ACADEMY’S UNDERCOVER PROFESSOR
[Translator – Alice]
[Proofreader – ilafy]
Chapter 137 - The Great Fire of Rothen (1)
The glow of the setting sun scattered amidst the thin clouds in the sky.
The crimson and warm light cast over the sky and remained as a long shadow beside Ludger.
Along with the grazing sounds of grasses that were finely swayed by the wind, the crickets became noisy.
Even though the painter was blind, he stared at Ludger as if he wanted to see something.
“Knowing that you came all the way here, you know much about it after all, right?”
It was the painter who spoke first after the long silence.
After he picked up the painting tools one by one using one hand, he stood up from his seat.
“Let’s go down. The story will be a bit long, so let’s talk about it on the way. Oh, come to think of it, we haven’t introduced ourselves to each other.”
“I’m Ludger Chelysie.”
“My name is Pierre. I’m just an ordinary painter.”
After the two lightly introduced themselves, they walked down to the ruins below the hill.
Hans wistfully stepped back while distancing himself from the two people so that they would share a comfortable conversation.
After he went down the hill while leading the way, Pierre parted the grass that grew up to his waist using his fingertips.
“It has become a ruin where no one lives, but Rothen was a very beautiful place in the past.”
“So it was a beautiful village just like what you painted. I heard a lot about it.”
“It was also like that in reality. However, due to the Great Fire that occurred that day, everything disappeared.”
Pierre kept a bitter smile on his mouth.
It seemed like he was seeing the scenery from back then with his blind eyes.
“Just like what you said, Mr. Ludger, I’m a wizard. No. To be exact, I was a wizard. Because I had quite the skill, an aristocratic teacher took me in, but I couldn’t adapt. Really, it’s because of my timid personality that I like to paint so much.”
Ludger listened to his story without saying anything as he suddenly started talking about his past.
“Because I was way too sentimental and my brain wasn’t that smart for a wizard, I received a lot of abuse from my teacher. My teacher also broke my brushes while asking what the hell my paintings were all about. I held it in at first, but I couldn’t endure it anymore as it went on. Eventually, I realized I liked to draw more than I liked to use magic and ran away during the night.”
He’d wanted to paint…
After he’d run away with that thought and roamed about, Pierre had arrived at a certain village.
—A village called Rothen that was as beautiful and peaceful as if it had come out of a fairy tale.
“I thought that it was a really good place and that I could really paint well in this place. However, what could a greenhorn who’s a fool to the world do after suddenly settling down in a village? I was just an outcast in the village and found it hard to adapt. Back then… she helped me.”
As both of them were walking down the hill, they arrived at the entrance of the ruins before they knew it.
Pierre pulled out a brush instead of answering.
Before Ludger asked why he’d suddenly pulled out a brush, Pierre moved the brush through the air with his hand.
—Toward the empty air as if he was drawing something.
A surprising thing happened.
A color formed where Pierre’s brush passed, and a line was drawn in midair.
It was similar to technique realization for casting magic, but Ludger saw that it was something entirely different right away.
Pierre’s brush strokes filled the surroundings with colors a couple of times.
Red, blue, green, yellow…
All kinds of colorful lights spread to the surroundings.
The sun disappeared beyond the hill before they knew it, and the surroundings were getting dimmer. Darkness engulfed the ruins full of tranquility akin to a night fog.
Yet Pierre’s drawing clearly shone in the darkness.
Ludger silently watched it.
Pierre drew lines and spread them wider using magic while pouring paints in midair. and soon painted a certain scene over the air itself.
Soon, what Ludger saw wasn’t ruins in the middle of the night but the appearance of a beautiful village in midday.
The appearance of traveling carriages and people who lived their life was clearly seen.
‘Is it a spell that uses painting…?’
It was a new form of magic that he hadn’t seen before.
Before he was even able to be surprised, the people within the painting started to move.
—As if they were alive.
