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976 Protests are Everywhere!

 The autumn rain poured non-stop.

Dark clouds enfolded Casabianca's sky and rain had been pouring continuously for three days. Bane lifted his head and gazed at the sky sullenly. Ie-cold raindrops fell mercilessly from above, hitting his scrawny face. But this was nothing to him. He shifted his gaze to the parliament hall beside the plaza, where bright lights were shining behind the windows.

Five days had gone by and up until now, the parliament didn't have an official response for their requests yet. Meanwhile, more and more people gathered in the plaza. Bane was a soldier of the northern war zone and the army he was in was completely annihilated in the war against the Country of Darkness. Not only that, but he had also lost an arm and was forced into retirement.

Life after retirement wasn't great. After losing the war against the Country of Darkness, the Country of Light had been facing exceptionally challenging days. Many refugees and physically-abled people couldn't find jobs, not to mention disabled people like Bane. Even though on his way to Casabianca, he met kind people who offered him a helping hand, it wouldn't be sufficient in the long term. Besides, his job was intelligence analysis, unlike the retired soldiers who were strong enough to still become mercenaries. As a result, he could only retire and head home. It should have been this way. The truth was that his so-called home no longer existed after his hometown was invaded by the Country of Darkness.

Bane's only hope was to receive his rightful compensations and spend the rest of his life in a peaceful land. But he didn't expect that this little wish of his was about to vanish completely. After he learned from his colleagues that the military had stopped handing out compensation due to budget cuts, he was aware that things were far from good. Unlike the stubborn soldiers, he understood the internal situation of the Country of Light really well, being in the intelligence department. He guessed that this would happen sooner or later. He intended to get his hands on his compensation during the chaotic election and leave the country. But he didn't expect to lose to luck.

It was due to this reason that when he heard that soldiers were gathering at Casabianca, he braced himself and also came to this place despite his mind telling him that this wouldn't change the parliament's decision. This was his only path left.

As the long days passed, the feelings of excitement and anticipation of arriving at Casabianca were no longer present. Those emotions were replaced by concerns and uncertainty.

"What's wrong, Bane? What's with that expression of yours, like you had a nightmare?"

"Sir Defoe."

Bane saluted to the stout man who had lost a leg and was supporting himself on a cane. Defoe smiled, waving his hand airily. "No, stop. I'm a retired soldier like you. This isn't the military so there's no need for formalities."

"Yes, Sir."

Despite that, Bane's attitude was still as respectful because Defoe was one of the main organizers who gathered the soldiers. Bane didn't know if Defoe gathered the soldiers to Freedom Square or took on the job of the person-in-charge after coming here. But he was sure that this stout old man was highly respected among veterans. Bane had even suspected that 'Defoe' was only a pseudonym. After all, this protest didn't involve only retired soldiers, but also veterans of other territories. Even though Bane thought of investigating Defoe's identity, he forwent it thereafter because, after all, everyone was here as soldiers with a common goal and not as an official organization, so what was there for him to worry about so much?

"Say, why are you looking so pale? Are you sick?"

"N-No, Sir Defoe..."

Bane hesitated and said softly.

"I think the situation isn't looking good."

"Oh?"

Defoe widened his eyes.

"Is anything the matter?"

"Yes, Sir. I inquired about the rumors about us and found that most people supported us. But... There are also bad rumors." Bane hesitated for a moment, before continuing. "Some people said that we were incited to gather in protest against the parliament..."

"Hmph!"

Defoe grunted with knitted brows, his aged face revealing obvious wrath. Bane stiffened instinctively. But even so, he braced himself and continued speaking. After all, the situation was truly horrendous.

"So I suspect that... the parliament may take actions against us. They often do it and there are more people gathering in Casabianca everyday. In fact, I feel like the parliament can't fork out the money in the short time. And the problem is that most of us can't survive until they hand out the compensations."

Bane gazed at the broken, tattered tents and let out a long sigh. This morning, there were a dozen retired soldiers who closed their eyes forever due to illnesses and starvation. Many of them were penniless and all they could do was to beg for food from kindhearted souls or boil rotten vegetables from the market. Days weren't great for them anyhow, not even for the people of Casabianca. The retired soldiers did their best to ensure that they wouldn't starve to death because if they were sick, they wouldn't have the money for treatment either. Right now, they could either resist or die. The continuous rainy days brought illnesses to many of them and the illnesses were contagious. Under such circumstances, the retired soldiers could only wait for the compensation to rescue themselves. Bane was sure that the problem wouldn't end unless the parliament handed them the money.

"Do you think they will chase us away?"

Defoe narrowed his eyes at the soldier. Bane nodded.

"Highly likely. No matter what even though the people of Casabianca support our protest, no one can be sure of what will happen in the near future. Besides, there are critically-ill soldiers everywhere and people of the city are afraid that the diseases are contagious. So if the parliament requests us to leave for the sake of health and safety, the people won't object. As for the military..." Bane paused and after seeing no changes in Defoe's expression, he continued.

"Even though we're retired soldiers, the military supports us too. But they are in a tough spot now so I don't think they will rely on us to overthrow the parliament and their support is also limited. If the parliament and military come to an agreement, as long as the situation isn't too horrible, perhaps the military will turn a blind eye to us being chased away. No matter what, we are retired and it isn't in the interest of the military for us to turn the country into a chaotic mess."

