Translator and editor: SaltyTank
‘They’re not gods… What do you mean?’
‘Literally what I said. Let’s put it this way, why’d you think those monsters are gods?’
Jade had never thought about it. That was just how things were; everyone referred to those beings as gods.
‘It is human nature to attribute unimaginable things to higher ranked beings.’
‘Higher ranked beings…’ Jade muttered the perplexing term.
‘As in untouchable beings that have boundaries humans can never hope to cross. Spirits, gods, ghosts, those sort of things.’
‘So we’ve mistakenly called them as gods this whole time?’
‘I’ve read through all the ancient religious records I could find and have never come across anything remotely similar. Not to mention, can gods really be killed so easily?’
She had indeed seen with her own eyes how they had slain the gods, no, monsters.
‘If humans really had offended the gods that live high up in the sky, we would have been punished by natural disasters and divine punishments, not a crudely executed massacre. Our members here view those monsters as natural disasters. That way, the term “god” will not induce fear in us when we battle against them. It’s just a pointless persistence of ours, it has already been deeply implanted in the people’s minds.’
Jade had more to ask, but the hurried footsteps rushing here from deep within the base prevented her from doing so. Assuming it was Hilde, she was surprised to see that it was a little boy who came running.
‘Daddy!’ A boy who looked younger than Loki shouted. He counted his steps and jumped just at the right time to hang onto Prommel.
‘Arnold! Don’t you see I’m busy? Prommel frowned.
‘But Raina’s being a bad girl!’ Arnold pointed at the tunnel behind him. Another set of trotting footsteps could be heard, and soon enough a little girl with short hair joined the fray.
‘Oi, oi, there’s a guest here, don’t be rude.’
Prommel, who was still discussing a serious topic with Jade a moment ago, quickly became a dad who could not handle being surrounded by kids. The two kids clung onto and climbed up and down his muscular body like koalas, swinging their arms at one another in what seemed to be a fight.
‘How many times have I told you two not to start a fight over everything?’ Prommel scratched his head. ‘What’s wrong this time?’
‘Mummy told us to bring the food here, but big bro took a bite in secret!’
‘What? I was just tasting it before serving our guest! Sis’ the naughty one, saying she’ll tell mummy!’
‘No! You’re the naughty one!’
‘Ahem,’ Prommel cleared his throat to shut the kids up. ‘Arnold, I know you can’t help feeling hungry, but the food’s for our guest, so taking a bite’s no good.’
Arnold, who got scolded, put on a sour look on his face. Raina showed a smile of victory, yet it did not take long before Prommel turned to look at her.
‘Raina, you did well. However, you two are brothers and sisters, how can you sell your brother out over something so trivial?’
‘That said, I need to punish you two for fighting.’
‘Mr. Prommel, isn’t this—’
Hearing the word ‘punishment’, Jade stepped out to help out the two children. Prommel, however, laughed before giving his verdict.
‘Arnold, Raina, your punishment is to hold hands and bring our guest’s food over here.’
‘No way, who’d want to hold hands with big bro!’
Both of them had disgusted looks.
‘If not, I’ll have you two wash each other’s back next time you two bath.’
The siblings were shocked and silently looked at one another. The fear in their eyes was soon replaced by calmness, and the ongoing struggles in their minds died down ultimately.
Arnold extended his arm to hold his sister, and with a ‘Hmph!’, he started walking without looking back. Raina reluctantly followed him.
Seeing the siblings quarrel, Jade felt relaxed from her grim emotions.
‘How cute they are.’
‘Um, yeah…’ Prommel smiled in embarrassment. ‘We were supposed to be fighting the monsters, but somehow ended up having kids… Thankfully, Geraldine insisted on giving birth to Arnold.’
‘Perhaps that’s the strength of mothers people speak of.’
‘Geraldine and the kids, they’re the motivation that keeps me going.’
