Emperor Has Returned - Chapter 86
Chapter 86 Drugal(1)
Translator: BaeBae Editor: BaeBae
On the final skirts of the red wasteland, mountains coloured in the same colour came into their view.
Juan had kept an eye out on the pursuers but for the most part they didn’t make any moves.
In fact, two decided to drift further back, so far that their presence could no longer be sensed. Only three were now giving chase.
In an attempt to lose them, Juan increased the pace of their march but it seemed like they were highly skilled in tracking as he could still sense that they were following.
Instead of their pursuers, it was Swallen that was dying from Juan’s hectic pace.
All of their belongings were left in the carriage which meant for the past two days, Swallen had not properly slept or eaten as all sources of water and food in the red wasteland were contaminated.
“………Finally. Something to look up to.”
Swallen mumbled as she looked towards the red mountains. She weakly lifted her fingers and pointed to a spot between the mountains that looked like a path into a valley.
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At the valley entrance, a few tents and people could be seen.
“Go that way, 10,000 leaves. They’re people trying to pass through the Manas mountains.”
“Is it a village?”
“I wouldn’t call it a village. More like a spot for mercenaries from different areas to gather. Drugal’s Lord works hard to invite many mercenaries over. And you’d be out of your mind to go to Drugal on your own.”
Juan recalled any past information he had about the Manas ranges. He remembered how he’d killed a god by ripping him apart, somewhere in that area.
Back then, a long time had passed since he’d obtained his power and the incident passed by without much of an impression on him. He didn’t recall that this mountain had been particularly dangerous.
“Is it really that dangerous?”
“Maybe not for Mr 10,000 leaves…….. It’s said that you won’t get attacked as long as you move in a group.”
Upon reaching the tents, Juan saw merchants selling water, bandages, arrows and other equipment necessary for mercenaries.
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Immediately after arriving, Swallen began gulping water down her throat. Before the merchant could complain she threw some coins out from her pocket.
The merchant did not seem interested in handing back her change, even though she’d given him silver.
“Has a group already left? I expected more.”
Her words were correct in that there were only two mercenaries in the area. The two were complaining about the ridiculously high prices as they looked to stock up on items that they were going to need. Silver badges were worn on their shoulders.
“There aren’t many goods at Drugal?”
“No, it’s provided for free by their Lord. But still, the road getting there is more dangerous than you think.”
Once they gave up on haggling the merchant, the mercenaries approached Juan and Swallen.
It was a bald man with an axe over his back and another man holding a spear covered in scars. Of the two, the scarred man opened his mouth.
“You two, are you also heading for Drugal? Where’s the rest of your party?”
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“It’s just us two. Are you the same?”
“We initially left as a five on a shared carriage but three decided to turn back. A mercenary came out of the red forest covered in wounds. It was gruesome. Almost enough to convince myself to leave too. All the other mercenaries also fled after seeing that. Our two companions left with them. If you join us, we can leave as a five.”
The scarred man gestured towards his empty carriage with his chin. A coachman gave a brief wave.
“It looks……like you ran into some circumstances too. You guys look miserable.”
Swallen opened her lips at the mercenary’s words.
“The others went back after we ran into an accident. The carriage was destroyed.”
Swallen casually lied in a nonchalant tone. The mercenary looked as if he was persuaded.
“My name’s Jeden. Jeden Jorua. This is Orell. Are you okay if we accompany you?”
“I’m Swallen. And over here……is 10,000 leaves.”
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Jeden made a puzzled look then started laughing upon seeing Swallen grin.
“Ah, the bounty that the church put out for a black haired boy huh. I can already imagine how difficult it would have been for you after coming here. It’s got everyone’s attention over in the east. Too many boneheaded mercenaries is all I’m going to say about that. Anyways, you look quite young. Can you handle a sword alright?”
“Well enough to get by.”
Juan answered with his arms crossed. Jeden eyes narrowed before flashing a grin.
“Misconceived as a criminal after coming here at a young age. Nervous times for people like you. I understand your stance. Are you fine if we accompany you?”
Swallen appeared to have approved Jeden, who looked like a vertern mercenary with plenty of experience.
“We’ll be there in a day on a carriage. So….?”
Juan signalled with his chin, saying whatever.
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“Alright. Let’s go then.”
The road inside the valley of the red mountains was well defined as if had been used by many people throughout the years.
After leaving the valley, a thriving disordered looking forest appeared in autumn colours.
Normally, it was a colour that signalled warmth but combined with the forest’s gloomy and damp atmosphere, it felt somehow dismal.
“Drugal is located at the basin inside the Manas ranges. Surrounded by mountains, the red forest is always filled with humidity. If only half of this humidity could be released to the red wasteland, the land would turn fertile.”
A talkative type, Jeden went on and on, explaining things that weren’t even asked.
Acting as if hearing it for the first time, Swallen agreed enthusiastically before asking questions. It looked as if mercenaries were the type to put importance on creating close bonds.
Juan found no interest in such talks. His attention was solely on the energy surrounding the entire forest.
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Feeling a sense of sacredness. The forest was filled with a strange energy.
Power of gods were divided into two categories. Divinity and impurity. Divinity didn’t necessarily mean good and impurity didn’t also mean it was evil. Only that it was two conflicting sources.
Then from the two, it was further divided into different sources.
As an emperor, Juan’s power was in the realm of divinity. To be more exact the source of his power was fire, but now that he’d absorbed other sources of power, it was difficult to determine it as one particular source.
