All’s Fair In Love And War – Ch.21 [Extra]

My name is Dirk Goridian. I’ve been a paladin and chaplain in service to Nostrum for a great while, til my last breath.

And even here, where all souls find themselves in after their end, it has not changed.

From the time I opened my eyes here, when I ended my life upon risk of capture by the Varilandians, I saw the underworld for what it was, and what I feared it would be. A desolate place, devoid of life, devoid of order. The rare spirits of the dead lurked about, signalling true the fear of any paladin and inquisitor that even this place had been altered by the Demon Lord’s influence, though it mattered little. Even before the Demon Lord of these days, the underworld still crawled with the souls of the damned. Hellhounds. Spectres. Demons. The last thing you’d want to see while walking a dead city is a zombie dragon circling like a vulture, making you beg that it didn’t see you.

There as I marched south I found Jeremiah, the lilim’s butler. Killed by Indrick in the first invading action Variland has carried out.

There I met the necromancer Cyrene, who had heard of hostilities and arrived expecting souls to come down en masse.

And yet, only trickles came, those who arrived through natural death and accidents to meet the same sight as Jeremiah and I have. With those threats lurking about, remaining together turned into an obvious option. With Cyrene benefitting of more eyes to find the dead, we followed along. It wasn’t long till we halted in a city, having gathered followers every now and then till the option of setting up a makeshift base turned plausible. We hunkered down, and groups set out to find more of those who steadily arrived throughout Nostrum.

Before I knew it, I had become governor in all but name of what little town formed.

‘Haven’, I called it.

But soon enough, the dead of the north arrived. Same as us, but monsters instead. Varilandians. Weresheep, succubi, dullahans, all in the exact same predicament as us when we started, seeking refuge from the desolate void.

I could not accept them. Regardless of my views, having them around for any period of time with those of The Order would invite disaster, and none dared imagine what afterlife awaited those who’d die down here, if there was even an ability to die. But, Jeremiah had given me the luxury of not being the one to decide. He departed north with the monster families, seeking to build his own little Haven for Varilandians as I have with Nostrians, and to find someone dear to him.

The search didn’t last for long. As more dead came in, more hints of an affliction came with them. What it was, we knew not, but still it affected both Nostrum and Variland. Quick we were to point fingers at each other before knowing of that last fact, and growing desperate upon hearing the rumors of the lilim’s disappearance, I saw myself Jeremiah begging the necromancer to allow him to depart into the world of the living, even as undead.

And somehow, she accepted. I cared not the reason, nor I wished to return, due to both my inevitable state as an undead monster and having made amends with my end, but still I saw something.

Haven.

I saw it for what it was.

Though The Order feared the underworld as a cold, unforgiving space where creatures lurked in the shadows, I had turned it into a safe spot for Nostrians.

But Nostrum no longer was at war with Variland, instead with the new threat. I sent Jeremiah off with the way to prove himself to Indrick and gain his trust, and wrote to Vandire of what I had done. And with a purity seal of mine as proof, he departed.

Now I am here, seeing before me from a balcony so great a number of Nostrians. Once an abandoned, ran-down, dead version of an overworld city, now flourishing with would-be life.

“Dirk!”

Though already a familiar voice, it still surprised me. Turning around, there I found him, Jeremiah returning with Cyrene. Though, before I could say anything, he returned with an envelope extended to me.

“A Lord Inquisitor told me to give you this.”

Taking it and opening it, I found a lengthy letter within that I then read.

I couldn’t help but smile as a chuckle escaped me. Though still I was surprised that I’d get word from a Lord Inquisitor of all people, speaking of the Demon Lord herself as if they were already friends, a heartwarming feeling drowned it out.

I see.

Nostrian Haven under my guidance, and Varilandian haven under Jeremiah’s. We had never entered conflict at all. We didn’t even have any reasons to, all of us already being dead, facing no risk of extinction. Not like anyone could birth life here either. A stasis only changed by those who arrived, and thus eliminating all our reasons to fight, unlike in the overworld.

We had turned into simple neighbors. Order to the south, Monster to the north, and inbetween those who felt they belonged to either.

So that’s what the Demon Lord wanted for the overworld.

“So.” I said. “What now?”

“I have to return north.” Said Jeremiah. “I still haven’t found my wife yet. I have to keep searching.”

“What about you, Cyrene?”

“I’ll be periodically taking trips between the Nostrian underworld and overworld, so that you can communicate with Vandire as things progress. From there, it’s up to the future.”

“Very well. I’m forever in your gratitude.”

“Your gratitude is appreciated, though still incomplete.”

“Ah, right.” I remembered. From one of my pouches I took a little bag, ringing out those noises of coins clashing against each other with every movement, and extended it to her. For a second I saw life in her eyes, opening wider as she took it, and I could swear a slight smile formed. “Had the guys check the place you mentioned while you were away.” I continued, to see Cyrene take out a coin and stare at it intently. “That’s what you wanted, right?”

“It is.” She answered, putting it back. “If you ever find any new types, I’m sure we could strike a deal.”

“I’ll keep it in mind.”

Cyrene then turned around and departed, and with a smile and a nod, I saw Jeremiah follow suit. Once more on my own, but now with the certainty of their safe return and success, I turned back to the Haven I had helped create.

My true test as a chaplain, as a paladin, starts here.

In the overworld, only in death does duty end.

In the underworld, duty is eternal.

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