Interlude: The Berch Siblings

How much time had passed since being thrown into this underground dungeon?

This was a question lingering on the outskirts of Claira Berch’s hazy consciousness.

The lack of sunlight due to being underground and irregular meal times left her with no means to measure the passing time. Consequently, her distorted sense of time was turned into something nebulous and vague.

Her body continuously cried out in hunger and thirst. The fear that she might just rot away in this light-deprived underworld. The impatience swelled within her, and at times, she felt an uncontrollable urge to scream.

What came to her mind were the times before becoming a Green Woods Warrior, when she was just one of the many foster children raised in the Berch mansion. Claira and her younger brother, Klimt, had once been commanded by their head, Gilmore, to clean the underground dungeon.

Probably, that was a form of demonstration. To show what happened to those who opposed the head. What happened if they failed to meet the head’s expectations. It was a means to instill fear into the young ones through firsthand experience.

Seeing a child of her own age, with eyes wide open in death. Recognizing the emaciated owner of that body as one of the foster children who had been missing for a while, Claira had to struggle hard to suppress her screams.

She had also been forced to witness executions carried out by the head.

Gilmore’s Soul Equipment was a Divine Insect. An insect that eats demons, equipped with eight legs and jaws as hard as steel.

Gilmore could make it as big as a house or as small as a nail.

It could devour sturdy demons. Naturally, it could easily tear through a human body. And when carrying out executions, Gilmore preferred to do it from within rather than from outside.

In other words, he would let the Divine Insect burrow into the prisoner’s body and gnaw its way out from the inside.

How many times had she witnessed such a nauseating spectacle? Fear of Gilmore was ingrained in Claira’s heart and mind, and even after becoming a Green Woods Warrior, that fear hadn’t faded– especially now, with the Divine Insect within her.

If it weren’t for this, would she have taken the hand that Sora offered? She thought about it and let out a pained laugh.

It was ridiculous to regretfully ponder about something that couldn’t have happened.

And so, Claira heaved a heavy sigh.

Up until she had left the island on a mission, the world had been a simple place for Claira. Life in the Berch house was her everyday life, and even though it was suffocating at times, she had never thought of escaping.

No, even now she doesn’t think of escaping. Claira felt not only fear but also gratitude towards her foster father Gilmore, and she took pride in fighting as a Green Woods Warrior. There was no lie in those feelings.

— However, she realized that part of her was tired of all that.

In the sense that they both lost to Sora and were humiliated, Claira and Klimt’s sins were equal. Nevertheless, the fact that Gilmore had thrown only Claira into the dungeon indicated that he must have noticed her change of heart.

For Gilmore, it was as if the fruits of his years of “education” had been lost overnight. If he were to leave Claira as is, it could potentially influence not only her brother Klimt but also his other subjects. To the head of the Berch house, Claira, as she was now, was a plague in the worst way.

She might truly be killed if things continued this way. Claira had considered this far.

However, knowing this, there was nothing she could do. Even with the power of Claira Berch, a part of the Golden Generation, it was impossible to forget the comfort she had once experienced from the “outside”.

How much time had passed since then?

Claira’s ears picked up faint footsteps. Someone was descending into the basement. The stately, unswerving stride did not belong to the old man who always brought water and meals.

Thinking that it might be Gilmore, Claira tensed.

However, the silhouette that stood before her soon bore a different form from her foster father.

“What a terrible state you’re in.”

The seasoned warrior with long black hair and eerily white skin critiqued Claira with the same words as Sora.

Claira’s eyes widened in surprise at the sight of him. A person she had not expected at all was standing before her.

“Master Dialt?”

‘Master’ was a term used to refer to the heir of the house. In other words, the person who had appeared was Dialt Berch, the successor to the Berch family and the flagbearer of the first flag of the Green Woods.

He was, in a way, Claira’s older brother. However, neither Claira nor Klimt had ever called Dialt their brother, and they probably never would.

In the Berch household, Dialt’s position was second only to Gilmore’s, and even his blood-related siblings had to show him the respect due from a servant. The attitude demanded of adopted children like Claira and Klimt, who had no blood ties, went without saying.

Dialt, for his part, never showed any affection to his younger siblings. It was common for him to pass by Claira and the others, who bowed their heads deeply on the streets and in the mansion, without even opening his mouth.

Nevertheless, the fact that he nodded ever so slightly indicated that he wasn’t completely ignoring them…

“What business brings you here?”

Claira asked, feeling even more tense than when facing Gilmore.

Then, Dialt said in an indifferent tone,

“Klimt is dead.”


“Recently, the Kijin tribe was unified under a king named Azuma. As long as those bastards were killing each other, we could leave them be, but once they were united, we had to take action. Klimt was assigned the task of slaying Azuma and disappeared into Demon Island. According to Steward Gilmore, even the spirit bugs that had been implanted in him have vanished. It would be safe to assume he’s dead.”

Dialt’s voice lacked any concern for his kin. There was only the cold, bureaucratic detachment of conveying confirmed facts.

Naturally, if death was confirmed, there would be no search.

Claira raised her voice without thinking.

“Wait, Master Dialt! Klimt’s death isn’t confirmed yet…!”

“It isn’t confirmed. However, the disappearance of the spirit bugs suggests that he suffered a grievous injury, deep enough to tear at one’s vitals. If he suffered such wounds within Demon Island, even if he were alive, he wouldn’t last long. It’s too late.”


“We can’t mobilize the warriors of Green Woods for a fool who sought to redeem his dishonor by volunteering for this mission, only to further disgrace himself. This is not only Steward Gilmore’s opinion, but also the decision of our lord. Be sure not to act recklessly.”

Hearing Dialt’s unshakeable voice, Claira realized that no matter what she said here, it would be meaningless.

Looking down at the dumbfounded Claira, Dialt continued to speak in his indifferent tone.

“There’s probably not much else you can do in this cell. You should pray for your brother’s soul.”

After finishing his words, Dialt turned on his heel and disappeared from Claira’s sight.

His retreating footsteps echoed in Claira’s ears long after he had gone.

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