Frieren’s Prequel Novel Chapter 2 part 4

“No, you can’t. Even if you’re Sir Stark, if you get caught in a landslide…”
 
“Compared to a dragon, that’s nothing,”
 
Borrowing a lantern from a villager, Stark dashed into the forest.
 
He couldn’t just sit idly while someone’s life was at risk. Plus, there was a sense of indebtedness towards Vance. If he had admitted his lack of courage to face the dragon, perhaps the villagers wouldn’t have scorned Vance.
 
Through the muddy ground and into the dark forest he ran.
 
“Hey! Grandpa Vance!”
 
Stark called out, trying to be heard over the wind and leaves.
 
The forest was vast, much larger than the village, and with no moonlight, darkness enveloped everything. He had to rely on the lantern.
 
Stark continues to run in the darkness.
 
his clothes weighed heavy with rain, and the cold seeped in. He was losing strength faster than anticipated. Would he really find Vance just by running around the forest alone?
 
Just when Stark was beginning to feel uneasy, the sky shines brightly.
 
Suddenly, the sky lit up, and a loud boom echoed.
 
“Whoa?!”
 
his heart jumped.
 
It seemed lightning had struck nearby. With the rain, there was no risk of fire, but it startled him nonetheless.
 
Pressing a hand against his pounding heart, he tried to steady himself.
 
Now, real fear crept in. With poor visibility, a landslide could occur any moment. It might be better than fighting a dragon, but the risk of death remained.
 
Maybe he should turn back.
 
No one would blame him.
 
But then Stark thought,
 
if it were Eisen or Stoltz,
 
they wouldn’t abandon someone they could save.
 
He started running again. His legs still had strength. It was too early to give up.
 
An hour later,
 
he found Vance.
 

 
“Grandpa!”
 
Vance lay at the bottom of a slope, likely having slipped and fallen.
 
Gently putting the lantern in his mouth, Stark carefully made his way down the steep slope. It wasn’t too high, so Vance should still be alive.
 
“Grandpa, are you alive?”
 
He shook his body, and Vance let out a faint groan, opening his eyes.
 
“What is it, kid… you again…”
 
His voice was barely audible. He seemed very weak.
 
“Sorry about that. Is anything hurting?”
 
“…Probably my leg is broken. Other than that, I should be fine.”
 
“Got it.”
 
He made a splint with a sturdy branch and secured Vance’s leg. When he tried to hoist him onto his back, he shuddered. His body was cold as ice. He had to get him back quickly.
 
Carrying Vance, he climbed back up the slope. His knees cried out, and exhaustion weighed heavily. But he pushed his body to its limit, desperately heading back to the village.
 
“Why did you come to rescue me…”
 
Vance said in a hoarse voice.
 
“Someone like this old geezer with no family… you should have just left me here.”
 
“Even if you have no family, I don’t want you to die in a place like this.”
 
“Hmph… what would you know…”
 
“I know. My family is all gone too.”
 
“ …… “
 
Walking and talking was tiring for Stark, but he had something he wanted to tell Vance.
 
“You know, what you said is actually pretty spot on,” he said, Stark voice carrying a note of introspection. “I don’t have the courage to fight the dragon, and everyone praising me has probably gone to my head. I’ve never been praised by my dad or my teacher before.”
 
He hopped from stone to stone, crossing the roaring river, Stark thoughts churning.
 
“The people in this village are all so kind,” he continued, Stark words thoughtful. “They’re probably keeping the truth from me so they don’t disappoint me, but that might be backfiring.”
 
Vance didn’t say anything, but he could hear the faint sound of him taking a breath.
 
“…You’re strong, you know,”
 
“Huh?”
 
“…You’re stronger than I thought. With your upbringing, I’m surprised you haven’t become bitter towards the world. You’re still kind to people. You’re a stronger person than me.”
 
Stark felt he had a bit of a misunderstanding.
 
“It’s not like I’ve always been treated coldly. My brother was kind, and my teacher was strict but not a bad person. It’s not been all hardship like you’re thinking.”
 
“…I see.”
 
“But still, it’s nice to be praised like this.”
 
Vance let out a small chuckle.
 
“You might actually be able to defeat the dragon…”
 
“Grandpa?”
 
Stark called, but Vance didn’t respond. The weight on his back felt heavier.
 
No way… Stark held his breath.
 
“Hey, Grandpa? Are you alright? Grandpa! Hey!”
 
“Shut up! Let me sleep.”
 
“Sorry.”
 
Thankfully, he was still alive. And seemed to be doing alright.
 
Stark stopped talking and focused on walking.
 
They were almost out of the forest.
 

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“Yes, Sir Stark safely carried Vance back.”
 
The tavern keeper placed a fruit platter on the counter.
 
Today the tavern was closed, with only the keeper and one other person inside.
 
“At such a young age, he’s quite remarkable. Even the stubborn old Vance has taken a liking to Sir Stark. If we took a poll in this village, Sir Stark’s approval rating would be 100% for sure.”
 
“…I see. He’s doing well, then.”
 
“We’d love to keep him here forever. But it wouldn’t be good to confine such a courageous young man to this small village. If he travels, I’m sure he’ll become a great warrior.”
 
“No doubt about that.”
 
“By the way… do you really not want to meet him? Mr Eisen.”
 
Eisen plucked a grape from the plate and popped it into his mouth through his beard.
 
“I just came to check on the situation. No need to meet him. Stark probably doesn’t want to see my face either.”
 
After swallowing the grape, Eisen let out a small sigh.
 
“…That’s just an excuse. The truth is, it would be awkward to meet him.”
 
The keeper smiled.
 
“But Sir Stark doesn’t resent you, Eisen.”
 
“He’s a kind boy. But that’s not the issue here.”
 
“I see.”
 
Eisen silently continued eating the fruit on the plate.
 
When he finished, he placed some money on the table and stood up.
 
“Keeper. About my coming here…”
 
“I won’t say a word. I understand, this is your fifth time visiting.”
 
“Appreciate it.”
 
The keeper was about to say something more, but held his tongue. It was probably none of his business.
 
“Eisen.”
 
The keeper stopped Eisen as he was leaving.
 
“What is it?”
 
“Do you think Sir Stark can defeat the dragon?”
 
Eisen, who usually showed no emotion, seemed to smile then.
 
“Of course he can.”
 


 
Stark stopped and looked back at the path.
 
There was the village he had called home for three years. Even without him, its peace was maintained. The dragon that had terrorized the villagers had already been slain by Stark.
 
“What’s the matter, Mr. Stark?”
 
Fern, who was walking in front, asked.
 
“Nothing. I was just curious about the state of the village.”
 
“If you’re feeling homesick, you can turn back.”
 
“It’s not that I’m homesick… well, maybe a little. I did live there for three years.”
 
There were times the kindness of the villagers pained him, but overall it had been a fulfilling three years. He could have stayed a little longer.
 
“But I’ve decided to follow you all. And you need a vanguard for this party, don’t you? So I can’t turn back now.”
 
Fern’s expression softened.
 
“We’re counting on you.”
 
“Alright, leave it to me. …But next time, don’t just rely on me, fight alongside me, okay?”
 
“You coward.”
 
“Too harsh…”
 
Stark gets teary-eyed.
 
but the friendly banter continued as they caught up to Frieren, who was leading the way.


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