“Welcome, Mr. Zich.” The commander greeted Zich, and the commanding officer and the other mercenaries also looked at him fondly. A strong ally like Zich gained affection from his surroundings easily, especially more so since he always dashed to the frontline in battles and defeated strong monsters. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that all weapon-wielders on the battlefield likedZich.
The commander sat Zich down in the empty seat right next to him. He clearly showed everyone how highly he thought of Zich. Yet Zich was displeased; it was because Glen was sitting in the seat beside him. Considering Glen’s efforts, it was only natural that Glen would take the second seat away from the commander, and Zich couldn’t argue about the seating arrangements. Nevertheless, he was displeased by the situation that made him sit right next to Glen. After Zich sat down, the commander cleared his throat. It seemed like everyone had taken their seats already.
“Then, let’s start our meeting.” A heavy atmosphere suddenly befell the conference room. “I called you all to discuss our future plans for battle. I’m sure we’ll be able to reach a better judgment with many heads than one.” As he talked, the commander looked not to the side where the city’s regular army was, but toward where Zich was sitting. “So, if you all have something you want to say, please don’t hesitate to bring it up to the table.” It was shocking that the commander was willing to take suggestions from mercenaries who made up the majority of this group, but this act only showed how the severity of the city’s situation. Knowing this, the mercenaries’ expressions didn’t look bright even when they had been included in the conversation.
“Then, I will explain the current situation,” the commander said again as his face stiffened. “As you all know, the situation in the city doesn’t look too bad. We have successfully defended against four monster invasions, and we haven’t suffered huge casualties. It’s almost a miracle.”
People nodded. Everyone gathered here had experiences and skills that supported them. Although the ones defending the castle had a natural advantage, they had performed well beyond their expectations.
“A huge part of this success is thanks to the efforts of all of you here. However, I would like to take this chance to especially highlight and thank the two Karuwiman Honorary Knights and their companions for lending us their help.” No one spoke against the commander for putting Zich and Glen on a pedestal, because they all agreed with him. Zich nodded indifferently while Glen displayed his characteristically friendly, good-natured smile and uttered conventional heroic lines such as, “It’s all thanks to everyone’s hard work and efforts.” During such moments, Zich felt an intense desire to curse out loud.
“However, I’m sure all of you know that our future prospects aren’t that great considering our success.”
People agreed and a few nodded again. “The gap between each monster invasion is getting shorter and the intensity keeps rising. In the worst-case scenario, we might have armies of monsters filled with high-level monsters like behemoths and basilisks charging at us every day.”
Some people groaned upon hearing such frightening imagery, and several cursed under their breaths.
“Is it even possible for such numbers of monsters to come so frequently?” one of the mercenaries asked. The number of monsters that came out to ambush the city was abnormally high, and it seemed difficult to think that they would be able to continue coming with such numbers.
“The Denest Mountain Range is tall and wide to the point that no one knows its exact size. Since monsters are pouring out of such a place, we think it’s possible.”
“Don’t we have any reinforcements?” one of the commanding officers asked.
“Our lord has requested reinforcements from central cities. Seeing how dire the situation is, these cities will send us reinforcements, but it will take some time for them to arrive.” This sounded hopeful, but it would be all useless if the city fell before any support troops arrived.
“So, this is our situation. If anyone has a proposal, speak up now. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is.”
Some people exchanged their opinions, but a practical method that they could apply to their situation didn’t come forth. After all, a proposal that could solve a pressing problem didn’t just pop out because many people were gathered. Then, Glen opened his mouth.
“I have one thing in mind,” he said. Everyone’s eyes turned to Glen, including Zich’s.
‘Is he finally making his move?’ Zich thought. As everyone hoped expectantly, Zich hoped for a completely different matter from the others.
“Our current problem is because of the monsters that are coming from the Denest Mountain Range,” Glen started.
“Who here doesn’t know that!” An impatient mercenary shouted but clasped his mouth shut again when others glared at him.
Although it would’ve been completely normal for Glen to show that he was annoyed after an interruption like that, he continued without changing his expression. “Of course, I know everyone here knows that. I just wanted to establish this point before starting.” Glen spoke in a soft voice and officially started giving his proposal. “I would like to launch an investigation team to go deep into the Denest Mountain Range. It’s certainly out of the ordinary that so many monsters are attacking areas inhabited by humans, especially since they are targeting the castle walls that surround a city. I believe that there would be a clear reason for this abnormality.”
“Hmm…” The commander became lost in thought slightly, but he didn’t seem completely on board with Glen’s suggestion. Then, he asked carefully to not offend Glen. “I understand what you are saying, Mr. Zenard. If we succeed in identifying the cause of the monsters’ abnormality, I’m sure it will help solve the problem. But do you think that’s possible? Like I said before, the Denest Mountain Range is extremely large. Even if the root cause exists there, it’s hard to think that we would find the solution there too.”
Then, the commander glanced at Zich and said, “I heard that Mr. Zich went up to the mountain range for the same reason.”
“Yes, I did,” Zich said.
“Did you make any discoveries?” the commander asked.
