Episode 26/Chapter 1: The land of fierce battles (1)
The legendary country said to be founded by King Arthur.
In Erin, however, this country was far more than a legend.
Camelot, King Arthur, and the Knights of the Round Table had once existed.
“My God. It’s Merlin!”
“Is he a famous guy?”
As Adenmaha exclaimed, Bracky tilted his head and asked in confusion. Being a Midgardian, it was the first time he’d heard the name.
Adenmaha smacked her lips, calmed her breathing, and replied in a condescending tone.
“Of course. Should I say that it’s none other than Merlin? Even the witches Morgan le Fay and Vivian were below him. If I had to pick the strongest magician in Erin, he would surely be one of the candidates.”
Bracky was more bothered at Adenmaha’s impoliteness rather than the weight her words carried, but he let it slide. It was because Adenmaha seemed to be noticeably excited.
“So he was alive… I thought that he’d died when Camelot was destroyed.”
Gauging from how she spoke, it seemed as if she held some personal fascination toward Merlin and Camelot.
“Cuchulainn, did King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table perish?”
‘Probably. The Knights of the Round Table were once part of the Red Branch Knights I created. One of the knights, Bedevier, claimed that he’d witnessed Arthur’s death.’
Cuchulainn’ words were bitter and he grew quiet for a time. It wasn’t only from recalling King Arthur’s demise, for the death of the original owner of Caladbolg, Fergus mac Roich, also lay heavily in his mind.
The day Erin was destroyed, Fergus mac Roich had fought valiantly without regard for his life. The very reason the Red Branch had any survivors at all was owed to his sacrifice.
However, the Red Branch Knights were still annihilated during the Great War.
From Cuchulainn’s position, bitterness was a natural response.
‘It seems that I will need to explain it to your comrades as well. Give Gae Bolg to Adenmaha, and tell her to transmit to them my story.’
Cuchulainn’s voice grew bright as if wanting to shake off the bitter feeling from before, and he waited patiently for Gae Bolg to reach Adenmaha’s hands.
This was because while Siri knew of Cuchulainn’s existence, Bracky and Gordon did not, and by extension, weren’t aware of Gae Bolg’s secret.
Nothing good could come from increasing the number of people that knew of his secret, so it was best to announce it through Adenmaha, one already known to be a Goddess of Tuatha De Danann.
‘There were three groups of knights that represented Erin. I belonged to the Red Branch Knights. Another group were the Fianna of Fionn mac Cumhail, and the last were King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table.’
Adenmaha began to convey Cuchulainn’s words. It was the first time Tae Ho had heard this, so he tilted his ear as Adenmaha elaborated further.
‘The number of knights in the Round Table was small, but each one of them was strong. When compared to Valhalla, even the weakest were equivalent to superior-rank warriors. King Arthur was a strong and wise king. He established Camelot, and although its beauty and prosperity stimulated the greed of several people, not one ever dared to challenge Arthur and his knights for it.’
Strictly speaking, King Arthur also belonged to Erin, but the boundary of civilities between Cuchulainn and King Arthur was different. Because of that, the former could judge the latter rather objectively.
‘Merlin was both the advisor and mentor of King Arthur. He’s a strong druid, magician, and a profoundly wise man all at once. He’s also possesses a genealogy different from the Tuatha De Danann.’
“Uh… In other words, you’re saying that he’s a really, really incredible old man.”
As Cuchulainn finished speaking through Adenmaha’s mouth, Bracky scratched his chin and remarked. Cuchulainn nodded inside of Gae Bolg upon returning to Tae Ho’s hands.
‘Right. If he can become your ally, he will surely be of great assistance.’
“Uh, but isn’t it weird? He was that great of a magician, but he could merely seal that guy.”
Bracky pointed at the rock serpent that was splayed over the ground. While it was certainly a strong demon, when compared to Merlin’s supposed power, there was a great difference.
The serpent seemed to have understood Bracky’s words, and it started to growl while Adenmaha translated for them.
“Apparently, this guy was originally much stronger but grew weaker the longer he slept. He even starved for close to ten years. How sad!”
As Adenmaha caressed the nose of the rock serpent, it closed its eyes. Its expression seemed to be quite somber, perhaps because of the story she told.
Cuchulainn spoke up again.
‘There’s indeed a possibility that, just like master, Merlin’s body isn’t in a normal state. Having survived from that day in Erin certainly isn’t an easy thing to accomplish.’
It was hazardous to the point that even Cuchulainn couldn’t escape in a perfect state.
‘But Merlin’s real worth isn’t his strength as a magician. It’s the endless knowledge in his mind, both mystical powers and the acumen of a wise man.’
Merlin was someone searching for Erin’s successor.
