Doron surveyed his surroundings.
There were many hardened soldiers here, determination written on their faces. These armoured troops merged into a main group as they walked along the streets, forming a powerful black current.
The soldiers varied in age, from those just in their teens to old white-haired men. There were even some muscular women amongst their ranks. Although this made them look extremely disorderly, that was suppressed by their unique auras. The struggle of the Dark Ages had awakened the cold nature in them that allowed them to survive countless life and death situations.
They shared spaces with the bugs and the beasts to eke out a living, struggling no matter where they were. The people from before these times would not be able to comprehend their thought process. Even a former carpenter like Doron was confident he could kill one of the town guards of his old village head on now.
‘I have to return, I have to. For Lina!’ Doron made up his resolve as he opened a large metal gate. Thinking of the figure waiting for him at home, he felt rejuvenated as he moved out.
Although he didn’t know why he’d been soft enough to save her back then, Doron had found a partner who could understand him and whom he depended on as well. Their relationship was what lasted him through countless encounters that would have killed him, even doctors saying he was a man who’d climbed out of his grave.
‘I don’t know whether I’ll live to tomorrow, but the next time… I’m asking for her hand…’ he rubbed his chest, exhaling a cold breath.
“Doron!” A powerful yet skinny black hand clapped on Doron’s shoulder, the impact almost causing him to fall to the ground. Doron turned around, elation in his expression.
“Big Brother Jimmy!” The person who’d patted him was a tall lanky youth. He had a cow-horn helmet, carrying a large battle axe by his side. Even if the blade was chipped, the sheer weight of this hundred pound weapon would cause others to flinch.
There were several other warriors beside him, forming a small party. Jimmy seemed to be held in high regard amongst them.
“Haha, kiddo. I knew the Lightkiller Bug acid wouldn’t kill you…” Jimmy seemed extremely excited as handed a leather pouch to Doron, “Come, have a drink!”
“Ooh…” Doron salivated, taking a careful sip after he heard several gulps around him. A powerful sour and spicy taste ran down his throat to his stomach, causing him to feel much warmer than before.
“Strong wine!” the warriors around him said in envy. Any strong wines went for sky-high prices in these times. A wine pouch was akin to a second life in the frigid wilderness.
Many members of the party looked at Doron strangely, but eventually turned away after he handed the pouch back to Jimmy.
Who were they kidding? The Skullcrusher’s name resounded throughout the region. Even if Jimmy looked like a pole, the battle axe in his hands had already smashed in the heads of several people larger than him.
Sometimes, survivors were more dangerous than the bugs. Just for a small bag of wheat, clean water, or even a piece of jerky, two people would fight to the death. Doron himself had encountered this scenario many times.
However, because of this, he had a good impression on Jimmy’s generosity. Being able to retain some of his principles and kindness at times like this was really rare.
Even if Jimmy had wished to make use of him, there was nothing wrong with it. After all, such charisma and sincerity was rare even amongst leaders. If Jimmy wanted to use him, that meant that he had a certain value, did it not?
Doron clenched onto the fine metal sword in his hands.
“Haha… How is it? Are you still joining us for the mission this time?” Jimmy rubbed his bald head, his blue eyes shimmering with sincerity.
“No… I need supplies to tide through the cold this time. I also need to get medicine or healing scrolls, Lina’s caught a cold recently and I’m rather worried…”
Doron’s face turned red. Even Jimmy’s party would have to sacrifice lives to get everything he needed.
“If it’s like that…” Jimmy rubbed his chin.
“So I’ll be going solo this time…” Doron said after some hesitation.
Jimmy grabbed his shoulders and guffawed, “I never thought that our little Doron would turn into a big man… Hahah… Very well! You can take an additional set from my spoils!”
“Th...Thank you, Big Brother Jimmy!” Doron was extremely moved, and tears almost streamed down both his cheeks.
“Don’t be this wishy washy like a woman. Hurry and follow!” Jimmy hoisted his battle axe and walked out of the fortress doors.
This fortress had tall towers in the outermost areas, the central regions being fortified as well. Even if the outer portions were breached they could fall back and tighten the perimeter. The leader was at the centre, alongside the army and the Professionals. Classism had persisted into the dark ages.
Someone like Doron could only squeeze his family into the outermost unprotected regions. They were in the most danger from the beast horde, surviving the greatest casualties. This was why their homes were built like small forts.
Doron’s greatest wish other than marrying Lina was to bring her to the core of the fort. Rumour had it that there were powerful spellcasters guarding the area, making it the safest place in the mainland. Each and every family had the provision of red wine and bread. Even before the Dark Ages, this was something that Doron had yearned for.
‘However… The wizards, haven't they already lost their abilities to cast magic?’ After all, he was still marred with guilt about the events in Old Holdman’s villa.
Still, the fortress relied on magic to repel the bugs and survive, so there was no need to question its existence. Doron looked towards the outermost fortress walls.
A sturdy granite tower was present there, with traces of blood and internal fluids of the bugs. Each platform had a small black cannon perched atop it.
Bright runes glowed inside the cannon shafts, reassuring the people who saw them. This wasn’t the first time Doron was looking at these cannons that reaped lives in every bug attack. Even powerful red worms abhorred them.
*Rumble!* A powerful mechanism was unlocked, drawing down the bridge as a large troop of cavalry wearing exquisite armour trotted out in rank and file, causing many mercenaries to look on in envy.
This was a regiment of Professionals, possessing astounding battle might. Once someone was drafted into the army, even if they weren’t sent to the core they’d be sent to relatively safe areas and given a steady supply of food.
This was a lifelong dream to many commoners. The strongest adventuring parties paled in comparison to the soldiers, making them look like a counterfeit product. Few people, like Jimmy, didn’t feel inferior to the troops, instead competing with them on the same level.
‘One bug is worth one contribution point. I already have 90, so I only need ten more to enter the inner areas and become a member of the army…‘ Doron blazed with desire. After all, this meant that he was one step closer to his dreams!
‘Big Brother Jimmy had already amassed the necessary contribution points, but because he had several brothers staying outside, he has remained there too..’ Doron was extremely impressed with Jimmy.
*Thud! Thud!* The army entered formation at this moment, causing a solemn atmosphere that silenced the adventurers.
*Whoosh!* The cold wind blew, causing the Silverymoon flag held by one of the knights to flap in the wind, radiating a strange glow.
Jimmy blinked his eyes, and saw several black spots in the skies. Without knowing why, even with the absence of the sun, his eyes had grew accustomed to the darkness. At the very least, with the help of the stars in the skies— what was said to be the light of the gods’ divine kingdoms— he could already see clearly in a fifty metres radius.
Those several black dots grew larger, and when they closed in, the onlookers exclaimed in surprise. It had been the figures of several wizards flying in the air.
“My people…” A female wizard wearing silver white armour spoke. Her appearance was obscure, yet her voice carried the vicissitudes of time, drawing the alarmed voices and gasps of the people.
“It’s the city lord!” “Silverymoon Queen! Woo! Woo!”
Doron bowed just like the rest of the people in the surroundings. No matter what, being able to seek protection under her when the world had ended was enough for him to express his gratitude and thanks.
It’s just that the queen standing in mid-air didn’t have much joy on her face, seeming to have aged greatly.
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