, or in war-torn countries, with the flames of war raging constantly there. They would run around searching for adventures, for masters, and they would point their swords at those who had no grudges against them, and then they would get their bloodstained rewards from the people of power.
There were even fewer mercenaries in Dragon Clouds City, where the people were strong, straightforward, bold, and had the spirit of real warriors. In a city where almost all the young men had served in the military before, where the people took pride in fighting and killing their enemies, and where even a seventy-year-old man could swing a big axe fiercely for more than ten rounds, who would be willing to ask others for help and rely on the weapons of some stranger?
As a political center, Eternal Star City did not need mercenaries. The self-reliant Dragon Clouds City also did not need mercenaries.
Thales stared at the types of near and long-ranged weapons on these people. They were completely equipped differently from professional or recruited soldiers who were only equipped for the soldiers’ one single purpose in battle.
He slowly turned his head and looked at the cold wind whistling through the dangerous desert. He looked at the few bonfires in the distance, at the unknown darkness beyond his visual field, and watched the camels resting in a circle around the camp… and suddenly came to understand something.
“So?” The female warrior untied her sword and patted the sand off her body while looking at him with anticipation.
Thales snapped back to attention and looked at the woman politely. “What?”
“I told you my name, boy, and as a form of courtesy and response…” Louisa answered, still smiling.
“Oh, my apologies! I’m—”
It was only then that Thales reacted. He hurriedly pushed himself off the ground, trying to sit up, but his vision went black and his arms buckled.
“Hey, take it easy.” Quick Rope swiftly caught Thales who was about to faint, and gently laid him down on the ground while he fussed over nothing.
“You still can’t get up yet. When you were discovered, you were facedown in the middle of our path, half of your body was buried in yellow sand, and you looked like a small insignificant sandstone. If it weren’t for Dean’s eyes, a herd of twenty-three Bactrian camels, each weighing eight to nine hundred pounds, would have almost walked over your body!”
“Relax, kid.” The hammer-wielding warrior stroked his beard. “You are free of danger, and we have all night to listen to your introduction.”
Thales glanced at him gratefully, then turned to Louisa. “I am- my name…”
The prince could not help but stutter. He had not introduced himself to strangers properly for a long time. In fact, he had not needed to introduce himself during the days when he was a beggar or when he was a prince. In the former, no one cared about his name. In the latter, there was no one who did not know his name.
As he stared at their curious but indifferent gazes, Thales could not help but feel there was something strangely absurd about the situation.
“Wya,” he whispered weakly by the bonfire. “My name is Wya.”
Several other people cast each other a glance.
“So, Wya…” Louisa stared at him intently. “How did you end up in the Great Desert?”
Thales tried to make himself look more credible. “I-I’m not lucky. In fact, I was very unlucky.”
Thales sighed. “My father… he was someone with little power at hand when he was alive. Unfortunately, he made a few enemies in the north, and when he could no longer protect me, his enemies sent thugs after me one after another—the ones with extremely bad tempers and sharp blades. I could only escape and flee south. They forced me all this way into the desert.”
Thales knew that he looked terrible, but he also knew that this group of people must have seen his luggage. He must have a good reason to explain why a fourteen-year-old boy would be carrying a crossbow, arrows, and daggers to enter the Great Desert alone.
What was more, they saved his life.
Louisa looked at the hammer-wielding warrior and they nodded to each other.
“Wow, they were so frightening that you had to escape into the Great Desert?” said Quick Rope. “Your enemies must hate you.”
Thales nodded without a word and said, “I didn’t expect life in the Great Desert to be so difficult. I couldn’t even keep up for four to five days—”
“The enemy.” Thales looked up curiously and realized that the person who interrupted him was the young warrior whose face was completely covered in black tattoos. He sat down by the fire and stared at the prince coldly as he wiped his own blade.
“So you have enemies chasing after you. Of course, if they catch up, they will also bring you trouble,” he whispered expressionlessly.
Thales did not know how to reply.
“You can put away your murderous face, Mickey.” Louisa cast a dissatisfied glance at Mickey, the man with the black tattoos. She seemed to have a problem with his attitude. “I know what you’re worried about. This child can’t possibly be a mole or spy of the desert bandits.”
Thales was shocked. The man wiping his machete paused his movements for a moment.
“No, you don’t know my worries.” Mickey’s face was serious. “If you knew, we wouldn’t have been hired by that profiteer, and we wouldn’t have come here. Dean knows, but he doesn’t listen to me.”
Louisa curled up her lips. Thales listened to their argument curiously.