“If I did, the situation wouldn’t have gone this far,” Zich replied. Although Zich had done everything he had planned to do on the mountain that was also relevant to the monster attacks, he didn’t reveal this information since he had no intention of spreading information about the trees.
The commander’s gaze shifted back to Glen. “Of course, it doesn’t mean that you’ll fail since Mr. Zich failed. I’m sorry to say this, but I think it’s unlikely that you will be successful without any clues.”
Since they were in a formal setting and Glen was a Karuwiman Honorary Knight with numerous achievements, the commander carefully worded his rebuttal against Glen’s statement; if it was anyone else, he would have insulted and shouted at them to regain their senses.
However, Glen was still confident even in front of the commander’s pessimistic replies. “I have a clue.”
People began murmuring amongst themselves. The commander also widened his eyes. “Mr. Zenard, you have a clue? What type of clue is it?” He leaned his upper body towards Glen and ushered for Glen to continue. If Glen was speaking the truth, they might finally find a way to solve this awful situation. People’s hopeful gazes gathered towards Glen.
However, Glen slowly shook his head and turned down people’s expectations. “I’m sorry, but I can’t reveal that information.”
People’s gazes turned to disappointment; a few people even looked at him with suspicion. However, Glen remained firm.
“Why can’t you reveal it to us?”
“It’s because I used my personal information network, and I’m also not completely sure of it yet.”
“Then, are you speaking about something you’re not certain of?” There was a hint of displeasure in the commander’s voice.
However, Glen paid no mind and strongly replied, “Is there anything we are sure of right now? We don’t even have the smallest clue to solve this situation.”
The commander was at a loss for words.
“I think it’ll be a worthy endeavor. We don’t have any other methods anyway, and it seems like I’m the only one who’s proposed anything remotely close to a solution.” Then, Glen looked straight at the commander and continued, “Please send me to the mountain range. Shouldn’t we explore all possible methods to solve this situation?”
“Aren’t you just saying that so you can run away by yourself?” One mercenary narrowed his eyes in suspicion at Glen.
“I’ll be leaving my comrades here. It’ll be easier for me to move by myself for this matter anyway.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. Aren’t you planning to leave your comrades and run…” The mercenary stopped talking. Glen had remained calm throughout the whole situation, but he furrowed his brows. If Glen had been an ordinary person, the mercenary would have continued to egg them on, but his opponent was someone who could defeat a high-ranking monster by himself.
“I can look over most insults directed towards me, but you’ve crossed the line by saying that I’ll run away after leaving my comrades.”
The mercenary frantically moved his eyes at Glen’s chilling tone. “I…I’m sorry.” The mercenary spoke with a small voice as if he was squeaking out his words. Mercenaries were notorious for acting rashly and rudely, and he was a mercenary that perfectly fitted this description. However, he knew he couldn’t act like this to everyone.
“I accept your apology.” Glen moved his gaze away from the mercenary, and the mercenary let out a small sigh in relief. Glen’s gaze headed towards the commander again. “Commander, what’s your answer?”
“Hmm…” The commander fell into thought.
At that moment, someone sided with Glen. “I’m in favor.” Everyone’s gaze shifted towards the speaker. Glen also naturally moved his head and then widened his eyes. The person who spoke in favor was none other than Zich.
“Commander, since Mr. Zenard feels so strongly about this matter, why don’t you send him to the Denest Mountain Range?” Zich went one step further and even supported Glen’s statement.
“That’s not such an easy matter to decide…”
“I’m sure you’re concerned about our forces weakening.”
If Glen’s strength wasn’t so instrumental in fighting off the monster ambushes, the commander might have just taken a blind risk and sent him off. However, Glen was way too crucial for their battles. Only Zich, Glen, and a few others could fight the high-ranking monsters. If no one blocked the high-ranking monsters, and the monsters attacked ordinary soldiers… even the thought of it made one shudder.
“However, we don’t have a clear plan right now. Since Mr. Zenard seems pretty confident, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to leave it up to him.”
“Hmm…” The commander fell deeper into thought.
* * *
The meeting ended like this. As expected, no good suggestions were brought up, but with Zich’s support, Glen’s proposal passed. Glen decided to head to the Denest Mountain Range the very next day.
After getting out of the conference room, Glen told Zich, “Mr. Zich, I had no idea that you’d help me out.”
“Why are you so surprised? It’s not like I did anything much anyway.”
“It’s because I thought our relationship was too strained to help each other.”
“Then, what about all the times we battled together? I just helped you out with that same mindset, so you don’t need to feel like I did anything for you.”
“…Then, I won’t go out of my way to thank you.”
“I didn’t even expect it.” Zich waved his hand and headed back to the lodging. He felt Glen’s gaze on his back. ‘Bastard, just fucking accept it if I helped you. I don’t even need your thanks.’ On the other hand, Zich thought he might die from extreme hives if Glen thanked him.
‘I’ll only be able to find out what you’re planning if you get what you want.’ Was it now time for him to officially begin his plans? Zich’s mischievous smile spelled conspiracy.