Chapter 371: Barren Bone People
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
For a moment, Thales thought Tormorden was about to cry.
Under the illumination of the light from the fire, his lips brushed against each other while his small eyes above his cheek bones blinked. His eyes were unfocused, and his oily hair on his forehead swayed a little.
The owner of the merchant group took a deep breath and managed to make his swaying body not fall.
Tormorden’s cheeks moved, and his lips curled into an extremely unpleasant-looking smile.
“Do you know what this reminds me of?”
Tormorden coughed, while the necklace on his neck quivered continuously. “In the days when the country was enveloped in the flames of war, my great-grandfather fought battles under the leadership of the Virtuous King, Mindis the Third. His Majesty told him at a banquet, ‘The more difficult of a situation we are in, the more confident we should be.'”
Quick Rope pressed his forehead with a pained expression, and his lips moved as he said, ‘Here we go again’ silently. Many of the people in Dante’s Greatsword did the same thing.
However, Dean continued to watch Tormorden calmly while maintaining his usual expression.
“Now, it is time for you—No, it is time for us to be more confident.” Tormorden seemed to think he could raise their confidence level by saying so while he tightened his belt, revealing his beer belly that jiggled in the air.
“My good Dean, my dear Dean, you know, I have always admired you, so I think your rates could be a little higher…”
“You do not understand, what we are lack is not confidence but safety, and it is not because we are trying to bargain for an increase in our pay.” Dean smiled very politely, as if this was just a normal negotiation. “We can no longer advance. God knows what lies ahead in front.”
“The corpses in the camps are very fresh, the yellow sand had not made it in time to bury them. This is a sign that we are only one step away from unknown danger. If you are to ask me, we should have considered turning back yesterday morning.”
Tormorden was a little taken aback.
“Dean, you were the one who promised this trip would be alright.” The merchant’s chest began heaving as he stared at Dean with wide eyes. “You cannot let me go back empty-handed and suffer such a great loss! I will not be able to pay you for your service at all if that is the case!”
Quick Rope’s eyes lit up.
“If this is the case, I suggest that you deposit an amount of money with Tampa, the owner of the inn; if you return empty-handed like this, he can pay for… Mmmph—” He did not get to continue, because by his side, the Northlander Kant had already covered his mouth firmly. He would only struggle helplessly with his arms and feet while tears brimmed in his eyes.
“The situation will always change.” Dean could not hold himself from laughing while looking at Tormorden. “Are you suggesting that, rather than not having the money to pay us, if would be better if we died out here, since that would mean you would not have to pay us?”
Tormorden’s expression froze, he looked as if he wanted to speak, but no words came out of his mouth.
In the end, he raised his finger and stared at Dean intently, his eyes were filled with worry and anxiety, as well as poorly suppressed rage and indignation.
“This has to do with your reputation, Dante’s Greatsword!”
The master of the merchant group could no longer hold back his temper and was utterly infuriated. “What kind of mercenaries are you? What kind of bodyguards are you?”
“I grovelled to you to ask you to escort me into the desert, paid you generously, fed you with good food and drinks, and even when you picked up a piece of trash along the way, wasted our resources and added to the merchant group’s burden, I did not say much…”
‘Picked up a piece of trash along the way…’ Thales raised his eyebrows before he looked down and scratched his head.
‘What happened to the things the Virtuous King told you?
‘What happened to “take up the responsibility of looking after others, but be enthusiastic in doing so”?’
“Yet after you received the deposit, you refused to work halfway through your deal and betrayed the person who hired you?
“All of Blade Fangs Dune will know about this!”
As soon as he said those words, the mercenaries’ expressions changed.
“I am telling you, I had in mind that after this trip, I would praise you in front of Baron Williams and fight for the reduction in tax and venue rental for you. Now, am I supposed to go tell His Grace or my other colleagues that a few dead bodies scared the piss out of you and you do not even have the most fundamental quality—”
However, Tomorden was cut off.
“In the desert, you should never doubt your guides and protectors, fatty,” said Mickey coldly while he sat by the side. The tattoos on his face made him look rather ferocious. “You looked down too lightly at the desert. Trust me, you should think of the coffins for those who rest eternally in the desert—they are made of golden sand, for free.”
Tormorden was a little stupefied and curled backwards subconsciously.
“Also, if you are really close with Baron Williams, Master Merchant, close enough to determine our fate by one sentence.” By the side, Old Hammer said faintly, “Why do you fear returning to Blade Fangs Dune?”
