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Book 1 - Chapter 3: Juliana the alchemist.
There was some dispute between the mercenary group and the villager boy Julius. If there weren't for Olga and Paddington, this would undoubtedly develop into a bloodshed, and Julius, a courageous but ignorant and cubbish teenager, will get a very miserable end. After replenishing the food, Paddington asked the team to depart immediately and set off for the Forest of the dead. Staying in this small village for a while would only make the uneasiness and fear of these poor villagers continue to be magnified.
Before leaving, Paddington received some coins from the village head. He knew why the village chief wanted to do this, and knew that the old man must also be full of fear, while shaking his hands and giving the same amount of money to Gris the "terrifying giant". In order to let the village chief calm down, Paddington accepted the coins. For these villagers, the money may have been a long-term acc.u.mulation of wealth. For Paddington, this is at best a two-handed sword.
This is the way for the villagers to survive. Humiliation is only a trivial matter. Only living is the eternal proposal.
Before the village chief bid farewell to Paddington, perhaps he just remembered, perhaps it was a final grat.i.tude toward Paddington for everything he did, he told Paddington one thing.
"Sir Knight, in fact, there are still people who live in the forest."
Paddington felt a little curious. "Living in the Forest of the dead and making friends with wild beasts?"
The village chief seemed to be recalling something. "It isn't very accurate to say that there may be a person living there. I don't know if it is really a human... It is something I encountered already a decade ago. At that time, there were so many wild beasts. Even this village on the edge faced many hardships."
It seems that the village chief has a long story to say, Paddington quietly stand aside, waiting for him to continue.
"At that time, the days of the village were very difficult. The children were dragged away. The villagers suffered casualties. The crops were often destroyed by wild beasts. At that time, I was a little more energetic and impulsive. I took the people with some strength in the village into the forest. I want to avenge my son and wife who were killed by the beasts. I was thinking that at least a few wolves must be killed before returning to the village... At that time, my whole brain was full of anger, and couldn't even take care of my granddaughter." Saying this, the village chief had long bitter smile, "I also regarded myself as someone special. I forgot that the things that ran out of the forest to find food in the village are just small beasts. As a result, in the forest, those strong magical beasts had eaten the villagers like fruit. We didn't have the ability to resist. In the end, I could only run away, thinking that I would be dead for sure this time. On the way to avoid the beasts and escape, unknowingly I came to a wooden house, and there were no magical beasts behind me. I have forgotten what the wooden house looks like but I still have some impressions about the gardener standing in front of it."
"That's a very old woman, wearing a black robe. Her hair was messy like seaweed, there were more wrinkles on her face than even mine now, which was terrifying to me at that time - she was like a witch. The old lady saw the b.l.o.o.d.y and panicking me fell in front of the wooden house. She saved me and treated my wounds with herbs. The crushed herb is like a panacea, it helped the wounds on my body healed quickly, leaving only some scars."
When Paddington heard this, he had some understanding of this old woman, but it wasn't easy to make an accurate judgment. That may be a self-isolated herbalist, or a witch or a wizard who fled from the west to the east of Olean continent. Cruel witches and ruthless wizards aren't very kind, unless you have something they need, so Paddington was more inclined to think that it was a desperate herbalist.
"The old lady was silent most of time and never said a complete sentence to me. After helping me bandage the wound, she took me out of the forest until I could see the smoke in the village. I walked out of the jungle and looked back. Looking at the mysterious old lady, she only said one sentence, 'Don't come anymore' then turned and left. Since then, until now, I have never seen the old lady. It was more than ten years, she may already pa.s.s away." The village chief recalled the past and felt an immeasurable sentiment. "Sir Knight, if you enter the depths of the forest and are lucky enough to see the strange wooden house, it is probably the old lady's home. I don't know if that place is still the same as before. If you run into the old lady, you may be able to ask her for a few herbs to treat external injury. She may be a weird and lonely person, but since she saved me, she shouldn't be a bad person. "
The old man's words are finished. Paddington took some silver coins from his pocket and stuffed them into the village chief's hand. "Thank you for your advice. This is very helpful for us." Paddington wasn't just being polite, because in the Forest of the dead, there are indeed moments when you need to use herbs or medicines for external injury.
The village chief didn't dared to accept the money from the goodwill knight, but Paddington was very forceful this time, so he had to accept it.
The slow moving convoy had reached the edge of the village and came to the entrance of the forest. Paddington got on his horse and bid farewell to the village chief and chased after the convoy. The mercenaries were walking awkwardly at the end and in the middle of the convoy, making rude gesture to the servants who also had to walk on foot, while the church knights rode around the convoy and monitored these restless guys.
Paddington returned to the front of the convoy and found that Olga, who was temporarily replacing his as the leader, had a child next to him. The boy named Julius was following Olga and had to walk quickly to keep up with the pace of the horse.