The bearded warrior laughed and raised both his hands to mediate the dispute. “Take it easy, man, no need to put on a sullen face all day long.” He turned to Mickey and pointed at the frail Thales. “But as you can see, Mickey, he almost died there. No desert bandits will make a child who almost died of thirst a spy. Tormorden’s caravan has nothing worthy to pilfer, we’ll be safe. In fact, we haven’t met desert bandits or exiles along the way and you know why.”
Thales smiled weakly. Mickey snorted.
“That is what I am worried about. Mortals are trying to meddle with the workings of the desert by force, but the Desert God is always unforgiving.” Mickey’s expression became more and more solemn. He glanced at the sky. “This means we are in trouble.”
Thales instinctively flinched. The prime-aged warrior laughed loudly.
“Don’t mind Mickey, he’s like that. The locals are always prejudiced against travelers, and they always say very strange things.” The bearded warrior snorted and turned to Thales. “Let’s talk about other interesting things.”
Thales was stunned. He glanced at Mickey.
At that moment…
“So, you are a nobleman from the north, forced to run into the Great Desert?” Louisa asked plainly. “You know, your accent is very similar to the Northlanders.”
“Urk… I suppose you can say that?” Thales answered carefully.
Yes, he could only say so. His six years of experience in Dragon Clouds City had allowed him to not have to imitate a Northlander’s accent, it would come to him naturally.
The prime-aged warrior beside her laughed. “Very well, Northlander. I like Northlanders the most. Maybe we should let Dean talk another Northlander from his homeland…”
At this moment, Quick Rope slapped his thigh!
“A noble!” Quick Rope rubbed his hands in excitement and his eyes sparkled. “Very good! We can talk about our pay,” he said while looking at Thales happily with a smile on his face. “You know, Mister Wya, I saved your life from the yellow sand.”
Thales was a little startled. “Yes, thank you.”
But he also noticed that Louisa, the prime-aged warrior, and the young man with the face tattoos rolled their eyes.
Quick Rope was seen cockily straightening his back. “So, according to the rules of the desert, I saved you. That is, I will automatically own all the property on your person, including ownership over you.” Quick Rope coughed once, rested his arms on his hips and said in a serious tone, “So, Wya, you are mine now.”
Thales was completely stunned.
“Do you understand?”
In the next moment, a hand as big as a pot slapped Quick Rope on his back fiercely!
“Ah!” The pained scream from Quick Rope even shocked a camel in the distance. As they watched Quick Rope wailing miserably, Louisa and the prime-aged warrior began to laugh, even the gloomy Mickey quirked up the corners of his mouth.
Thales looked in surprise at the person who appeared behind Quick Rope.
“If this brat continues to say this kind of nonsense, you deal with him like this. He deserves it.” A mature and steady voice joined the conversation.
The bald man he saw from before came back to the camp and sat down beside Louisa. A quiet, buff man with a mustache and carrying a two-handed greatsword on his back followed after him.
The rest of the people made way and cleared some space for them. It was clear that they were all in a team.
Quick Rope lifted his head with tears in his eyes. “Dean! I said nothing wrong, the saver has the right—”
The bald Dean snorted and interrupted him, “But this is the desert, not the sea, and the people who saved him wasn’t you.”
“Ignore him.” Louisa sighed and shifted her gaze away from the agonized Quick Rope. She apologized to Thales and shook her head. “This rookie used to be a sailor before entering this line of work. That’s why we like to call him Quick Rope. he doesn’t know anything, but he always likes to act according to the rules of the sea here.”
Quick Rope agitatedly raised his hand in protest. “But… a sea made of sand is also a kind of sea, right?”
The response to the aggrieved Quick Rope was a piece of bread thrown at his face by the hammer-wielding warrior.
Thales watched with a dumbfounded face at this group of people quarreling with each other.
The hammer-wielding warrior revealed a mouthful of yellow teeth under his beard and smiled at Thales. “Hello, Wya whom I don’t know… You can call me Old Hammer, because I am responsible for waving hammers in the team.”
“The one with the stern face is Mickey. You should see how he wields his machetes. He is our telescope and guide.” The black-tattooed Mickey snorted.
“And I believe you have met Quick Rope. This Camian sailor is responsible for telling jokes…”
“Hey!” Quick Rope forcefully broke free from Old Hammer’s hands and protested, “Jokes are also very important, okay?!”
Old Hammer stuffed bread into Quick Rope’s mouth without bothering to preserve his dignity.