After shaking off Kant’s evil hands with great difficulty, Quick Rope chuckled and said, “How about mentioning your noble ancestors who once drank with the King? Maybe this would give the baron a shock and he would make up for your losses eagerly and attentively?”
Tormorden was rendered speechless and could not say a word. He could only point at Mickey and Old Hammer. “You…”
“Alright, boys.” The captain, Louisa, who had been silent thus far, coughed. She lifted her hand, and with a smile on her face, spoke like a mediator, “We do not have to end up in deadlock like this. I promise, we have a good way to solve this, haven’t we?”
She looked at Dean with a smile on her face and cast him a meaningful glance.
In the end, Dean exhaled and touched his bald head.
“Alright then. Let us, erm, let us try to reach a compromise.”
Tomorden turned to Louisa with gratitude, as if he had found a savior.
“Captain Dante! I knew you are reasonable…”
Louisa waved her hand.
“If we walk in a certain direction for twenty or thirty miles, we can run into a tribe that lives in a rather remote oasis not known to many,” Dean said softly, “We know their chief. In fact, we are very close, we call each other brothers and often joke together. They should have moved nearby by this season.”
“You can trade some of your merchandise for some special local products of the desert, replenish your water supply and food, and at least sell some of your overstocked goods before we decide the next step. What do you think?”
Tormorden was a little taken aback.
“Wait a minute. The tribe of the Barren Bone people? Are they nearby?”
When he heard this, Thales was shocked. The waterskin in his hand trembled.
His shock was the same as Tormorden’s.
‘Barren Bone people?’
A familiar face appeared before his eyes. The deepest impression of that face in his memories was his red eyes.
However, Dean did not let him continue. “If you are concerned, Seth, that tribe… They know the situation of the desert like the back of their hands, they know at least more than we do. If we check with them, we will know the current situation in the desert—whether there has been a terrifying killer on the loose or there have been some desert bandits who have been killing each other out of boredom—before we decide whether we will continue with the journey or…”
Tormorden waved his hands anxiously. “But those are Barren Bone people! Those man-eating bastards… How do you know and how can you ensure that…”
Mickey stood up slowly and walked to Tormorden.
“Because I was born in that tribe.” The warrior with black tattoos all over his face poked Tomorden’s belly lightly. “Rest assured.”
Mickey gritted his teeth. His gaze was as sharp as a blade.
“As a ‘man-eating bastard’, I will tell them beforehand that you are inedible.”
The master of the merchant group’s face turned pale and he stepped backwards out of fright, then he fell on his bottom.
Quick Rope giggled.
Thales was stunned.
‘Barren Bone people.
‘Barren Bone people?’
His eyes were fixed on Mickey, especially on the latter’s eyes.
But those were only a pair of commonly seen brown eyes.
Tormorden subconsciously threw a glance in the direction of the other mercenaries but found that they were watching him with a blank face; Tormorden could not help but quiver a little.
“Now, you know why we can come and go freely in the desert.” Dean sighed. “This is our biggest secret, sir: our guide is one of the Barren Bone people.”
Tormorden quivered a little again.
Louisa helped Tormorden up and gave him an apologetic smile.
“Then… We shall go to the tribe tomorrow…”
There was a sudden smile on Tormorden’s face.
“Ahem, I got it!”
The laughter of the master of the merchant group rang out, but it sounded somewhat forced. “We shall depart tomorrow! Tomorrow, tomorrow!”
Before he finished his words, he stumbled and crawled out of the mercenary’s camp, as if there were eight wolves whose stomach was rumbling with hunger behind him.
Dante’s Greatswords laughed with relief.
By the corner, Thales was silent.
“But we all know that there is no Barren Bone tribe there.” Old Hammer shook his head in resignation and patted Mickey’s back, who just sat down again. “It’s just a supply point we are supposed to go according to our initial plan, isn’t it?”
“You are right.” Dean shrugged and gestured with his chin in the direction of Tormorden’s back.
“But he does not know about it.”
There was a round of carefree laughter in the camp.
“Problem solved. We no longer have to worry about searching for those dead bodies. To be honest, there were a few exiles among the desert bandits who died and I could tell that they were from the Seralon Tribe. Some of them had at least twenty killing tattoos, which means they won twenty fights to the death; they could be from the supreme class.” Dean let out a breath of air.
“It is hard to imagine what exactly could have killed them.”
