Azell and Kairen was almost at their destination. It had only been two weeks since they left the Dukedom of Tarantos.
It took them four days to move past the border of the Rulain Kingdom into the Dailan Kingdom. It took them the next four days to traverse through the Dailan kingdom, and they had entered into the Bijes Kingdom. In the past, it used to be called the County of Karzark.
If someone said they crossed two kingdoms in a week, one would think it was a bad joke. However, the two of them cut straight across the map. They traveled a distance of 300 km in a straight line.
When they entered the the Bijes Kingdom, their speed slowed a little bit. They knew where the County of Karzark was located at, but they needed to do some investigation before they went there. This was why they listened to stories from old men, and they searched out nobles, who collected books. They searched for historical records.
Since they had crossed the borders without permission, they weren’t truthful with their own identities. However, they had the seals proclaiming them of being knights, so they just needed to come up with a decent lie. The lie and seals was enough to be treated like guests for a night at a noble’s house.
Kairen took charge in telling Azell what to do. In the past, Kairen had traveled around the continent with his identity hidden. He was used to traveling as a noble with a hidden identity.
“We’ll be there by afternoon.”
After gathering information, the two of them visited a town nearby the County of Karzark. Since the town was near the Cursed lands, it wasn’t prosperous. However, it was a place where they could eat and rest.
As they got closer to the County of Karzark, Azell spoke less and less. Kairen wasn’t used to this version of Azell, but he left Azell alone. Kairen didn’t want to be a nuisance.
The County of Karzark had been the place that had allowed Azell to settle in peace. After the Dragon Demon wars, he need to rest his weary body, and he had started a new life….
Of course, it had been a short and fragile dream. In only two years after the war, the Dragon Demon King’s curse had taken hold, and he had to leave his land. He was put to sleep.
Azell still wanted to see his land. He understood that he had been asleep for 220 years, but he had wanted to see if anything remained from his memories. He had wanted to see how his descendants fared in the land they inherited.
However, this simple hope had already been broken into pieces. There was nothing he could gain by going there, yet… He had to see it with his own eyes.
Azell wordlessly stared at the location that was considered to be the County of Karzark. The stories he had heard up until now ran through his head.
‘The Great Darkness….’
If one talked about the current era, this event never failed to come up.
The County of Karzark had fallen to ruins at the end of the Great Darkness. Many lives were taken from the spread of an infectious disease, but the situation had been stabilizing thanks to sage Baion. This was when the crazed Dragons attacked the County of Karzark.
According to the records, 13 crazed Dragons went on a rampage, and they attacked everything within the County of Karzark. Afterwards, a massive horde of monsters gathered in the land. It was as if they had been hypnotized.
After the fame of hero Azell Karzark, the County of Karzark was famous for their strong troops. Their knights were of high quality, and they possessed a lot of talented magicians. Of course, the soldiers were also trained well.
However, they couldn’t do anything in front of this situation. In a flash, the County of Karzark was laid to waste, and the monsters started to spread outwards.
Fortunately , the Dragons didn’t join in when the monsters advanced.
After a desperate fight put up by the County of Karzark, the number of berserker Dragons had been cut down in half, and the rest of the Dragons refused to come out of the County of Karzark.
The Bijes kingdom had been weakened by the Great Darkness, and they suffered further damages from the monsters.
From the stories told by the old timers, Azell learned that the kingdom had been at the brink of destruction.
However, in the end, they were able to endure the threat, and the County of Karzark was designated as a Cursed land. The Bijes Kingdom built a fortress at the border.
It was akin to the Rulain Kingdom’s Southern Border Fortress…
This was obvious, but the County of Karzark was a forbidden region, and people were barred from entering the place. The border guards kept up a regular patrol along the border.
However, Azell and Kairen didn’t have a hard time avoiding detection. They were able to sneak past the borders between kingdoms, so this was child’s play.
Kairen mumbled to himself.
“It hasn’t changed much since my last visit. The fortress is still the same.”
“Have you been here before?”
“I think it was around 30 years ago. It was after we destroyed the Grand Alliance of Darkness lead by Dakan.”
“……Hmmm. It is an answer that really drives home the fact that there is a great disparity in age between us.”
Now that he thought about it, Kairen was an eyewitness to what had happened in the Great Darkness. At the time, Kairen still would have been the Duke of Tarantos, so he probably knew how the Great Darkness shook the foundation of society.
Azell asked the question as they walked within the County of Karzark. He wasn’t really interested in the answer. He asked the question, because he wanted to be distracted from his turbulent heart.
“What was the Great Darkness like?”
“At the time… Everything was a mess..”
A contagious disease had swept through the continent, and it had been too ghastly. Until sage Baion came up with a solution, no one knew how to deal with the disease. If one caught the disease, one was quarantined, and the only thing left was to wait and die. That was the only choice available to the sick.
“No one was immune from it.”
The Dragon Demons, Dragon Majins, famous knights and magicians were all powerless in front of the virulent disease. If one caught the disease, one could only look forward to death.
“Of course, the Dragon Demons, Dragon Majins and the strong knights had great resistance against the disease, but…..”