Jade simply nodded, but deep down she was amazed by the blissful smile Prommel had shown her. She could tell from it that the reason this man kept fighting was his lover and children. Even in this war that seemed endless and hopeless, they were there to encourage him.
Then, for what reason did the others choose to fight against the gods? Jade suddenly wanted to know more.
‘Hm? When did you brats get so close? Where’s your dad?’ Hilde’s voice in the distance interrupted her thoughts.
‘Ah, Auntie Hilde! Daddy is talking with the beautiful sis!’
‘Who’s an auntie?! I’m a beautiful sis too!’
‘Ahhhhh! Sis, run! Don’t get caught by the evil auntie!’
‘Hey! Stop running! —Argh, those brats!’
Soon, the children’s pitter-patter could not be heard. Hilde, still slightly annoyed, went to meet up with Jade and Prommel. Jade noticed that her weapons were no wear to be seen, and her current outfit was also different from what she wore when travelling.
Hilde was now in her casual wear which consisted of a tank top that barely reached her waist and a pair of hotpants that showed off her thighs. Compared to Geraldine whose outfit looked mature and displayed her character, Hilde’s style focused on displaying her figure.
Hilde immediately showed a beaming smile once she saw Jade.
‘Jade! Has Prommel told you everything?’
‘Yes, now I know things I would’ve never thought of in the past…’
‘Everyone here’s been through it! Cheer up!’ Hilde put her arms around Jade’s shoulders and tried to brighten things up. Prommel could not help but speak his mind at the sight of the two.
‘Ha, Miss Jade’s a lot smarter than “Auntie Hilde”! Don’t even make me remember how much time I had spent on explaining things to you back then.’
‘Ahh! You bastard, stop teaching the kids weird stuff! Who’s an auntie here!’
‘Hey! No matter how I look at it, you’re the one teaching them weird stuff, talking with your fists all the time.’
‘Hmph! I’m just training them from a young age!’
‘It’s too early for them to learn how to fight!’ Prommel sighed. ‘So, what do you need us for?’
‘Oh! Right, almost forgot about it!’ Hilde turned to hold Jade’s hand. ‘Andre had Geraldine make new clothes for you.’
‘It’s alright, my clothes don’t fit you anyways!’ Hilde totally did not notice that she might have hurt Jade’s feelings with those words. ‘And Prommel, remember to come and help us out with blood collection later!’
‘Ah… there’s that also. I’ll pack things up first, you two should head over first.’ Prommel scratched his hair again before tidying up the messy documents on the table.
Jade stood up, wanting to thank Prommel. Before she could do so, Hilde had already dragged her out of the room into the depths of the base.
They soon arrived at a fork in the tunnel. The intersection was spacious, though it was as empty as it could have been, with just a single lightstone that was doing its best to light the place up hanging from the ceiling.
Arnold and Raina, hand in hand, emerged from one of the tunnels with a tray of food.
‘Ah, how nice. You two can follow us.’
‘Auntie Hilde! Did you bring this beautiful sis back?!’ Raina tugged the corner of Hilde’s vest while stealing glances at Jade.
‘Who’s your aunt! I’m only three or four years older than Jade!’
‘But big sis’ more beautiful… Uh!’ Arnold chipped in.
‘Call. Me. Auntie. One. More. Time.’
Arnold who fanned the flames was immediately questioned by Hilde with a ‘gentle’ smile. The kids finally shut their lips and silently carried the tray behind the two ladies. Amused by the scene, Jade chuckled.
As they walked, she noticed simple signs were hung next to every entrance. ‘Living room’, ‘Water’, ‘Crops’, ‘Kitchen’, and lastly, ‘Workshop’, which had a noticeably wider tunnel. It was also where they were currently headed for.
‘Let’s sleep in my room tonight! Also, there’s tools and sundries here apart from Geraldine’s workroom,’ Hilde said to Jade.