Just like what he was feeling from this forest.
‘Its similar to the state of my mana.’
Somewhere inside this forest, a source of divine power existed, but a formidable source of impure power also existed. Each constantly dispersing their mana into the forest.
‘Hard to describe this simply as mana………..but more like the stench of a rotting corpse.’
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As a corpse decomposes, maggots would form and all kinds of matter would ooze out.
Although a terrible impuric scene, at the same time, it was a process that brought about new life. Likewise, Taltere and Nigrato’s properties didn’t match.
The arrangement of mana was entirely disorganised. Inside the forest, mana was flowing in an entangled form.
He couldn’t begin to imagine what kind of circumstances lifeforms in this forest would have had to endure.
Juan glimpsed at Swallen.
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He was starting to get curious about her past. Meanwhile, Swallen was still busy talking with Jeden.
“Hey, 10,000 leaf young man. No need to get scared. There won’t be anyone approaching the carriage. At worst, bandits may try to cut down trees to stop us but usually they aren’t that willing.”
Seeing Juan go into a deep silence, Jeden tried being talkative thinking Juan had become nervous.
“What’s exactly inside that forest that makes everyone be on guard?”
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Jeden’s face turned stern at hearing Juan’s question. A smiling Swallen shrugged when Jeden’s gaze drifted towards her.
“What, you don’t want to explain? It is the first time I’m asking anything.”
“Well……I guess there’s no harm in knowing. There are no wild beasts, nor monsters inside that forest.”
Then, Jeden lowered himself to Juan’s height and whispered.
“But instead there are mercenaries.”
“That’s right. Mercenaries that have fled from Drugal after going crazy. Those who’ve completely lost their minds and wander inside the forest unable to leave. Usually, those who go in by themselves or move slowly are caught and eaten.”
Swallen’s hair flew about from a cool breeze blowing into the carriage. Her carved ears showed themselves for everyone to see. His eyes suddenly met with Swallen’s but she was still smiling.
Then, Orell cleared his throat.
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“Seems like our companion’s feeling a bit cold.”
Jeden laughed before closing the window.
“Drugal’s lord puts up a reward for catching those mercenaries that have fled after losing their minds. You never know what those crazy bastards might do. All their life they’ve only learnt to kill and with a weapon in their hand, they’re dangerous no doubt about it. Especially Jull. The most wicked one out of them all.”
Swallen repeated the name with a grimace on her face.
“That bastard’s still alive? I first heard that name around 6 years ago.”
“Ah, sounds like you’re familiar with everything . You’re right. Paladin knight Jull. In search of a heretic he came looking for Drugal, but then fled into the forest after going crazy. I heard he went in naked after taking all of his equipment off. And although he doesn’t have his equipment, he still has the power of the ‘grace’ which allows him to overpower most mercenaries. It’s been said he still roams inside the forest and eats mercenaries that unfortunately come into his path.”
“And why are the Paladins ignoring all this?”
“They retrieved their equipment so I guess it’s not of their concern. The church has for a long time ignored the east willingly. Anyways, it’s good to capture a few of them if possible, but the reward for the danger is less than the dungeon Drugal’s lord asks to explore so there aren’t many who greed in the forest.”
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Juan’s ear perked at hearing a word that caught his attention.
“What? You came here not even knowing that? What exactly did you come here for then…… To answer your question, yes. There’s an enormous dungeon below Drugal lord’s mansion. There are even stories that it was made by an ancient heathen…… Anyways, it’s been said there’s endless treasure inside and it’s used to pay for the mercenaries that are employed.”
“Why would they go that far to search the dungeon?”
“Well, the dungeon spits out endless treasure, so you can imagine what sort of final prize may await at the very end. Of course there are those who die and go crazy but still, for a mercenary it’s a way to earn income. Treasure found here tends to be valued more higher than elsewhere so there’s that too. And one other thing.”
Jeden came closer as if he was about to tell Juan a priceless secret.
“It’s been said that Gared Ga-in’s relic is inside there. A relic belonging to the emperor’s eldest? It will surely be a treasure beyond measure and many say that’s what Drugal’s lord is looking for.”
Juan wasn’t Gared. He didn’t have interest in items that Gared once possessed.
Rather, Juan was monitoring Orell who was sitting next to Jeden. Strangely, Orell’s expression had been showing discomfort since moments ago.
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It didn’t seem as if he was simply a quiet type. He was overly sweating and squeezing his palm every few seconds.
“Is your friend alright? He doesn’t look good.”
“He’s probably nervous after seeing the wounded man come out of the red forest. Hey, you’re fine right?”
Jeden smiled as he patted Orell by his shoulder. Orell forced a smile as he nodded his head.
“More importantly, I wanted to ask why Mr 10,000 leaf was looking to head to Drugal. It didn’t sound like you knew about the treasure…… Do you know someone at Drugal maybe?”
“About that treasure.”
Juan ignored Jeden’s question and opened his mouth. Then, he took something out from inside his pocket.
Upon dropping what was inside his hand, a broken purple gem showed itself.
The pieces of indeterminate polyhydron.
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“You referring to this?”
Jeden’s eyes widened.
“Thi, this is! Where did you get….?”
“Thats none of your concern.”
The moment Juan recollected it back into his pocket, he felt a thinnest murderous intent directed at him. Simultaneously, as he turned his body, a spear pierced through Jeden’s stomach.