Headed by a Snake -
Chapter 1064 Unlawful Order
Chapter 1064 Unlawful Order
? Outside the Restful Hen Inn, some time earlier... ?
"I don't get why this hurts so baaaad~!" Ree whined.
Pale raised his eyebrows and let out a long, deep breath, allowing his cheeks to puff up as he did.
Ree's honesty made him lose his concentration.
That made it hurt again.
He and the members of the Hero Party were waiting outside the inn while Boss Tycon talked to Lady Neerin...
--all while sitting on both knees and holding their weapons up toward the sky.
His spear, Beithir Blaster--
His spear was his latest, closest, most reliable friend.
It was, at most, 4 ponze.
Resting on his upraised palms... it still felt like 4 ponze.
--but the muscles of his arms felt like weak, wobbly jelly constructs.
Pale wanted to close his fists-- to tighten his shaky grip...
--but that was definitely not allowed.
Anything that would make the punishment easier wasn't allowed.
Ree wasn't carrying anything. Her most lethal weapons were her fists, anyroad.
--or maybe her feet? (Why wasn't she raising those?)
Nevertheless, she was having just as much trouble as everyone else.
"Is it because I'm so swol?" she asked.
She was looking over to him, so he returned a light shrug.
"Or maybe," Ree said with a lower tone of voice, "it's 'cos I got them gains?"
Gobbuto suddenly snorted. That was a rare sound coming from him.
He knelt the furthest away from the lamplight, the shade of his armor blending into the darkness of the late evening/early morning.
Also, he wasn't carrying his weapon. He was was holding a lockbox above his head filled with gear and traveling supplies taken from the armory at Hero's Hearth.
Gobbuto was easily the most badass member of the Hero Party.
"Your body is like stick, Kimura," he said, "when and IF you gain weight, maybe you look real like woman."
That was weird to hear... 'Kimura' and 'real woman' in the same sentence.
--which wasn't to say that he forgot Ree was a girl.
It just seemed like a common fact? --like how water was wet and the language of the gods made people's heads explode.
But, then again... Pale remembered meeting some of Gobbuto's sisters and nieces in Nemaya Strana (and the rest of his family, too.)
Before that sun, he always thought of goblins' heights as averaging four fulms tall and under-- and that Gobbuto was a unique exception.
He was wrong-- embarrassingly wrong.
A very unhappy Kimura Taree lifted her head up, pointing her chin toward Gobbuto.
"Oy. Has our youngest forgotten his place? Apologize to my boobs, right now!"
Pale had at least one question in mind.
--but he didn't know how to ask it without sounding impolite.
"I will apologize when they arrive," Gobbuto replied with a chuckle.
He turned to Pale with a tusked grin, but Pale pursed his lips and looked away.
He couldn't take sides-- not between those two.
Ree propped up on her toes, still keeping her knees forward. Then, she began to tiptoe her way closer to the armored goblin.
"K-kimura? Err-- Lady Kimura?"
"Our youngest sure knows how to talk, doesn't he?!"
It was... amazing, how Ree could use her knees to hit Gobbuto, all while keeping her arms raised and not losing her balance.
Her entire family practiced martial arts, though. Or maybe everyone from her village just had monstrous body control?
Pale shared a look the last of his party members-- or to be more accurate, the first.
High Oracle Troia of the Holy Country had performed the ritual that changed his Class to Spear Hero. And beside that, she'd been his first traveling companion ever since he first detached from the Sol Invictus main body.
Troia had her eyes closed and was trying not to show a hurt expression, even though she was suffering along with everyone else.
Pale had a weird thought.
It seemed like an ordinary situation, him sitting next to Troia, her sword over her head and his spear over his.
He took in the sea-salted scent wafting from her purple hair and the subtle curve of her lips as she forced herself to smile through the pain...
Pale felt like... everything altogether he was experiencing would be something he'd remember for the rest of his life.
Was that really appropriate, though? He and his closest allies sharing corporal punishment under Tycon's command wasn't exactly a happy moment.
Still... it felt like-- or he hoped that some sun, far in the future, they'd all be able to look back at those memories with a smile.
