Rockwall Lou – V2 Chapter 11

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟏𝟏

(11)

Luo will be interrogated at lunchtime.

It was precisely while Crozet was preparing lunch that she became aware of this fact.

“W, What do you mean?”

Maasa replied while tasting the soup.

“It’s Theresa-sama’s decision.”

Theresa, the representative of the “Star Guardian”, had suspicions about Luo, a wizard. This was because the religion that had been eradicated by the nation had a deep connection with the “Star Guardian”.

The wizards are under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Magic. The Black Neck Squad, a unit of wizards with special abilities, belongs there. It’s said that ten years ago, the “Star Guardian” colleagues suffered a devastating blow because of their covert actions.

Perhaps the Bureau of Magic is using Luo to monitor the movements of the “Star Guardian”.

“Luo isn’t a spy!”

“Can you prove that?”

Taken aback, Crozet’s face darkened.

Although Crozet tried to follow Luo to prove the boy’s innocence, all she learned was that he sent a letter through the post. The recipient was unknown. Moreover, Luo realized he was being followed midway, invited her home on a spur-of-the-moment lie, and even treated her to a bath.

Crozet couldn’t report about the letter, nor about the mysterious house within the walls. This was because Theresa suspected Luo might be falsifying his wizard rank. Crozet didn’t know much about wizards, but the power she witnessed from Luo didn’t seem to be of the lowest rank.

Sensing something from her daughter’s attitude, Maasa said it couldn’t be helped.

“It’s not enough to just end the contract. For our safety, we’ve decided to hold an inquiry for Luo-san.”

That was exactly what her father, Gangi, had argued during dinner.

“Did Theresa-sama advise Otou-san?”

“It seems so in the end.”

“Why didn’t you tell me!”

“If I had told you, wouldn’t you have spoken to Luo-san beforehand and coordinated your stories?”

Crozet is in favor of defending Luo. In other words, Theresa and Gangi, who are skeptics, have devised this strategy to prevent the inquiry results from being skewed.

Crozet felt a burning sensation deep within her chest.

“Otou-san doesn’t trust me.”

“Think carefully, Crozet-san.”

Her mother, nominated as the next successor by Theresa, is very smart. Crozet had never won against her in such debates.

“Luo-san is an innocent and naive child, right? If you put unnecessary ideas in his head, his behavior during the inquiry will seem unnatural. And surely, Theresa-sama will see through it.”

Crozet couldn’t respond.

“That’s why this is for the best.”

Trying to comfort her somewhat uneasy daughter, Maasa explained.

“Even if it’s called an inquiry, it’s not something grand. We’ll just ask Luo-san some simple questions and get his answers. It’s no different from a regular dinner.”

“But. . . . . .”

 ㅤ

Crozet’s anger did not subside. She realized that her sharp resentment was directed at her father. She wondered what would happen if Luo was identified as an enemy of the “Star Guardian”, especially since their contract could not be renewed.

It’s hard to believe.

“I won’t let it go according to Otou-san’s wishes. I’ll protect Luo-kun!”

Her mother only gave a troubled smile.

Luo seemed nervous, perhaps unaccustomed to dining in a large group. Crozet, sitting beside him, appeared ready to fend off any threat, as if a knight protecting a young prince.

Everyone was seated at the round table in the hall. More luxurious dishes than usual were served in honor of their guest. The transport team had brought back a demonic spider from the “Poisonous Marsh” the day before. After dissecting it, they obtained its liver, considered a tonic. Fresh vegetable salad was also served.

To Luo’s left and right were Crozet and Gangi. On the right sat the elderly women responsible for preparation, and on the left the elderly men from the transport team. Directly across sat Theresa, Maasa, and Hamaji, who was in charge of accounting.

Maasa gave the welcome speech to the guest of honor.

“Luo-san, thank you for your hard work. Thanks to your diligent watch, we were able to sell many demon beasts. It really helped us. We wanted to thank you with this meal. I’m sorry for the sudden invitation.”

Luo looked surprised.

“There’s a lot I want to talk about, but let’s eat first.”

Despite the feast, Crozet couldn’t relax enough to enjoy her meal. The same seemed true for the usually jovial elderly men and women. Picking up on the tense atmosphere, Luo seemed uneasy.

“Luo, eat without hesitation.”

“Okay.”

After Gangi’s prompt, Luo finally took a bite of bread.

“It’s good with jam. Use the red one over there.”

Crozet realized she had been remiss. It was her role to make Luo feel at ease.

“By the way, Luo-san.”

Maasa asked.

“How was your watch duty? It must have been cold on the wall. Was it hard?”

Crozet braced herself, realizing the questioning had begun.

“It was tough, wasn’t it, Luo-kun?”

“It was easy.”

The leading question had failed.

“Even so, Luo-san, you’re amazing. You spotted more smoke signals faster than anyone else. You must have really good eyes.”

Luo stared intently at Maasa.

“Do you feel happy when you see the smoke?”

“Huh?”

It was rare for Maasa to be caught off guard.

Luo explained in a slightly hesitant tone. When he spotted and reported the smoke signals, the senior members of the transport team were pleased. Crozet and the elderly women in charge of preparation also praised him, even though he was just doing his job.