The painted world clearly showed the scenery from that time.
Pierre started to walk, and Ludger silently followed him.
“Rothen was a village with a lot of wanderers. It was a place where people who didn’t have a home or those who traveled often stopped by; then they settled down. A village where even the wind stopped to rest… That was Rothen. There was one thing that the village was proud of…”
After he slowly walked into the center of the painting world, Pierre stopped his steps.
Ludger stopped beside him.
There was a woman who attracted his gaze in the center of the painting world.
She was a beautiful woman with long black hair. He could only see her back, but he could easily see that her beauty wasn’t ordinary.
Her appearance seemed oddly familiar at the first sight but was also unfamiliar.
Her eyes were shaded, and he couldn’t see her face well.
“I can’t see her face.”
“It’s because I can’t clearly draw her beauty with my humble drawing skill.”
It meant that what he couldn’t draw was a limit in what could be shown through Painting Magic.
At the remark that stated that Painting Magic wasn’t all-powerful, Ludger could only let it pass with an “I see.”
“She looked like a lady straight out of a fairy tale. She never lost her bright smile and was kind to everyone. All the village people loved her. Moreover, it seemed like, because her natural affinity was great, the spirits liked her as well.”
Whenever the black-haired woman walked, people smiled, greeted her, and waved at her.
Whenever they did so, she also waved her hand and received their greetings.
Small nature spirits floated around her, and chirping birds sat on her shoulder while tidying up their feathers.
Because that appearance looked exactly like something from a fairy tale, it stole Ludger’s gaze for a moment.
Looking at it gave him feelings that were warm, cozy, and made him feel like he went back to his childhood somehow.
“It was also her who helped me adapt in this village. She was as beautiful as a jewel and had a smile warmer than the sunlight… Esmeralda.”
The people in the village never stopped smiling. It was just how peaceful the place was.
Warm and peaceful…
As he kept looking at it, Ludger had a thought that he wanted to live there.
However, the tranquility couldn’t last long.
One day, an aristocratic wizard accidentally visited Rothen village, and everything changed.
The watercolor scenery distorted in an instant and the appearance of the painted world changed.
The wizard who dragged along his men was a handsome tall blonde man who whispered all kinds of seductive words to Esmeralda.
—That he’d fallen in love at the first sight… That he wanted her to be with him…
Ludger could easily see that it wasn't pure love.
What the aristocratic man wanted wasn’t the woman called Esmeralda. What he wanted was the ability of spiritual affinity that she possessed and the new power that he could add to his bloodline.
Those people wandered around to look for talented women and then abandoned them with their offspring.
Aristocrats who deliberately married talented women for the sake of a better bloodline were common even at that moment.
“However, the innocent woman believed in that aristocrat’s sugar-coated words. Because she was very innocent, she couldn’t be suspicious of others' words or suspect any hidden intentions.”
The scenery changed to showing Esmeralda asleep, full of expectations, and the villagers who were worried about her could also be seen.
It was obviously a blessing if Esmeralda had a relationship with someone.
However, if the opponent wasn’t someone who honestly fell in love with her but someone with a hidden intent, they had to put a stop to it, even if it meant that she would grow to hate them.
Everyone received her help.
They felt salvation from her warmth and innocence.
They couldn’t let her be dragged away by a vicious aristocrat and live miserably her whole life.
“However, no one dared to step forward and prevent her. To be exact, they didn’t have the courage to do so because the opponent was an aristocrat.”
“Yes. The past Kingdom of Durman was that kind of place.”
Ludger nodded his head as he seemed to understand it.
The class system still existed in recent society, but it was way more severe in the past, and the Kingdom of Durman was a place that was especially the most severe in that aspect.
Ludger recalled one familiar term from his past life.
With the literal meaning of ancient regime, it had the meaning of society as a whole that became rotten after feudalism continued for a long time.
The Kingdom of Durman was an explicit example of that.
