Chapter 235: Twenty-sixth Episode: Chapter 1-1
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation

If you wanted to understand the soul of a forest, then you should find a stream in the forest that was surrounded by huge trees and walk from upstream to downstream once.

After going past the branches and a bush with blooming flowers, a most common stream could be seen! The flowing water was blocked by the tree roots in shallow parts, so it crashed into the roots and released gas bubbles naughtily. The water flowed from the north toward the south and passed through the forest. It faced many obstacles but paid no attention to any of those. It simply gathered into a kind of force that had never changed for a thousand years. It was just like the muscle that had to stiffen in face of an unavoidable fight.

The seeds of spruce and poplar floated in the stream and sometimes, the grass would flow with the water. The sunlight gradually thinned when it was transmitted through the leaves. There was no reflection on the water. Only a large area of light was left at some wider places just like a group of silver carps that came from the sea.

There were human figures moving about in the forest. The hidden ones took advantage of the thick leaves and the complicated geology in a smart way. He or they went upstream with great speed! Even though it was difficult to distinguish their faces, the sound of flying birds and shuffling branches still betrayed their movements.

The river water flowed peacefully. This noise would not be able to disturb the serenity of the forest. Suddenly, slow footsteps could be heard by the stream! Even though the sound could not be heard unless one listened very closely, the footsteps broke a branch when it approached the stream. The crisp sound of a broken branch made the footsteps stop. After waiting for some time and ensuring that nothing odd was happening, the footsteps began to move again.

A pair of alerted eyes appeared by the stream. The eyes were of dark blue. They kept scanning the surroundings. Slowly, a young man's face was reflected in the stream. A young aura leaked out from that pair of blue eyes from the person's face. He was bearded, and his face was full of oil and sweat. His age could not be determined from one glance. Gradually, the man's body appeared. He was wearing an armor which was full of dust and mud. Both of his hands were holding a bow and there was a double blade hanging by his waist.

"It's Steinberger Family's forest warrior!" the stream could recognize him. It had been two hundred years!

This forest warrior of Steinberger Family quietly squatted by the stream. His gaze fell on the water surface not far away from him. There was an aquatic beetle shining like copper. It was floating on the calm water. A bumblebee was crashing here and there but the water remained unmoving. A butterfly, huge and beautiful, flapped its wing and danced at the brightest place near the stream. Then...

His gaze suddenly set upon something. The pupil of the forest warrior shrunk. A dead body stained with blood lied quietly by the stream, allowing the stream to caress his limbs and the injuries on his back. The injuries were terrible. The forest warrior could see that the injuries were caused by a saber and a wide-blade war ax.

Wellington Steinberger calmed his quickened breathing and made a sign to the forest behind him. Then, more than ten warriors appeared from the forest. They were the same as their young commander with a double blade and a bow in their hands.

"It's Sully!" Colonel Wellington's voice was extremely coarse. He stood up carefully and strings of sunlight fell on him through the branches. The serious young man whose art of archery was superb before was gone. He was tall and had a strong build now. His skin that was exposed to the air was full of scars and appeared muscly.

"Sully?" a comrade of his came forward but he did not touch the body.

"It's him!" Wellington's face stiffened. He was no longer young. His deep gaze was full of determination and his knitted eyebrows and his large beard very well covered up the facial feature of a beautiful man. It was hard to imagine that the messenger who seemed to always be clean before and would always pant when he spoke too fast had actually become a dirty uncle. However, Wellington could hardly imagine that he was still playing chess with his youngest cousin yesterday and today. To be exact, it was during dawn that his Sully was brought away by the fairies in the forest.

"God!" a warrior shouted. He just turned the body over.

Wellington approached him but it only took him one glance to turn away immediately. Those Deiss people had dug his cousin's heart out! The stream water had washed the blood away and the young Steinberger was no longer his previous lively self. His chest had turned into a pile of mud with white meat and chest bone exposed in the air.

There were numerous legends about Blackwood and in these legends were countless brave forest warriors. Steinberger people still wholeheartedly believed that there was a large fairy who manipulated arrows staying in Blackwood. It was this fairy that taught the Steinberger to create arrows and to deal with the enemy in the forest. The great fairy would grant the bravest Steinberger the heart of the forest. It motivated the soldiers who guarded this place as it gave an unbreakable willpower and luck to the soldiers who roamed amongst the enemy.

The Deiss had taken away the heart of a forest warrior. Under usual circumstances, they would not waste such energy on this unless they were facing the Steinberger warrior who owned the heart of the forest! Digging a heart away was naturally something that would incur the wrath of both man and God. However, from the Steinberger's point of view, this was pride. The great fairy had come to retrieve the heart of the forest. He would give the true warrior's heart to the next warrior who had this pleasure.