"Interest, interest. What do those bast*rds know other than interest!"

Defoe curled his lips.

"Hmph. Those bast*rds never change after so many years. Those military assh*les only know how to bark. I knew that they weren't useful at all!"

"One more thing, Sir Defoe..."

Bane hesitated.

"I heard... we're intending to submit to Her Majesty Light Dragon, hoping that she will solve the problem for us."

"..."

This time Defoe didn't respond immediately. Instead, he scanned the young man. Upon sensing his pressurizing gaze, Bane gulped his saliva and felt as though his surroundings were freezing into place. After a few moments as the old man gaped and was about to speak...

Clatter! Clatter! Clatter!

The loud clip-clops of hooves disrupted the dead silence in the plaza. Bane turned around and his heart sank instantly because through the curtain of rain, there were large groups of cavalrymen charging toward them, surrounding the plaza. Behind them were fully-armored guards with weapons in hands. The city guards didn't belong to the military but were under the administration of the parliament. This was the essential difference between soldiers and them. And now, the parliament had actually sent guards to the plaza, which clearly indicated their intention! Besides, this decision was one that the retired soldiers couldn't accept!

"What's wrong?"

"What happened?"

At this moment, the retired soldiers who hid from the pouring rain in their tents peered out, anxiously clutching their weapons. They slowly gathered and stared at the guards vigilantly with a bad hunch.

Shortly after the guards surrounded the entire plaza. It was dusk and the sky was slowly turning dark where apart from the light of magic crystals and flame torches, the entire world had as though fallen into deep darkness. Bane had difficulties breathing. He reached out for the sword on his waist and felt somewhat relieved after touching the cold, familiar hilt.

At this moment, a pitch-black carriage drove up the platform in the plaza and came to a halt. Then, a man clad in a luxurious, black uniform stepped out of the carriage, surprised at the sight of the crowd. But he calmed himself down. His servant diligently opened the umbrella to shelter him from the rain. The man let out a cough for attention before retrieving a piece of purple gem from his pocket. The gem flickered in a dazzling radiance, casting voice-amplifying magic over the entire plaza. The man lowered his head gradually, reading the letter in hand.

"Everyone, I'm Nakvard, parliament chairman of the Light Parliament, responsible for the soldiers' financial reliefs! You've gathered at Casabianca from everywhere and this has seriously affected operations of our parliament and the city's stability! I believe that you're loyal people of our parliament. You are soldiers who protected this country, so you should understand how your doings have affected the country! I hope you can consider the bigger picture and stop making things difficult for the country! Besides, according to our investigations, there are many people amongst you who harbor ill intentions and hold criminal records. The Light Parliament, Casabianca, and the entire country feel threatened by your actions!"

The retired soldiers displayed obvious rage and anger on their faces. They knew what Nakvard was trying to express.

"The Light Parliament has reached a consensus to deny your request to claim compensations! We advise you to stop protesting, return to your hometown, and wait patiently for our assistance. The parliament will provide transportation fees as a form of reimbursements! Please understand that this is the final decision of the Light Parliament!"

"How is this possible?"

"Why did it turn out this way?"

"What?!"

Anger wasn't the first emotion the retired soldiers felt. Instead, they were at their wits' end. They stood in the pouring rain in disbelief. All that they had hoped for was like a perfect soap bubble bursting into nothingness!

"Go to hell, parliament!"

"What rubbish are you uttering!"

"Die, parliament! We will not give up! Never!"

A soldier in ragged clothes approached the platform, glaring fiercely at Nakvard. Nakvard took a few steps back with an unwavering expression and shortly after, the guards stepped forward and extended their weapons to protect him. They unsheathed their swords, pointing at the soldiers. Not only that, but the guards also nocked arrows on their bows, aiming at the crowd below. The soldiers didn't back off. They got into a square-shaped formation as though going for war in the front line, marching forward in unison. At the same time, they sang the national anthem.

"Who has ever seen the people fighting for freedom in the distant dawn... Have you ever seen the brave flag erected on the ground! Whose flag is it fluttering in the flames of the battlefield..."

The national anthem resounded in Freedom Square. The guards turned pale, clutching their weapons nervously and gazing at the armored retired soldiers as though they were the scariest enemies in this world.

"Stay away! Don't get any closer!"

"It's the military restricted area ahead! Trespassers will be executed!"

"Anyone who dares to barge into the parliament hall will be killed on the spot!"

The guards yelled but the soldiers continued to march on with their heads held high, gazing at the pale, trembling guards before them.

"Kill me if you've got the guts! Since I will die if I head back now, I might as well end my life here! We'll let the politicians witness our corpses and see whose blood we're shedding!"

"Do it, cowards! I've killed more people than the meals you've eaten! You weren't even born when I killed someone!"

Nakvard sulked at this messy sight.

"Get ready---attack!"

Swish! Swish! Swish!

Countless arrows flew across the sky and the first row of soldiers crumpled to the ground, dead! The remaining soldiers were infuriated!

"Brothers! They're trying to kill us!"

"Since we'll all die some day, let's show them what we're worth! Attack!"

Shing! Shing! Shing!

The rasps of blades filled the air. The bugle horn sounded, symbolizing the start of an assault.

"Ooo... Ooo...!"

The readied cavalrymen raised their weapons, lashed their whips, and charged into the sea of humans.

The entire Freedom Square was in complete chaos!