The lower classes were excessively exploited due to the extreme power and greed of the aristocracy and the Imperial family. People died due to hunger. Citizens had stood up in protest, unable to stand it any longer, and the aristocracy had cruelly oppressed them.
At that time, the commoners’ opposition toward the aristocracy was almost equivalent to treason.
It was common for a whole family to be exterminated by the mistake of one person, and in severe cases, even all the people near that person were hanged.
“So, did the people let her be?”
Did they stop the woman in the end and feel the woman’s wrathful revenge?
However, Pierre didn’t answer him.
The painted world was already rushing to the determined end, he didn’t feel any necessity to recall the tragedy of that day with his own mouth.
“You’ll know when you see it.”
As Pierre swallowed his pain, he stood from his seat, as he seemed not able to stay there.
Soon, the scenery changed to the day when the aristocrat had carried Esmeralda away.
The beautiful atmosphere of Rothen darkened, and the village where the night was cozy and full of delicate lights became heavy and somber as if it was foretelling its future.
It wasn’t a mere feeling that even the air that touched his skin became chilly.
The aristocrat came to take Esmeralda just like he’d promised… While dragging along his family’s soldiers.
-Now. Esmeralda. Let’s go.
* * *
Translator - Alice
Proofreader - ilafy
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The conversation between the two could be heard from beyond the blurry scenery.
It seemed that the innocent Esmeralda also felt something strange, as she couldn’t rashly answer and was doubtful.
However, she had gone too far by then to reject him, so right when Esmeralda was about to hold the man’s outstretched hand…
At that time, a village boy stepped up and yelled.
-Lady! Please don’t believe his words! He can kill someone with his tongue! His words toward you are all lies as well!
-How dare you! Who do you think he is for you to recklessly bad-mouth him?!
The soldier with a spear threatened the boy.
However, it wasn’t only that boy who stood up.
-Even if he’s an aristocrat, he can’t drag away our lady!
-Please get out of our village right away!
-Lady! You can’t go with that guy!
The kind grandpa from the bread store, the madam who opened a grocery, the farmer down the way, and so on…
All of the villagers stood by Esmeralda and protested against that aristocrat and his soldiers.
If it was perhaps a fairy tale story, the aristocrat would have stepped down there while gritting his teeth and telling them to just watch their backs.
However, what the painted world showed wasn’t a morality-based story with overloaded hope…
—It was a dark and horrifying reality with excessive despair.
-Did you hear these lowly people try to oppose me?
The aristocrat’s face distorted like a devil, and any trace of the man he had been while trying to win the woman’s love had vanished.
When he raised his hand, the soldiers lined up behind him moved.
-The people here have insulted an aristocrat. It’s a rebellion against the Kingdom! Wipe them all out!
The soldiers moved as if they were used to the order.
—That was how Rothen village’s massacre started.
It wasn’t like the villagers didn’t resist it, but the gap of power between them and their opponents was too severe.
Their opponents were elite troops who’d received training from the aristocratic family. It was a minority, but there were also Knights and wizards among them.
On the other hand, the strongest villagers were retired mercenaries or wandering adventurers.
—They couldn’t oppose those soldiers in the first place.
A person stabbed by the soldier’s spear screamed and collapsed.
Crimson paint spread.
Torches thrown by the soldiers burned the houses.
Yellow and orange hues burst out over the world.
The embers fluttered and lit fire to the people who couldn’t escape.
Black paints buried the ground.
The royalty’s hell spread.
“No way, is this…?”
“Yes, you are right.”
Pierre nodded his head, as he seemed to know what Ludger was about to say.
“This is the reality of the Great Fire of Rothen that was hidden from the world.”
The Great Fire of Rothen wasn’t some kind of a simple natural disaster.
—It was a man-made disaster, and the Kingdom of Durman still concealed the hideous nature of it.
-Please stop! Please! The villagers didn’t do anything wrong. I will follow you, so, please…
Esmeralda was drenched in tears in the center of the terrifying massacre.