“Of course, I’m happy. It helps everyone in the “Star Guardian”.”

“In that case.”

Leaning forward, Luo said,

“I’m happy too!”

 ㅤ

I felt as if a refreshing breeze had passed through. The faces of the old men and women relaxed, then quickly tried to mask their expressions. They probably remembered that smiling during an interrogation was strictly forbidden.

Inside, Crozet cheered for Luo. His mother probably tried to inquire about Luo’s magic, but she couldn’t push further. Even before that, there was an overwhelming urge to embrace him.

Theresa swiftly moved her fingers, and Maasa nodded.

“If you don’t want to answer, please say so. I will ask something a bit personal.”

One should not delve into a wizard’s past. Knowing this, Maasa asked her question with care.

“Before coming to this city, where were you, Luo-san?”

“A village.”

In remote areas where few people come and go, many children don’t know the name of their own village.

“Did you come by carriage?”

“Yes.”

“How many days did it take to get here?”

Tilting his head slightly, Luo responded that it took about half a month. He came from the west.

“You’ve traveled quite a distance. Who did you live with in that village?”

“Alone.”

“Alone, Luo-san?”

“Yes.”

Maasa asked cautiously.

“Your parents?”

“You mean Mom and Dad?”

“Yes.”

“Dad was eaten by the Rock King Eagle.”

There was a brief pause, and the atmosphere at the table grew tense. The words came out so naturally that it took a moment to grasp their meaning.

“What is this Rock King Eagle?”

“A very big bird. This big!”

Luo spread his arms wide.

This creature is said to reside in the Grand Canyon and is far more dangerous than rock lizards. Among moss collectors, it’s believed that once you’re spotted by it, there’s no escaping.

The elderly covered their faces with their hands, and the elderly women made a sign of the cross.

“And your mother?”

“Since Dad died, Mom died too.”

Luo’s mother, already frail, contracted a contagious disease. The father went out to earn money for medicine but never returned. Grief-stricken, the mother’s health rapidly deteriorated. Luo tried feeding her porridge, but she could only take one bite. Then, she passed away.

“How old were you when this happened, Luo-san?”

“Six.”

The elderly groaned, and the old women made the sign of the cross again.

Luo watched them with a curious look.

“I’m sorry, Luo-san.”

Clearly shaken by the unexpected revelations, Maasa apologized.

“I’m sorry for making you recall such painful memories.”

A heavy silence settled on the table, but then Theresa began moving her fingers again, prompting the next question.

Gangi warned Crozet, who had inadvertently stood up.

“Sit down.”

“But. . . . . .”

Gangi addressed Luo.

“If you don’t want to answer, just say so. Understand, Luo?”

“Yes.”

The interrogation continued.

Maasa asked if he had been living alone all this time after that. Luo affirmed. He said he had spent the entire first year confined to his bed, trying to find a purpose to live.

And then, he found it.

 ㅤ

“Defeat the Rock King Eagle.”

Luo became a moss collector, just like his father. Then, he encountered the Rock King Eagle in the mid-level of the Grand Canyon. After ambushing it atop its nest for four days, Luo managed to defeat the Rock King Eagle in a close battle, hurling rock fragments into its mouth. The Rock King Eagle disappeared into the depths of the Grand Canyon.

Exhausted, Luo fell into the Rock King Eagle’s nest. Nearly incapacitated by hunger and fatigue, he needed to eat the Rock King Eagle’s eggs left in the nest to regain his strength to return home.

“Cooked and eaten.”

At first, it tasted delicious, but soon Luo began to experience intense stomach pain. He thought it might be the end for him, but by morning, the pain had miraculously subsided, and Luo was able to climb out of the Grand Canyon and return home.

After that, he was fired from his job as a moss collector.

“Why?”

“Because the boss decided.”

Luo arrived in the city of Arche alone on the moss collector guild’s wagon.

In other words, he was expelled from the village.

“It’s all over!”

Suddenly, Bekios from the transport team collapsed on the table. Other elders began crying with red noses. Elderly women responsible for organ distribution covered their faces with handkerchiefs. Crozet also shed tears.

The story was incredibly sad.

“Director, please forgive him. Luo is a good boy. Please.”

Everyone agreed with Bekios’ plea.

Amidst this, Theresa looked bitter, as if she had chewed on a bug. Raising one hand to quiet everyone, she seemed to be contemplating. Scanning the table, she seemed to make a decision.

Theresa gestured, finally pointing at one person.

“Gangi-san.”

Taking a breath, Maasa paraphrased.

“I entrust everything to your judgment.”

Crozet had noticed. Only Theresa and her father remained silent throughout Luo’s story.

Gangi stood up.

From the start, Gangi was the most suspicious of Luo. He was reserved, stubborn, and never swayed by emotion.

“It’s no good,” thought Crozet.

“Luo is an excellent lookout and a reliable child.”

Gangi stated.

“If he wishes, I would like to renew the contract.”

For a moment, Crozet couldn’t grasp the meaning of his words. Wasn’t it what she had always argued for?

“What do you say, Luo?”

The father asked the boy with a hint of uncertainty.

“Will you work as a lookout again at the “Star Guardian”?”

“Yeah, I mean, yes!”

There was a brief pause, followed by a burst of cheers.

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