He didn’t specify his final task, but Cuchulainn had some notion as to what it was: the order given by King Arthur to aid Erin’s successor.
Ergo, Merlin would help Tae Ho.
Tae Ho would become a magician.
‘Hey, doesn’t it seem like you’re the happiest right now?’
Even happier than when Cuchulainn and Scathach joined him.
It was unavoidable, for compared to them, Merlin was someone Tae Ho knew of well. His reaction would obviously be different.
‘Wouldn’t he also be able to wield Excalibur?’
If one spoke of Merlin, they must also talk about King Arthur, and if one mentioned him, it was impossible to avoid the subject of Excalibur.
‘I see now. There was a fable that the scabbard of Excalibur was made of pure liquid.’
Although he couldn’t remember clearly, he recalled briefly seeing that in a game once.
Excalibur and its sheath… The several other legacies Merlin would have gathered.
While Tae Ho imagined the weaponry the Knights of the Round Table must have used, Cuchulainn let out a small laughter.
‘It’s almost like a small version of Erin.’
Erin was no more. It had been utterly obliterated, but its survivors were now slowly gathering in one spot.
‘There’s Adenmaha, a Goddess of Tuatha De Danann; my master, the queen of the Land of Darkness; and I, a warrior of the Milesians. We also have you, the successor of Erin. If Merlin, the great magician of Camelot, is also added… It really will have become a small Erin.’
Cuchulainn had dreamt of rebuilding the Red Branch Knights several times, but what he truly wished for wasn’t merely rebuilding it. Reestablishing the soul Erin was his true aspiration.
It seemed that there was still a long path ahead, but he now felt closer to the end than ever before.
Tae Ho wondered how to approach Cuchulainn, who had fallen deeply into his thoughts, and then said in a really low voice.
“Um, it is still Idun-nim’s residence.”
Her residence was not a suitable place to rebuild the Erin which Cuchulainn desired.
His words shattered the mood, but Cuchulainn laughed rather brightly and then spoke with more strength.
‘Right. That’s why everything will be solved if you seduce Idun, for we are creating a new Erin within Asgard! Cheer up, Tae Ho, successor of Erin. The fate of Erin rests upon your shoulders. You must seduce Idun! Ah, if I was alive I would have done it myself.’
Tae Ho was baffled by his words, but they were inevitably bullshit.
Of course, Cuchulainn must have seen it as a joke too.
“It would be nice if I can meet him soon. Merlin, I mean.”
The remainder of their trip was quite peaceful. The group enjoyed a party in Gordon’s village, and they returned to Idun’s residence after exploring the surroundings of Nidavellir a little bit more.
A few days later….
A new order was passed unto Tae Ho as he trained beneath Ragnar and Cuchulainn.
It was an order to prepare for the second expedition to Midgard.
This was something he’d heard upon his return. Rumors foretold that the scale of the expedition to Midgard was expanding, so he had already begun planning for it.
Tae Ho soon finished all his preparations. Heda stood before him, fixing his clothes. Upon finishing, she spoke in a low voice.
“Greet Idun-nim well. When you’re done, come behind the shrine. Alone. Understand?”
“Yes, of course.”
Tae Ho smiled and Heda gathered her lips. After changing the location of her blessings, she had started to provide them when they were alone.
“How good, how good.”
Upon Ragnar’s face sat the smile of a father and eyes glowing with warmth, although the same couldn’t be said for the other members of the family. As Adenmaha and Rolo shot glances their way, Tae Ho opened the door into the shrine.
“Tae Ho. My warrior.”
A short while after he entered, the surroundings began to change. A vast landscape of plains materialized, and Idun revealed herself in their midst. She smiled at Tae Ho, who had gone down on his knee in her presence, and proceeded to take out the items she had prepared beforehand one by one.
“Firstly, here are the sculptures you requested. I have blessed them plenty.”
They were the sculptures of Idun that Ragnar had created. There were ten of them, and just like Idun had said, Tae Ho felt a holy power radiating from within each one. They almost gave him the impression that he was gazing upon Idun herself, as Ragnar’s sculpting skills weren’t average in the slightest.
“Thank you. I will find a proper area to use them.”
Simply erecting a shrine wasn’t enough. Tae Ho had to first have an object so that believers would gather.
“Right. Cheer up!”
Idun giggled as if Tae Ho was cute before unveiling the second item she had prepared.
“Take this. As you will soon be traveling to Midgard, I prepared it specially for you.”
What Idun had produced was a handkerchief that covered a few pieces of a golden apple. Even without the use of the ‘Eyes of the Dragon’, he could sense that the power they held wasn’t simple.
“They came from one of the best apples of our recent harvest. As they’re the best of the best, please keep them as a secret between us.”
Idun concluded and winked at him. He couldn’t clearly see her through the light, but he could undoubtedly feel it.