She begged the aristocrat to stop. She would follow him, so she begged him to please stop killing any more people, she yelled at him to stop the pointless slaughter.
However, the aristocrat answered with a cruel voice, and the man she had fallen in love with was nowhere to be found.
-Silly. It’s already late. Witness with both of your eyes what happens to those who revolt against the aristocracy.
The man who’d whispered love in the past didn’t exist anymore. She could only see a monster with unsightly greed instead.
‘Aah. So that's it. This is his real face.’
Esmeralda flopped down on her spot. Her empty eyes witnessed the slaughter of her people.
The life in the laid-flat houses disappeared, and the fire scattered in all directions and soon died out.
Every ember was a person’s life, a person’s last scream…
As she endlessly cried, Esmeralda bowed her head as if she had lost strength.
The aristocrat looked at her and clicked his tongue.
-Did she get ruined? No, perhaps this is better. It’s more comfortable to control someone who acts like a doll instead of someone who doesn’t listen to me.
He didn’t have any need to hide his intentions anymore.
-My head is dizzy because of the burning trash smell. I’d go back first, you lot stay here and don’t let even a single rat survive.
-Let that woman be for now, once you’re done, drag her to me.
The aristocrat turned his back to the burning village, and he went with his direct escorts as he left the place.
There wasn’t even a hint of a guilty conscience from the slaughter that he’d committed evident on his face.
-It’s slowly ending.
-Yeah. We already killed those who tried to flee and those who were outside.
-Tsk. Why did they resist an aristocrat and incur wrath upon themselves anyway? Let’s grab that woman for now. She’s someone who’ll be the young master’s concubine, after all.
The rest of the soldiers approached Esmeralda according to the order bestowed upon them and reached out to her.
At that moment, flames suddenly started to go ablaze in her surroundings.
The surging flames that occurred one by one hovered around Esmeralda as they seemingly protected her like will-o'-the-wisps.
-Are these spirits?
As the soldiers thought that they were lower-level spirits that didn’t have any proper strength, they waved their spear handles and attempted to shove the spirits back.
Their complacent behavior brought about their end.
The spears were burned and the spreading flames wrapped around the soldiers. The soldiers tried to yell something as their bodies burned, but even their screams were swept away by the flames.
In an instant, both of the soldiers became ashes and disappeared.
The flames, which were a single spirit, consumed the corpses and grew.
It couldn’t even be called a spirit anymore.
The flame responded to Esmeralda’s despair. Sparks of fire floated from all over the burning village.
The flames sucked the wet crimson paints from the ground.
Ludger could only watch.
Was it the dead people’s grudge?
The flames that absorbed the black and red paints from the ground started to cluster around Esmeralda.
-Wh-what the hell is this? What are you doing?! Answer me, you wench!
The soldiers watching paled at the horror that was beyond their comprehension.
Esmeralda slowly raised her bowed-down head.
Her hollow and empty eyes headed to where the aristocrat who had completely left the village sat on beyond the soldiers.
-I hate you.
A ghastly curse slipped from her lips.
Soon, the flames united into one body behind Esmeralda and formed a being.
—A surging giant whose whole body was made of hot fire stood up.
It had a fat and hideous appearance with a slouchy body. Its face that seemed to smolder with magma was distorted by rage.
Ludger remembered that spirit… It was the spirit that’d attacked the banquet hall back then.
-I hate everything about you.
The soldiers were confused as they raised their spears.
After witnessing their unsettled actions, Esmeralda gathered her two hands and mumbled as if she was praying.
-So please… Quasimodo.
The dead people’s vengeful spirits, small nature spirits, and Esmeralda’s despair and loathing entangled into one place and created a being.
—An artificially created flaming god of vengeance.
-Please burn everything.
Quasimodo opened its mouth wide and spurted out flame.
A new life that was born from death brought about death again.
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