"You should go home, boy." Paddington urged his horse to Olga and said this to Julius.
"Sir Knight, I think you would need a guide." Julius saw Paddington and immediately left Olga, whom he was trying to make an acquaintance with, to follow Paddington. He raised his head and looked up at Paddington, his eyes were sparkling. "I often go to the forest to pick up fruits, I know which road is harder, suitable for the carriage to move, and know which road is safer, even the beast's howl can't be heard - well, although we haven't heard any beast's howl in this village for a long time."
"We don't need a guide. Your parents will worry about you, go back quickly." Paddington didn't show any signs of letting this slide.
Upon hearing this, Julius lowered his head. "My parents have already died. I am an orphan."
Hearing this, Paddington and Olga's expressions changed slightly. In the current year, death isn't a rare thing, but so frequent that it can numb people. Paddington didn't even have to ask how his parents pa.s.sed away. Maybe they were killed by a robber, maybe they were sick and die... Natural disasters and man-made disasters, there are always poor villagers who can't escape from one or two of them.
More because of this, Paddington would not let Julius follow.
"No, go back to your village." Paddington added a heavier tone. "Child, I know what you are thinking, but your delusions will ruin your stable life, and you may not even be able to keep it." Paddington let the horse under him raise their hooves, rolled up the dust and drove Julius to the side. "It was only luck you had just now, otherwise the mercenaries must have at least one hand or one leg from you. In the dense forest, you can't get the help from me or Olga without such good luck. Those brusque warriors have many ways to torture you, while I can only turn a blind eye!"
Paddington intentionally let the horseshoe fall in front of Julius, scared him to fell on the ground and couldn't stand up for a while. Paddington thought that his att.i.tude was already obvious enough. He stopped paying attention to Julius and went on.
"You saved the child's life again." Olga said to Paddington after the knight caught up with him.
Paddington replied: "No, I just saved his second life. His first life was saved by you, Mr. Olga."
"Without you and the church knights, I don't know how to settle it." Olga smiled.
Paddington just smiled and didn't talk anymore. Olga was right, it is true - without him being a silver rank knight and twelve black iron rank knights, Gris wouldn't be such easy to talk. This giant mercenary boss may seem like a barbarian's king, but in fact he was cunning like a thief who slips through the groundwater.
The convoy quickly entered the forest completely, leaving only the dust of the horseshoes and wheels, while Julius sat on the side of the road, staring blankly as the convoy disappeared into the forest. In the rich green, only the trees on the edge could be seen, while the un.o.bservable deeper part of the forest was like a bottomless green mouth, it swallowed the convoy made of a chain of carriages just like eating a centipede.
The Forest of the dead is very quiet, and the sound of birds and bugs is not annoying but makes this quiet more vivid. What makes people feel irritated and scared is only the howl of the beasts, or other strange things that shuttle through the trees and brought along the rustling sound of leaves. The strange thing may be a wild elf, or it may be an underground inhabitant who digs up a hole and comes to the surface. It is more likely to be a native hunter lurking in the green.
But in the Forest of the dead, these ominous noises can't be heard. There are only the songs of birds and the crickets of the insects. This quiet made Paddington and Olga a bit unaccustomed.
"Very quiet," said Paddington. There are very simple roads in the forest for the carriage to move forward. On the road, there are occasional holes, that didn't affect the progress of the carriages.
"Because it is the Forest of the dead?" Olga asked. "You said that the soldiers of the Twin Eagle Empire are resting here. Does this natural mausoleum make other living creatures dare not to approach?"
"They aren't sorrowful ghosts, they should have been called to the side of the G.o.d of Light." Paddington replied. "This quiet really makes people feel a little strange. Maybe the patrol knights of the Crescent Empire have trampled through this forest. So the beasts and the native inhabitants of the wilderness were all driven away."
"If it's the soldiers of the Crescent Empire we're talking about, they do have this capability." Olga nodded. He was original from Yelan continent so he knew this country better than Paddington. "Conquer everything, then gain honor, wealth... in the Crescent Empire, even children who have not grown up will become a powerful warrior under such conditions. If they want to conquer a forest, it doesn't sound very strange."
Paddington didn't answer. As long as they live on the continent of Olean, they are afraid and apprehensive of this aggressive pagan empire. It is precisely because of this scary spiritual power that the Crescent Empire crossed the narrow strait and extended their empire to the other side of Yelan continent, suffocating the once brilliant Twin Eagle Empire, shrinking the country in its dying breath to a lonely city, the King's Fortress. The territory map of the Crescent Empire, which now also suffocates the Western city-states and the church of Illumination, was once actually belonged to the Twin Eagle Empire.