Louisa smiled at him gently. “Don’t worry. Our return trip will commence tomorrow.”
Thales, curled in a corner quietly, watched the group with a puzzled gaze while throwing glances at Mickey from time to time.
Louisa noticed Thales’ glances.
“Don’t care about it, Wya, and don’t be too surprised about it either. I know what you are thinking about,” Louisa said in an understanding manner, “Whatever people say about the Barren Bone people having the faces of demons, and the like of them only eating human bodies…”
All the people turned to Thales at the same time, leaving Thales embarrassed.
Old Hammer even burst out laughing.
The female captain shook her head. “First of all, that so-called Barren Bone tribe is non-existent, and it has never been our intention to be guests at any tribe.”
Quick Rope showed his big white teeth. “We were only joking.”
Thales’ mouth twitched, though he only managed to do so with great effort.
He cleared his throat as he felt obliged to say something. “Alright. Of course. But as you just mentioned, Mickey…”
Louisa smiled. “You are right. Mickey is one of the Barren Bone people. Have you seen the tattoos on his face? Those are war tattoos, one of the proofs of the Barren Bone people. Clearly, he does not devour men, nor does the Barren Bone people…”
“No, not all.” Mickey snorted, it sounded quite disdainful. His gaze was freezing.
“But the tribe I belong to does not eat humans.”
Thales was taken aback again.
“Sh*t, Mickey.” Old Hammer let out a dull groan and took a bite of the food.
“Every sentence you say seems to come from a ghost story.”
Thales was still feeling a little awkward. After all, he was in other people’s camp, but Louisa’s smile made him relax a little, though Dean still watched him while still appearing as if he was deep in thought, making the young prince worry.
He turned to Quick Rope.
“So, based on what I heard…”
“Oh, forget what you heard.” Old Hammer let out a sigh and swallowed some food. “Madness, heartless abuse, man-eating… People who live outside the desert have always described the place as if it’s… You know, some people are lazy at categorizing things and have no means to do so, so they make careless conclusions and distort the truth. They call men who have been forced to or who willingly make a living in the desert as the Barren Bone people, even including the desert bandits and thugs who came from outside the desert.”
Thales’ brow raised and lowered as he listened to Old Hammer’s words and started to understand the situation a little.
“Of course, I doubt that there are people among them who have really seen the truly terrifying Barren Bone people who are really difficult to deal with.
Old Hammer snorted lightly. “Even during the Desert War, the real Barren Bone people are not people you can see whenever you want to do.”
Dean opened his mouth. his calm tone quietened everyone down slowly as they listened to him.
“I know your confusions, Wya, and I know what outsiders say about the Barren Bone people, but have no fear. The desert is huge, and the Barren Bone people are not a race of people who only have one single trait defining them.” The bald mercenary made a gesture politely towards Mickey. “The length of their history might not be that much shorter than the desert itself, and the types of Barren Bone people are not that much lesser than the types of animals we have in the desert.”
“Some tribes are cautious and do not welcome outsiders, some tribes are hospitable, some tribes are violent and war-hungry, some tribes are friendly and peaceful, some tribes have sparse population, and there are those tribes that are strong enough to engage the orcs in arm-wrestling and even go sightseeing at the border between the two great powers; there is a manifold diversity among the tribes, that is how they are.”
Thales nodded his head, feeling enlightened.
“But I heard that all the Barren Bone people are… are red-eyed?”
At that instant, Mickey lifted his head, his eyes were cold.
While Mickey’s unkind gaze was trained on him, a thought appeared in Thales’ mind.
Did he say something wrong?
“Many soldiers have heard the same,” Dean said smilingly, “Obviously, they have not met real Barren Bone people, or they have only met a few of them.”
But this time, Mickey interrupted him.
“No, red-eyed Barren Bone people do exist.”
The Barren Bone man looked up, the black tattoos on his face showed between the flames. His eyes were trained on Thales. “Have you seen any?”
His manner of speaking was very aggressive.
Thales scratched his head.
“I have seen… I have seen those who have heard of them,” Thales stuttered, “Just like, just like you.”
Mickey looked at Thales, his gaze did not move for a long while.
“Only a small portion of the Barren Bone people have red eyes,” he said slowly, even the other mercenaries were listening attentively to him, “They are the descendants of our progenitors; in your words, they are considered as the nobles of the Barren Bone people.”
Quick Rope appeared again. “Are you sure it’s not albinism?”
