Rockwall Lou – V7 Chapter 4

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟒

(4)

“The wilderness has a variety of distinctive terrains. Not only the terrain, but even the climate changes.”

“After the ‘Black Forest’, there was a land where countless rocks protruded from the ground like needles, known as ‘Needle Mountain’.”

The old knights told Tweney.

“This land seems to have rocks growing like vegetation, constantly evolving.”

A series of gentle plateaus. Except for the road running along the ridge line, it was covered in rock formations resembling roses. From a distance, a sharp sound echoed, as if something was being struck.

Tweney wondered if a demon beast could live in such a place.

“In ‘Needle Mountain’, there are some rather troublesome folks.”

Bekios pointed out the window to a mountain of thorny rocks. At its peak was a bird-like creature.

It had wings but no feathers, with its bones exposed. Its body was emaciated, with disproportionately large legs.

“It’s a call-killer bird. About one to one and a half times the size of a person. When it spots its prey, it clacks its beak, calling other demon beasts.”

Although its vision and sense of smell are weak, it’s sensitive to sound and vibrations. Hence, they had to slow down the carriage’s speed to almost a crawl.

“Luo. I need you to take over.”

“Understood!”

At Gangi’s request, Luo took the driver’s seat. The thorny rocks seemed to grow like plants. Since no one had used the road for months, it was blocked by the rocks. Thanks to Luo’s magic, they passed through without issues. Normally, they would have to cut their way through with machetes or axes. If they did, the call-killer bird might have detected them through the sound or vibrations.

The seniors praised Luo for his skills, making him blush with embarrassment.

Once they passed ‘Needle Mountain’, the sky clouded over and it became sharply cold. They entered a plain known as ‘Snow Wind’. The wind was harsh and chilly. A thin layer of powdery snow covered the ground. Although it was clear now, when it snows, visibility drops rapidly. If they lose sight of the stake markers on the road, they could get lost.

The vast plain had many obstacles.

Those were the remains of knights.

The carriage came to a stop.

“The Royal Knights?”

The old knights were rendered speechless by the gruesome sight.

Swords stuck in the ground, bent spears, helmets half buried in the snow. There were hundreds, perhaps even more than a thousand.

“It seems they encountered a horde of demon beasts.”

Gangi reported as he examined the numerous footprints left on the ground.

The Royal Knights, who entered the wilderness on a royal command to subdue the ‘Blue Demon Beast’, were swallowed here by the ‘Crimson Tide’.

“Did they all. . . . . .die?”

Luo asked, to which Gangi nodded.

“Yes. They fought with their lives and died. All to protect the people of the kingdom.”

While their mission might have been in vain, Gangi didn’t dwell on it.

Tweney was shivering.

She thought there was no salvation.

Many towns and villages were destroyed. Many people died. The Royal Knights were wiped out. The people in the capital and the surrounding cities who cheered for her might also end up the same way.

What would happen once everything is swallowed up?

“We need to make graves.”

Tweney, caught in a whirlpool of dark thoughts, was jolted by Luo’s murmurs.

Luo places both hands on the ground.

The next moment, powdered snow dances in the air, and the earth shone in a rainbow hue.

Damaged swords, spears, and armor sank into the ground, replaced by unmarked tombstones protruding. Moreover, around the tombstones, flowers often seen in the frontier bloomed. Incredibly, they were all made of stone.

Few in number and never withering.

Yet, the landscape of despair changed.

“Peppoko, shall we pray?”

“Yeah.”

When people die and are buried, those left behind offer prayers. Feeling as if the natural world had returned, Tweney took a gentle breath.

Perhaps because of the miraculous magic, Luo seemed sleepy in the carriage.

“Luo, please sleep here.”

Tweney lends her knee and strokes Luo’s hair.

Tweney felt that Maasa’s decision to bring Luo along was right.

Not just because of magical power. With Luo around, the seniors’ expressions soften, and despite the journey that determines the fate of the nation, it feels like a cozy gathering at home.

And for herself too.

Without calculation or fear, purely worrying about her and protecting her. Working hard even in a world on the brink of madness.

If Luo wasn’t there, she would have been crushed by a cruel fate and closed herself off.

“Shall we talk about something?”

“Mmm. . . . . .How about a song?”

“I’m sorry. I don’t know any songs.”

She has read many poems, but doesn’t know the melodies or rhythms. And there was no maid to teach her.

Ahem, one of the seniors cleared his throat.

“Excuse me, Princess. If you’d like, let this Bon teach you.”

On the journey to and from the “wilderness,” especially when there’s nothing to do, the transport team sings to pass the time. The senior, keeping rhythm with handclaps, sang a slow-tempo song with a tense expression.

“Bon-sama, that was a wonderful song.”

His voice was husky, and he somewhat misremembered the lyrics. The handclapping even stopped midway, but Tweney was touched by the effort he made to sing for her.

“M, My apologies for the rough song.”

The rugged-faced Bon, with red ears, bowed respectfully.

“Heh.”

The one who made a defeated face and then forcibly showed a smile was Chara.

“Ah, Princess. What this rough fellow just performed was a mere song of old men drinking to relieve their labor woes. Allow this Chara to present a delicate song more fitting for you.”

“What did you say!”

When Tweney praised Chara’s song, Bekios and Totom joined in, saying they had even better songs.

Everyone competed, and in the end, all four finished with a chorus. The carriage window opened, and Gangi spoke.

“Seniors, please be a bit quieter. There might be demon beasts lurking nearby.”

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