Even that had its limit. In the end, their stamina was chipped away slowly, and they fell sick. It was the end for them too.
In fact, their presence actually accelerated the spread of this infectious disease. Since they had more resistance against this sickness, it took them longer to realize that they were sick compared to normal people. These beings met with other unsuspecting people, and it acted as a catalyst to spur the rate of infection.
Kairen continued to speak.
“From what I remember, the temples used to be quite prideful. If I told my old self about how humble the priests are right now, there is no way my old self would believe it.”
Before the Great Darkness, the temples held absolute power. They used the Holy knowledge and techniques passed down by the gods to treat diseases and wounds. This made the priests act high and mighty.
However, during the Great Darkness, they had been powerless. They had been prideful as they claimed that they’ll be able to cure the disease in a short period of time. The priests, who had stepped forward, died from the disease instead. It was unknown how many priests died during that time, but it was numerous.
“Then there were the priests that said the Great Darkness was a divine punishment sent to strike down the people wallowing in their arrogance. A good number of priest spouted such nonsense.”
“Somehow I get an impression that the people who spoke such nonsense in front of you didn’t go away unscathed.”
“I’ll leave what happened up to your imagination.”
Kairen grinned as he had a faraway look.
“It really was a terrible time. When I look back on it, it is hard to believe that it came to an end….”
The people laughing and talking the day before was struck down by the disease. The neighbors, who one had been good friends, were treated like monsters. People shunned the infected people. Kairen had believed in the humanity that was within people, yet any illusion of humanity was destroyed under the untreatable disease. It brought out the ugliness in people.
“…it sounds like what happens in a war.”
During the Dragon Demon War, the true character of humans had been tested. Everyone had acted as if all humans possessed humanity and benevolence. When in trouble, how many people really upheld these ideas?
Kairen let out a bitter laugh.
“In my opinion, the Great Darkness was much worse than the wars. Unlike a war, there was no opponents one could fight.”
The values everyone had believed in crumbled away, and the world was sunk into darkness. Everyone fought desperately to live. However, people didn’t know what to fight. They didn’t know how to fight this disease. No, it hadn’t been a fight to live. It was a struggle one fought to delay one’s inevitable demise.
In that era, there had been only one man, who had identified and fought against the ‘enemy’.
“Baion knew what to do. He knew that he had to fight against the disease itself.”
“Have you met him before?”
“I’ve met him. I actually worked with him frequently when he was setting up the medical association. He had tried to gain support and help from the influential nobles. He needed a lot of political and monetary support to do what he wanted.”
“I see. Is he still alive?”
“No. He is probably dead.”
“Mmmm? You aren’t sure?”
“After the medical association was established and running well, he started appearing less and less in public. Maybe, he hated being bothered with political matters…..”
Baion had been middle-aged during the Great Darkness. If he was still alive, he would be well over 100 years old.
The two of them were maintaining speed of a normal person running at full tilt, while they held their conversation. The scene around them quickly changed, and they finally came to a place that held evidence of human occupation.
At a certain point in time, the ruin used to be a town.
Everything was completely destroyed, and one couldn’t find anything in tact. The buildings had been burned a long time ago. Trees and grass now grew where the buildings had stood before.
Azell suddenly mumbled to himself.
“I think this place was called…Digol.”
“Mmm? What are you talking about?”
“It is the name of this town.”
Azell was swept up in an unspeakable emotion.
As a lord, he had taken care of his County for only a brief amount of time. However, he had gone all over his lands as he settled in as the lord of this land. He knew every inch of this land.
The sight he remembered superimposed itself on top of the ruins. Azell traveled far into his memory.
There were the people, who had cheered when they saw him. Then there were the innocent children, who had run around….
Digol was located at the edge of his domain, and the town had acted as a gateway to his lands. It had be fairly large, and after the Dragon Demon wars, the population had grown drastically. It had been a thriving town.
Kairen was about to say something to Azell, who was standing there vacantly. However, he gave up on it.
Azell’s expression had crumpled in such a frightening manner that Kairen couldn’t say anything.
Azell was the one, who broke the silence first.
“I needed targets to take out my anger on, and they are here just in time…”
Before one knew it, monsters started appearing from the surrounding. These were Orcs, who commanded ox-sized Blood Wolves.
This was to be expected. This land was designated as a Cursed land. It was so full of monsters that the Bijes Kingdom gave up on recovering this stretch of land.
While Azell and Kairen was coming here, they had avoided the detection of the monsters.
“Koo-ooh. These humans are fearless.”
A rough and awkward speech was heard. One of the Orc separated from the group, and it spoke as it walked towards the two humans.
When Azell’s gaze landed on him, the Orc, who had been talking, flinched.
“I’ll ask this just in case. Did you come here with the wholesome intention of speaking with us?”
An indescribable anger was burning beneath his blue eyes. The Orcs were known for their grit and ferocity, yet the Orc froze for a brief moment when it saw the man’s eyes.
The Orc raised its sword as it yelled out.
An unimaginable massacre, which had never been seen before, since the Orcs had settled here, was carried out.