Old Hammer slapped him on his back, causing Quick Rope to wail.
“Descendants of your progenitors?” Thales ignored Quick Rope, who was causing a scene, and asked in a confused tone.
Mickey narrowed his eyes and cleared his confusion. “Red eyes… It is said that the bloodline left behind by the first generation Barren Bone people who entered and stayed in the desert have red eyes, and they are the origin of all Barren Bone people; wherever they go, they are received and given great privileges, they are born to be offered tributes by the other tribes.”
Thales frowned a little in his heart. ‘The red-eyed Secret Intelligence Department cadre, Raphael Lindbergh… is the so-called ‘descendant of the progenitors’?
‘The origin of the Barren Bone people?’
Quick Rope interrupted them at this moment, “But I heard that the red eyes of the Barren Bone people are proof that they have made a deal with the devil?”
Mickey creased his brow.
“Devil?” Thales was stupefied again.
“Right, I heard that from an old sailor,” Quick Rope lifted both his hands, making himself look like the devil he spoke, and said with a ferocious tone, “The devils who live underground. Evil, horrifying, cunning and chaotic devils who never lived a day without thinking about how to create chaos on the ground.”
Quick Rope said in all apparent seriousness, “Legend has it that the Barren Bone people are a tribe that was abandoned by the gods, so they made a deal with the gods’ enemy, the devil from hell, after which they became the devil’s servants on Earth, and so have been bestowed with the power to be able to live and survive at the land of death, they have since become an existence that terrify others at the sound of their names, and they are beings whose existence in the desert are second only to the orcs… Therefore, Wya, we live in a dangerous world. As the saying goes, fate is unpredictable, we have to cherish our lives in an appropriate way and make life meaningful, such as…”
Thales smiled awkwardly; he already knew what the other person was going to say.
Fortunately, before Quick Role could continue, his words were planted into sand along with his face, because Old Hammer slapped him on the back again.
“Enough. Rumors will not be spread by wise men. Almost all Barren Bone people make offerings to and worship the Desert God, they even constructed a sacred altar and drew a large number of foreigners into worshipping the Desert God. They have nothing to do with devil, you can ask Mickey,” Old Hammer said with a soft tone.
Quick Rope lifted his head unhappily and spat out some sand. “How did you know about this? Have you seen them?”
“How did I know?”
Old Hammer put down his food and smiled. “I bet no one told you that I am a Constellatiate and was born in Western Desert Hill, in Brave Souls Fort.
“So, I have actually seen some, in fact, I have seen more than a handful of Barren Bone people.”
Thales’ lifted his eyebrows. He had not heard the once familiar names of the places in Constellation for too long.
“When I was young, I used to be a soldier in the Fakenhaz Family and was enlisted to safeguard Blade Fangs Dune during the Bloody Year. During the time of the Desert War, I followed the King’s army into the desert and fought the Battle of the Altar. Hey, that was a great battle.” There was a nostalgic look on Old Hammer’s face. “At that time, I learned that I only knew how to brandish my hammer, and the money I earn from farming and the salary I get from being an enlisted soldier was not enough to support my family. I even thought of enlisting as the regular soldier of the royal family, since I heard that their salary is higher.”
Quick Rope blinked his eyes in an astonished manner.
Thales also looked at him in a daze.
‘This old bearded man… is actually a veteran from Constellation…’
“But destiny is a b*tch. In the end, I still came here to be a mercenary.”
Old Hammer turned around and chuckled. “I even became brothers with this Barren Bone man.”
“We do not know each other that well,” Mickey refuted coldly while he was next to him.
“Who said so?!” Old Hammer laughed happily, hugged Mickey tightly and rocked him with his arm wrapped around Mickey’s neck firmly. “I am your benefactor who saved your life!”
“Damn it… Let go of me!” Mickey had an unpleasant look on his face, as if he had swallowed feces, though he did not get angry or act out. He only struggled desperately.
“However, he will not be able to save you all the time,” Quick Rope exhaled and spread his hands, looking as if he had no choice but to do what he had to do next. “So, Mickey, I propose that you save some money with the boss of the tavern… Ouch…”
This time, without anyone needing to remind him to do so, the Northlander Kant, immediately pushed Quick Rope’s head into the sand.
“Sorry about that.” The leader of the group, Louisa pressed her hand on her forehead in resignation and pretended not to see the mercenaries fooling around. She smiled in an abashed manner to Thales. “This is how we usually live our lives. You should know that they’re usually under great stress.”