Sully was the youngest man in this generation of the Steinberger family. According to tradition, he would be enlisted into the family's armed unit when he reached eighteen like all his brothers did serving in the most difficult and dangerous position. This was the fourth day of his enlistment! This number bumped into the mind of Wellington. Sully was counting every single day, counting when he would be able to become a platoon commander and company commander.

He was counting the days when he would become a general, leading numerous soldier dashing toward the enemies like his father.

Sully had the heart of the forest. The evil action of the Deiss had proven this point. His comrades found his empty arrow pouch. Wellington found his blade and there were cracks all over it. A thick layer of dried blood stained the blade.

Sully was believed to had made the time difficult for the Deiss people who chased after him or those people would not dig his heart away!

Thinking of this, Wellington suddenly felt refreshed. He walked across the stream and the icy water woke him up. This stream was the last bloodline of the great fairy. He washed the dirt away for the warrior who had the heart of the forest and let the flowing water bring the precious mind away. At last, Wellington believed that the water would find another thirsty Steinberger warrior in some place in the forest. When this warrior was by the stream drinking to his heart's content, the forest that nurtured him would send him the mind of a warrior via the clear water.

"Allow me!" Wellington approached his cousin and the warriors immediately parted way for him. They watched calmly at their commanding officer. This officer was a legend in the forest. He could defeat a bear with one shot of arrow and slashed the half-meter wide spruce into half. Now….he took off his blade and put down his arrow. He carried his cousin on his shoulder and held his brother's stiff leg with his palms.

"Let me help you...it will be quicker that way," a soldier came forward.

Wellington was carrying a heavy dead body that was swollen from soaking in the water. He took a difficult step forward, "It's okay! Since I brought him into the forest, let me bring him out..."

The stream became quiet and the forest warriors were gone even if they did not want to part with this stream. It was this stream that nurtured the forest and the forest, in turn, nurtured the warriors. The warriors continued their journey. They would forever treasure the heart of the forest in their chest. Only the knife of the enemy could bring their mind away, but this was not the end. The water that witnessed all of these would remember the soul of the warrior. It would ask the forest to gather the heart of the warrior.

The stream flowed from the dense forest into a plain. The water surface became wider under the sunlight. There were countless yellow flowers springing under the water and a large piece of honeycomb-like frog's eggs. These dark-colored objects under the water were rather matured by now. From the individual egg, one could already see the black tadpole. Also, in this area, many flea-like flies kept hovering near the algae. Without care, they would crash into their reflections in the water or get eaten by the frog that had been waiting for them. The frogs were just like the Deiss people at the border, never getting tired of it and never learning anything.

The Steinberger had built aqueducts near the foot of the hill. The bricks used for the duct were still new and there were algae on them. Even if the Deiss would destroy the aqueduct every time they reached this place, the living things could never be destroyed.

The hill was tall. It extended around three hundred meters upwards from the edge of the forest. Looking back at the middle of the slope, the seemingly endless Blackwood was silent. Only the birds who kept hovering above the trees would sometimes chirp. Strong sunlight shone upon the greenish land. In the eyes of Steinberger, the land was the forest. It was the mother that nurtured them.

The Blackwood fortress sat at the highest point of the hill. Hundred years of war and the "land" that seemed to have no limits gave a contrasted light effect for the fortress. At the upper part of the overhang gate, the Steinberger people ground the Deiss people's bones into powder. After mixing it with plaster, they made it into the heraldry in which the double blade and bow were winded with a vine. And so, this huge terrifying family crest outside was decorated with a silver lining.

Just the same as the huge forest behind it, the fortress was silent. At the top of the tower was a Double-blade and Bow Flag. At every opening of the fortress wall stood stern-looking soldiers.

At the aqueduct at the south of the wall that connected to the foot of the hill, the stream in the forest was sent upwards by the water mill. Then, the water was transported to the water storage tank in the fortress. This duct that transported water still had another use. When the platoon that was responsible to search for casualties returned to the fortress, a slide that could accommodate two people would be let down from the fortress in the aqueduct. Wellington held his cousin as he sat on the slide. He gripped the handle tightly as the soldiers by the fortress turned the winch and the cables pulled the slide into the fortress.

Completely different from what it seemed like from the outside, it was extremely busy in the fortress. The soldiers were running about in the base camp and all defense areas. They were holding a large number of arrows, huge rocks, and rolling woods. Every skinny-looking person would run about with objects that were larger than themselves.

From the north wall of the fortress until Deiss' border, there used to be not many hidden buildings and secret passages. However, in recent years, the construction workers of the Sukhoi family had to build sixteen cannon platforms made of bricks on the fortress wall. Now, every cannon platform had a twelve-pound cannon and up to thousand types of cannons were stored in the secret passage leading to the cannon platform. Almost everyone believed that these cannons that had covered the whole battlefield would be sufficient to deal with the Deiss' invasion.