“You know Dean. The quiet one beside him is Furnace, a brawny man from Thornland. He’s responsible for killing.” Furnace, the man with the greatsword, nodded at him.
Thales greeted them amicably.
“There are five other guys who are on duty outside, and this lively girl in front of me—”
Poor Quick Rope pulled the bread out of his mouth, then took over Old Hammer’s words. He swung his arms towards Louisa, and said in a lively tone, “Louisa Dante! Our beautiful, adorable leader who is good at fighting and is attractive. It’s just a pity that she does not have a good temper!”
Louisa’s face went red slightly. Thales raised his eyebrows.
Quick Rope looked at his embarrassed captain, then turned to the bald man and his eyes sparkled. “And Big Dean, even our beautiful, adorable leader who is attractive, good at fighting but has a bad temper, dreams about marrying him!”
Louisa smashed her gauntlet against Quick Rope’s forehead.
“Shut up.” Louisa’s face was contorted into a fierce expression. She glared at Quick Rope exasperatedly.
Thales saw that everyone else seemed to be pretending to not have heard what was said. They looked down and did their own tasks. Old Hammer began to pick his beard again, Furnace continued to drink his water, and Mickey wiped his second machete before going back to wipe his first one. The bald Dean, as one of the main protagonists of the dispute, coughed awkwardly.
“Did I say anything wrong?” Quick Rope looked up with a dissatisfied expression. “You are our leader and captain, the beloved Louisa. No one can deny that you formed this team and led ‘Dante’s Greatsword’. Dean never objected to this either.”
Louisa’s face became darker. “You know that I’m not talking about this.”
“What do you think I’m talking about?”
The response to his question was Louisa’s other gauntlet to Quick Rope’s forehead.
Thales stared at their interaction. He suddenly felt that the desert was not as terrible as he thought.
‘Dante’s Greatsword.’ Thales nodded and mulled over the mercenary team’s name. ‘So, the female warrior is the leader of these mercenaries, and this team is named after her family name. But…’
While they bickered, Dean coughed again and moved his gaze back to Thales. “Eat something, you just recovered.” He handed a loaf of bread and a waterskin to Thales. “Water can help prolong life, but it can’t fill your stomach.”
Thales, burdened by his thoughts, took the food and forced himself to show a grateful smile. “Thank you.”
The man looked at Thales and smiled. “Don’t worry, Wya, we have all your things with us. They’re in our luggage. A certain profiteer really wanted to snatch your money and crossbow, but we stopped him.”
Dean gestured with his chin at another bonfire. Next to the fire, a man dressed in an uncouth manner was bargaining intensely with some other people.
Thales hesitated and nodded. “Thank you all. You saved my life, I will repay you. I swear I will.”
Quick Rope’s expression turned delightful. “Oh, I knew you’re a good friend, Wya, led me dell yoo—”
Old Hammer stuffed bread into his mouth again.
“But where are all of you going?” Thales took a bite of bread and looked at these people’s faces. He still could not cast away the vigilance in his heart. “Actually, can I hire you?”
The mercenaries looked at each other.
Testing the waters, the prince asked, “I mean, I have a few relatives in Constellation, they’re quite rich…”
The mercenaries looked at each other again. This time, Thales saw some worry in their eyes.
Only Quick Rope looked excited, and he was mumbling with bread in his mouth in surprise and delight. Mickey stretched out his arms with a blank expression and stuffed more bread into Quick Rope’s mouth.
“Constellation?” The black-tattooed man snorted.
Louisa wiggled her eyebrows and smiled. “You know, Wya, we already have a business deal. We have to send this merchant group to…”
But bald Dean lifted his hand gently, and Louisa instantly refrained from speaking any further. Thales noticed this detail.
Dean sighed and he looked at Thales calmly, a sagacious look in his eyes.
“Listen, Wya, I can see that you have concerns.” He was straightforward. “Rest assured, we will not touch your property, nor will we endanger your life.”
Thales’s heart went cold.
“This is the Great Desert, so I won’t ask for your family name and origin, including how you managed to provoke your enemies. We are not interested in that, they can’t catch up here. Saving you is only our obligation to the desert.” Dean touched the stubble on his face. “So you can relax.”
Thales frowned slightly.
Dean’s words obviously carried weight in the group. When his words came out, even Mickey, who was quite hostile towards him, did not say anything.
Only Quick Rope acted differently. He pulled out his bread with great effort and raised his hand with a long face. “What about our pay?”
No one cared about him.
“I just want to ask a few other things,” said Dean seriously. “Wya, you came from the north.”