But that was all stories of a few hundred years ago. History is like a tidal wave, sweeping away the glory of a country, and then gave it to the one being able to live through it - the powerful people who obtain it all by their own ability, only lose it again after their decline. The Twin Eagle Empire received this glory from the ancient empire unknown to the people, and then Crescent Empire took it away from the Twin Eagle Empire. Saying it bluntly, this glory was abandoned by the Twin Eagle Empire themselves. The civil war from more than one hundred years ago, as well as the plundering of the Western Crusades, has caused the Twin Eagle Empire to continually cut off the meat of its own body, until it couldn't bleed anymore, leaving only a skeleton.
When Paddington and Olga were riding in front of the convoy silently, the curtain of the carriage behind them was pulled up. A maiden with blond hair and a pale complexion that would make people feel a little distress about her revealed her face, "Olga, can I ride with you?" The girl had pretty facial features, but the hint of a faintly sorrow lingering on her face seemed to have become something impossible to get rid of, while her brows inadvertently frowned, making people worry that she will get old faster. This is a beautiful maiden, but like a fragile porcelain vase, it makes people afraid that she will break.
The girl was the owner of this convoy, and the one who was going to marry to the West, Roseanna Mullin.
"My lady, you shouldn't come out." Olga slowed down and came to the carriage. "It's not appropriate, and also not safe." Olga said it wasn't safe because he was worried that she would be exposed under the glare of the mercenaries.
"In this quiet forest, animals and ghosts don't care about the etiquette of the living." Roseanna said, obviously, she also knows about the origin of the forest's name. "The carriage is just too b.u.mpy, I would rather ride on horseback and grind away the inner skin of my thigh, than wish to endure once again my b.u.t.tocks getting knocked to swollen."
Olga sighed and reached out to Rosanna. "Come up, my lady." He could never refuse Roseanna's request.
Roseanna let her only two maids continue to stay in the carriage while she went to sit on Olga's horseback. Inside Olga's lap, she changed to a comfortable posture and sat tight. "Thank you, Olga."
"My honor, lady Roseanna."
Because he needed to protect Roseanna, Olga no longer went forward to ride side by side with Paddington. Didn't care much about the things behind him, Paddington continued to stare at the front, as if that only this action can attract his attention.
The convoy continued to move forward until the sun set in an un.o.bservable place within the forest. The sky was still bright, but soon it would be dark.
It was time to find a place to camp and rest. Paddington turned the horse's head and put up a gesture to stop the convoy behind him. "The sky is dark, we are resting here today!"
The convoy stopped, the servants and mercenaries leaned against the cargo carriage and sat on the ground. Not only did they feel tired because of the walking, but the church knights who had been riding for a day also dismounted immediately, and when they took a break, they also comforted the tired horse easier.
Olga helped Roseanna to dismount. After Roseanna came down, she combed her messy hair, then her eyes turned to side of the road. "Look, there seems to be a cabin."
Paddington and Olga both heard her and turned their head. Beside the road, in a place that was heavily obscured by the cluttered trees, a log cabin could be seen vaguely, mainly thanks to the light of fire.
Paddington held the hilt of his sword and waved to Olga and Roseanna. "I will go to look at the situation there, you stay here."
"That place is perfect for overnight stays, at least better than the carriage." said Roseanna.
Olga shook his head. "No, my lady, at least we must make sure that it is safe and harmless - and that the owner of the cabin is friendly and welcoming."
Paddington crossed the wild bushes and felt the deformed trees growing in front of the log cabin. The cabin is made of rough wood, there are already many vines entwined on it, appearing like it is to be integrated with the forest as one. There was a smoke rising above the log cabin and an oil lamp hanging in front of the door. In the open s.p.a.ce in front of the log cabin, there is a field enclosed by a simple wooden fence, with herbs planted on the ground.
There was a girl in front of the cabin. She should be the person who just hanged the oil lamp. She noticed Paddington's arrival and turned to face him. The girl wore a blouse and skirt made of burlap, a pair of sandals on her feet, and a tattered gray cloak, and flew out from the covered hood was the long black hair. The girl is about fourteen or fifteen years old, beautiful but with slightly tender face and a flowery smile on it. Her eyes are clear and bright, like she had never experienced the taste of pain and happiness is her everything, plus in her arms was hanging a basket full of flowers. Looking at her, she seemed like a little elf that use flowers to spread the happiness to the world - perhaps this elf's body is a bit too big.
"A good day, Sir Knight." The girl greeted Paddington, looking a bit cautious, as if she had never seen such an important figure appeared so close to her.
Paddington's hand on the sword's hilt was loosened. "Who are you?" Although he relaxed his guard, Paddington still had to figure out the other's origins.
"I am Juliana." The girl replied, "An alchemist."
End of chapter 3