"Then...when will Deiss come?" the commander of the fortress looked at the stunned Wellington.

The commander of the First Independent Infantry Brigade of Steinberger's Loantz Front came back to his senses. He had just settled his cousin and yet he could not grieve his cousin due to the urgent war.

"Soon!" the young commander whose beard had not been cleaned for who knows how long replied subconsciously.

"When is that?" the fortress commander was rather impatient. He could not wait how the Deiss would react in the battlefield filled with cannon fire, "Since Prince O'Neil fought the Saijo Mountain Defense War, our old neighbor has almost forgotten about the Blackwood Fortress..."

The fortress commander complained unwillingly, "Our cannons could only reach the formation made of woods! How good it will be if that wooden debris becomes the flesh of Deiss people?"

"They are coming!" Wellington opened the map in his hands, "The forest is oddly quiet. The Deiss did not send their scouts at all! This only means that they are fully prepared!"

"Then what are they waiting for?" a military officer who could no longer hold it in finally got impatient.

Wellington's gaze went past the walls, the plains under the wall and the ancient battlefield that his ancestors had fought the enemy for a whole century. The northern sky darkened even the sun in the southern sky had to hold back for a little.

"They are waiting for rain! A storm!"

The fish swam upstream. They were going against the stream intensely! The water kept pushing the fish downstream, but the fish kept swimming upward stubbornly. The water resistance was endless, so the group of fish clogged the stream while some of them jumped forward thanks to their companions taking on the rushing water.

Blackwood would welcome the rare rain in the following month. The storm would throw the fish in shallow water out and the fate of the fish on the ground would not be any better than the soldiers guarding the fortress. It would a struggle, gasp for breath, twitching its body and at last die of suffocation. When the rain stopped, all living things that fed on it like ants and insects would bring its body away.

The secretive and majestic Blackwood could not cover up the survival danger that was present at any moment. Before the storm, the fishes were making their final effort. They moved forward without a care of other things! When they faced difficulties and danger, they instinctively performed the last melody of life. They went against the water flow bravely. Once they reached the upper stream that was deep and wide, survival would no longer be a dream. They would receive a chance to survive when the storm arrived.

It was so difficult to receive this string of hope. The number of fish running for their lives was huge. Their number would be reduced when they got snatched from the flying bird that was waiting by the stream. They would be swallowed by other larger fish under water. They would have to avoid rocks, rapids and the aqueduct with a large slope. When they reached the deep-water area after many difficulties, there would only be a few thousand left of them. At this time, a large pot suddenly sunk into the water. With a sweep, one-third of the remaining fish would be brought away.

A foreigner who spoke in Deiss language yelled happily, "Mushroom with fish! Mushroom with fish..."

According to the law set by the great fairy in the forest, the fish that hid in the deep-water region would welcome the mating period after the rainy season had passed. There was not a lot of them, but these fishes could give birth to hundreds of children. These young eggs would slowly grow in the cruel winter and turn into fish in the following spring. The group of fish would become strong and once again dispersed into the forest along the stream. They would once again go on a journey and carried out their beautiful and majestic life.

So, they were also the warriors in the forest. They also owned the warrior's heart with no fear.

On the 21st day of the 8th month in Year 801 in Church calendar, it was the first day the Silburt's forerunner began the first defending war. The beacon at the top of the fortress was lit along the battlefield to the Blackwood Fortress at Haussen Province of the northwest border. Deiss Kingdom Army's divisions finally approached Titan's border.

On the 20th day, the first rain during the north's midsummer came as expected. The intense rain covered the whole space as if it wanted to completely drown the depressed-looking Blackwood.

During this night, Wellington Steinberger lied on his army bed while listening to the snoring of the men and the thunder outside of the window. He had a hard time sleeping even though he still did afterward. He dreamt that he was still awake. After the dinner, the young man esspecially took a shower and shaved his beard. He had turned into the messenger everyone was familiar with now. Wellington prepared himself well and went to grieve his cousin.

In front of the stern-looking statue of God, this numb veteran suddenly cried when he was observing his cousin's face, although Wellington only opened his mouth wide and a few drops of tears dripped from his eyes. However, he immediately covered his face with his palms. After rubbing his face strongly, he slowly let his hands go. The tears were gone. Love and hate were not as intense as they were earlier. Looking at the time, he stood up from his chair and bowed respectfully toward the God. He gave his cousin's cold face a kiss, then wore his hat and caressed his blade. Then, he strode out of the place with confident steps.<script>chaptererror();</script>

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