Thales stared at the very amiable mercenaries with a flabbergasted expression.
He suddenly felt that the atmosphere in the group was filled with wonders.
This was the most harmonious group he had ever seen. Compared to them, the child-beggars in Abandoned House could only shiver in resignation, the private soldiers of Mindis Hall would only obey orders with cold, unfeeling emotions, Nicholas’s White Blade Guards would only show friendship to their comrades, and Thales would always feel an indescribable estrangement from Gilbert, Yodel, Jines, and even Putray.
‘Those who are the closest to me… Hmm…’ Thales remembered Aida, Wya and Ralf, and he suddenly felt that they got along rather well, and were quite like the people in front of him.
Quick Rope spat out the sand in his mouth for the second time and gnashed his teeth in anger. “Ack, I remember now… Urk, maybe, you know, just maybe… the Desert God is actually a devil from hell?”
“Be careful of your words.” Once Mickey got out of Old Hammer’s hold, his expression turned cold. “Plenty of people die because of the heat and thirst in the desert, but even more people die due to lack of respect and too much arrogance on their part.”
Quick Rope winked at Thales and gave him a look that said, “Here we go again.”
Old Hammer smiled. “Enough, Quick Rope. Stop spreading all these rumors you heard on the road. A bard who walked through Scouring Path had even once swore to me that there was a dragon in the desert, and her nickname was ‘Heartwarming Lass’! A dragon, can you believe it? Those things in the legends are just lies to deceive children, and ‘Heartwarming’, my foot…”
Quick Rope’s expression changed.
“But dragons are not legends.” Thales joined the discussion with a soft whisper. “I heard that Eckstedt was built by the Great Dragon. The nobles and rulers of Dragon Clouds City even treat this as an honor.”
“That’s right!” Once Quick Rope found a supporter, his morale increased dramatically, and he said wholeheartedly, “There are people from the north in the tavern, and based on what they said, six years ago, a dragon descended in Eckstedt’s Dragon Clouds City and fought against the legendary calamities…”
Thales coughed slightly and lowered his head to concentrate on dealing with his waterskin.
“Calamity? You still believe in that thing?” Old Hammer laughed happily. “Are you certain you didn’t run into those babbling crazy acting fanatics they call priests from Dark Night Temple?”
“Ha, they’re just a bunch of drunk Northlanders. You know how they are. Chug a few mugs of horse piss down their throats and they’ll start spewing nonsense. Who knows whether they saw a dragon or a mammoth with wings. Perhaps they made up this legend to cover the fact that the king passed away…”
“Heh!” This time, Kant, who had not spoken all this while, lifted his hand in displeasure. “Don’t forget that there’s a Northlander here!”
“Hammer, at least maintain some semblance of respect towards things you don’t know.” Dean watched his comrades chat while he sat by the side. He only smiled, as if he was a father watching his children play-fighting. “We are still in the desert, if we are unlucky, we might end up running into this ‘Heartwarming Lass’, you know?”
“Then I’ll f*ck her.” Old Hammer shrugged. “I’ve always dreamt about being a Dragon Rider since I was young!”
Louisa snorted in contempt. “Before that, finish your food, Dragon Rider! And Mickey, and you, Quick Rope, don’t think that newbies can be lazy, go outside and change shifts with Breeze, Furnace, Halgen and Palka!”
“Hey, what about Dean? He has to stay on watch too!” Quick Rope raised his hand and protested. “Why aren’t you yelling at him?”
Louisa gave a mysterious smile.
When he saw his leader’s smile, Quick Rope felt a little terrified in his heart.
“As for Dean, he already worked hard enough today regardless of whether it is surveying the area or carrying out negotiations.” Louisa said gently, “That’s why, my dear Quick Rope, you have to sleep less today to take his shift.”
Quick Rope wailed. The mercenaries bellowed. The camp was instantly filled with a jolly atmosphere.
Thales bit down on his food and watched their interactions quietly, and a peaceful, cozy feeling suddenly rose from the bottom of his heart.
‘This is how mercenaries act.
‘It looks… quite good.’
At that moment, he suddenly noticed a pair of eyes fixed on his person. Thales thought that it was Mickey, who had not been friendly to him, but he was wrong.
It was not that Barren Bone man.
It was Dean.
The bald mercenary watched him quietly, and with a strange gaze, he watched Thales eat.
Dean’s gaze slowly changed.