The soft ringing of glass bells reverberated in Pale's ear.
"(do you think he'll forgive us?)"
Because of some weird enchantment or something with Troia's bloodline, she couldn't speak in the common tongue. She said it was a 'taboo'?
Troia spoke a dialect of Celestial, the exploding-head language.
Understanding it wasn't an issue. Celestial was one of those weird languages that even animals could easily understand without knowing the words.
The problem with Celestial, though, was that she couldn't Troia speak it carelessly. If there was anyone around low Iron-Rank, a common side effect was leaking fluid from their eyes and ears.
--sometimes that fluid was bloodstained, sometimes not.
Pale had seen it before.
It was... a little scary.
Of course, he was able to listen to Troia just fine. Even talking to her for bells on end, he never got as much as a headache.
--but maybe that was because he loved listening to her talk?
Still... she never spoke louder than a whisper, just to be on the safe side.
And he... actually kind of liked it that way.
He thought it was cute.
Oh, right. Troia was waiting for an answer. It was embarrassingly easy for him to get distracted when it was just the two of them.
"He'll forgive you, for sure," Pale grinned. "Did you notice that when Boss Tycon was assigning punishment, he only pointed at me, Ree, and Gobbuto?"
Troia let out a weird sigh that made Pale's heart jump a little bit.
"(i did. but we're a family. we fight together,)"
Ah, that was weird. The intent he felt when Troia described their party was a little unclear.
He was fairly sure she meant 'family.'
But... it also seemed a bit like he and Troia were husband and wife?
Then... would Ree and Gobbuto be their kids? They fought like he imagined a real brother and sister would.
And him as the father-figure was about right.
He was the leader of the Hero Party, after all...
And he was the one that led them into their current predicament.
He made a decision.
That decision was open to discussion and dissent.
--but that notion didn't really matter.
Troia supported him in just about everything he did. Ree liked to whine and complain, but she was always the first to rush to his aid. Gobbuto, too-- he was always motivated to complete every task to the best of his abilities.
Pale knew all that, beforehand.
So, in truth, the fault lied in him alone. He was the one that manipulated his friends into disobeying their orders.
Prince Tycondrius was the leader of Sol Invictus as well as the Commander of the Wyrmslayer Alliance.
He gave them a direct order to evacuate the Realm... an order to champion another Realm, somewhere across the cosmos.
...but Pale didn't want to abandon the Realm he grew up in... the Realm his father was born in... the Realm that Tycon was willing to risk his life to save.
So... Pale disobeyed it-- he disobeyed a direct order.
That was the reason they were being punished.
They'd been holding up their weapons for almost half-a-bell.
The pain was... not an enjoyable experience.
It wasn't a super-bad punishment, though, compared to the alternatives.
The Wyrmslayer Alliance was a military organization, so, in theory, they could have been court-martialed. That meant... imprisonment, meals of bread and water, and a reduction of pay.
Also, there was currently a war going on. They could have been executed. That'd be a real bad logistics problem, too, since they'd need to recall a peak Gold-Rank executioner to be able to execute them all.
--unless Tycon were to volunteered to do it, himself.
Even though Pale felt he was close to his father's best friend, Tycon was the type of person to uphold military law over friendship.
And before the swift and merciless execution, he'd say something wise and mysterious like: 'rules are made for a reason, boy' or 'rules are written in blood.'
However, Pale had a case to argue.
Abandoning the Realm... was a really weird order.
Every soldier in every army, ever (or so he hoped) was allowed to disobey unlawful orders.
And more than that, Pale felt every soldier had a right to defend their home Realm to the best of their ability.
And besides that...
Pale had... an incessant, nagging feeling in the pit of his chest... saying that he couldn't follow Tycon's order.
It was a strange and ominous feeling...
Like... he was on the cusp of making a mistake he'd regret for a lifetime and more...
He felt like... if he didn't do everything he could, he'd lose something or someone very important to him.
But inexplicable gut feelings weren't good reasons-- not against someone who liked to push their emotions aside and focus on cold, hard logic.
And at the end of the sun, the fact was:
Sol Invictus was fighting for the survival of the Realm.
Tycon needed all the help he could get.
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