Thales was somewhat bewildered and nervous. “Yes?”
Dean seemed to be contemplating deeply. His fingers were placed on his knees and the others waited patiently for his question.
“And you have not met Constellation’s army along the way?”
Thales frowned. “No.”
Dean’s expression changed slightly. “Eckstedt and Constellation… didn’t fight in the desert?”
“No,” Thales answered plainly, “At least I didn’t see it.”
“Have you met any desert bandits?”
When this was said, everyone seemed relieved.
“It seems that the road ahead of us is smooth,” said Louisa happily. “Guys, we’re very lucky. We’re on the right track.”
Quick Rope smiled and did a fist bump with Old Hammer, but he lost his balance due to the huge force contained in the latter’s punch.
Thales looked at them in puzzlement. He did not quite understand what was going on.
But Dean seemed to remain very cautious as he continued to ask, “But you… haven’t met any tribes gathered by the oases either?”
“I haven’t seen many oases, and there were no tribes.”
“Did you encounter any signs of the exiles?”
“What is an exile?”
“And you haven’t met any Gray Skins yet? I mean the orcs.”
“No, I was alone from beginning to end.”
In the face of Thales’ answer, Dean chose to speak no longer.
“That’s strange, the desert shouldn’t be this quiet,” Dean mumbled under his breath, “I have to talk about this with Tormorden.”
“What’s wrong?” Louisa asked, concerned.
Dean shook his head. “It’s nothing. Let’s hope I’m just being paranoid.” He seemed to have finally finished asking his questions because he was nodding at the other people.
“So, can you… send me to Constellation?” The prince stared at Dean, knowing that he was the true leader of this team. “You don’t have to send me too far away. I just need to reach Western Desert’s Blade Fangs Dune. Like I said, I have relatives there…”
The other people smiled.
“How unfortunate, pitiful Wya.” Old Hammer smiled slightly. “We just left Blade Fangs Dune a few days ago, and that place is Constellation’s territory, so it’s clear that we won’t be going back so soon.”
Thales felt his heart sink. “Even if… I promise you a hefty reward? The Caso Family can—”
Dean shook his head. This time, the person who answered Thales was Louisa.
The female leader sighed. “You’ll have to talk to Tormorden. He’s our employer, and this is also his merchant group. I can assure you he won’t agree to it. No matter how much money you give him, he won’t agree to it, just like how we won’t.”
“Hmm… let’s put it this way.” The female leader shrugged and tilted her head to survey her surroundings. “A day before we left, the Constellatiates issued a ban on Blade Fangs Camp. Within the period of one month, no one was to enter the Great Desert.”
‘Constellation’s ban… So that is…’
Louisa shook her head. “Clearly, they want to send an army into the desert for war. No matter who their enemies are… it’ll be just like that Desert War ten years ago, as well as the occasional battles after the war to root out their enemies.”
“No one is to enter?” Thales pondered over her words. “You still managed to come in, though?”
“Yes.” Louisa coughed. “And do you know why?”
Thales gave her a puzzled look.
“Business, Wya, business!” Quick Rope answered quickly, his face beaming.
“Seth Tormorden, that damn profiteer wants to sneak into the desert and earn a huge sum while the ban is in effect. A blocked trading path means higher prices for goods, and it also means a long-term business with a great increase in profits!”
The quiet Mickey lifted his head. “There is also a higher risk.
Thales narrowed his eyes, puzzled.
Dean sighed and explained, “I know that you want to meet your family as soon as possible and escape these threats, Wya, but…” the bald man touched his stubble and said with a sigh, “If we run into Constellation’s army, it’ll be impossible for Tormorden to keep his goods, and he will have to be in prison as well. As for us, whom he hired, if we’re lucky, we will get a huge fine, if we’re unlucky, then we will be chased out of Blade Fangs Camp. From then on, we can no longer conduct business there, and neither can we conduct any form of trade with any place that is related to Blade Fangs Camp.”
Thales could not help but furrow his brow.
Dean said flatly, “So, do you think that we, be it our employer or our team, would want to return to Constellation before the ban is lifted, and even make contact with Constellation’s officials?”
Thales understood then and he sighed as well. “So… you… Where are you going?”
Dean and Louisa cast each other a glance. A second later, Dean lowered his head and smiled.
“Right now, besides the Alliance of Freedom and the City of Faraway Prayers, whose relationship is growing tenser with each passing day, there is only one place where a merchant group can earn the most if they set off from Constellation and take the risk to enter the desert—the Tower of Eradication.”