Tae Ho nobly received the pieces of a golden apple and then spoke in a tone interwoven with worry.
“Um, but is it really okay for you to give me this?”
There was a reason why she had said to keep it a secret.
Still, as if to unburden his soul, Idun spread her shoulders in a gentle manner.
“I’m merely giving an apple to one of my warriors. What could anyone say? I can just say that one less top-quality apple ripened this time around, so don’t worry too much. Also…”
Idun paused for a moment before continuing while caressing Tae Ho’s cheeks.
“My warrior is the most precious thing to me.”
Her voice and hand were brimming with affection. Tae Ho felt choked, and he then inwardly vowed to increase the number of Shrines of Idun by a large margin.
But it was then that Tae Ho said something which he only but unconsciously remembered.
“Uh…. What about my senior warriors…?”
Tae Ho wasn’t the only warrior in Idun’s legion.
It wasn’t that some facade was broken because Tae Ho wasn’t the only one Idun treasured. He simply recalled his seniors that he hadn’t yet been able to meet.
They, who used a separate residence, were all superior-ranked or above. Wasn’t it time to meet them?
“Here. I still have things to give you.”
Idun removed her hands from Tae Ho’s cheek. It seemed that she hadn’t heard what Tae Ho said in a low voice. That, or she had pretended not to have heard him. She then gave him a piece of paper while smiling.
“A summoning ticket for Heda?”
“That’s right. She said that it was difficult meeting in Midgard. If you use that, Heda will become capable of being summoned, even if it’s only once. Think of it as being similar to using a summoning rock to call Adenmaha. Of course, the process for that is much more difficult.”
Whatever the case, the importance lay in him now being capable of getting Heda to meet him in Midgard.
As Heda couldn’t even converse in his dreams like Idun, it was an incredibly useful item for Tae Ho.
“And here. This is my final gift.”
Idun nodded as Tae Ho asked apprehensively.
“You have achieved as much. For the first time, a shrine dedicated only to me has made an appearance in the mortal world; more importantly, however, I simply want to keep gifting you items if it brings you happiness.”
What Idun revealed was a fishing net.
It wasn’t like the net Tae Ho stole from Midak. What Idun gave him didn’t have a blue color, but instead it bore words under a white-gold color.
It was a divine object of Njord, the God of the Sea. The power he’d obtained from Ingrid’s blessing began seeping into the net and soon filled it entirely.
“It’s a net I received from Njord. Tae Ho, I know you like catching and riding wild beasts. If you have this net, capturing them will be much easier.”
If he threw it, the net’s size would increase tenfold, and it even had the ability to suppress the strength of what it caught.
Just like Idun had stated, it was a divine object that really fit Tae Ho’s tastes.
“Thank you. I will fish plenty of people with this.”
“Ah, I should have also prepared a fishing rod.”
Tae Ho and Idun joked between each other before Idun fixed her posture. Tae Ho understood the meaning of her subtle gesture and kneeled down to accept her blessing.
“May my blessing accompany you.”
The blessing ended like always, and Tae Ho went behind the shrine to meet Heda. He then received the second blessing.
The structure of the expedition traveling to Midgard was different than last time.
While it was largely identical for Tae Ho, Bracky, Siri and Harabal, the same couldn’t be said for the other warriors.
Notung had lost an arm and had replaced his missing appendage with an artificial steel arm, but he wasn’t fully accustomed to it. Olmar still found it difficult to walk since his injuries hadn’t healed completely.
In truth, any warrior of Valhalla would be honored to participate in an expedition to Midgard, and normally, the members of an expedition would swap out constantly. Tae Ho and his group were a special case.
Nevertheless, there were also five more warriors that were chosen to accompany Tae Ho’s group. They all belonged to different legions and almost seemed to have been waiting for this opportunity.
The leading Valkyrie was still Ingrid of Njord’s legion, but unlike before, there was also one additional Valkyrie in tow.
“I’m Kaldea, a Valkyrie of Hermodr’s legion. Please treat me well.”
She was thinner than the other Valkyries but also appeared more agile. She bore the characteristic liveliness of Hermodr’s legion and had hair that looked to have been smelted from gold.
When considering the number of warriors that would have volunteered for the expedition, the inclusion of another Valkyrie was a bit unusual, but Valhalla would have surely planned it all out.
Tae Ho and the warriors hit their chests twice and expressed etiquette towards Kaldea.
At the end of Asgard, on the highest peak of the fortress that Heimdal protected, the rainbow stairs of the Bifrost connected to Midgard spread out endlessly.
Tae Ho and the rest of the expedition followed Ingrid and began ascending the staircase.
Far above the heads of those warriors, the crow Munin watched on with a silent gaze.
TL note: Thanks for reading~