They passed by many rooms on their way: a weapons depot, an armory, a training ring, rooms stocked with all sorts of materials, warehouses stuffed with various metals, and a medical room full of the scent of herbs. It was by then Jade realised this so-called workshop was surprisingly huge. Seeing different rooms that had individual purposes every few steps, it made her question why the living room was so small.
It was more like a military base that came with a small living quarters. At last, they arrived at a room that stored plenty of cloth. Both Geraldine and Andre were inside. At a closer look, most of the cloth stored were cut from the gods’ clothes. It was a familiar sensation for she had been wearing it for two days.
‘Geraldine, I’ve brought Jade over!’
‘Oh. Miss Jade, come closer.’
Geraldine quickly stood up from her seat and proficiently took measurements for Jade. It did not take long for her to have a good grasp of Jade’s sizes. Without any excess movements, she grabbed a few sets of clothes from the rack.
By that time, Hilde had already started playing with the kids and chased them off to somewhere else.
Andre lightly tapped the table to signal Jade, who stood there like a lemon.
‘Have a seat maybe? Once Geraldine’s focused with her work, she’s oblivious of anyone.’
Once she sat down, Andre pushed the tray of food Arnold and Raina had brought over to her. On it was something she was familiar with—a pizza made with a combination of common underground crops. She had often made it back in her previous village.
‘Maybe this suits your taste more? Don’t hold back, you seem to be starving these few days.’
This was the first time Jade interacted with Andre on her own; she was at a loss of what to do. Still, knowing that Andre had been noticing her situation made her glad. Keeping the conflicting feelings to herself, she quickly picked up a slice of pizza and took a bite.
Tastes good, Jade thought as she devoured the first slice and picked up another. Every underground village planted slightly different crops, and people often tinkered with the recipes in unique ways. Greeting guests by treating them homemade pizzas was a special greeting that appeared in the past few years.
Andre, on the other side of the table, was mending his cloak. Jade had experienced it for herself, so she knew it was the most reliable item there was to protect against the gods’ attacks. It was only natural for him to keep his cloak in good shape. He carefully inspected and weaved the damaged parts; Jade was entranced by his serious look.
‘By the way, Miss Jade.’
‘Uh—Yes, what, what’s the matter?’
Jade almost choked herself with pizza, not expecting Andre to suddenly talk to her. Even as he spoke, he was still working on his cloak and did not turn to look at Jade.
‘I and Hilde expect to set out tomorrow and bring you to a safe underground village in the north-west. I’ve sent them a carrier pigeon just now, they should reply later today. The monsters have rarely shown up there, it’s the safest place nearby.’
‘Okay…’ Jade nodded, suddenly feeling down in the dumps for no reason.
‘What did Prommel say about your inspection results?’
‘Everything’s fine, he said.’
‘Then, the other things… Did he explain everything?’
‘Yes, brain cores, magic, and… the monsters.’
‘Good. Though we’re the only ones calling those things monsters. Just call them gods when you get to the village. Don’t get affected by us, you can’t make friends that way.’
Andre folded the now-fixed cloak and placed it aside. Work was not over just yet, however. He took a piece of dirty cloth and started working his magic on it. The two were stuck in an awkward silence until Geraldine interjected.
‘It’s done! Jade, come and try it out.’
Jade was amazed, not to mention how good the set of clothes looked.
Although it was fundamentally a plain white one-piece dress, the hem had been modified to be slightly shorter than usual and a belt was tied at waist level to make things look smoother. A vest was also included to keep her warm and also add in a bit of liveliness. Receiving the dress from Geraldine, Jade placed it over herself to check the size; she could not wait to try it out.
‘I’ll go see Prommel.’ Andre left the room; at least he was not ignorant enough to stay in the room with the ladies. Hilde had passed the word to Prommel a while ago, so he was probably waiting in the medical room already. It was about time Andre headed over anyways.
He could hear Geraldine and Jade chattering and laughing as he walked away. His mind was finally set at rest—after all, Jade had been a soulless body just two days ago.