Chapter 179 – Renewal Plan (1)
“It feels as if I’ve been born again. It really is a very refreshing feeling.”
“Shall I keep up that pattern by killing you again?”
“Maetel, you are acting more like a Demon King than a hero.”
The party exited Glacia. Even if Etna had become whole, she wasn’t saved from the adverse effects of the cold in Glacia. If they stayed in place, they would be in a tight spot, since the previous Demon King’s forces could arrive at any moment.
“Artpe, are you really going to let that woman into the party?”
“Of course. If Etna says she’ll help us, we’ll let her join.”
“I’m pretty sure she’ll stab you in the back at some point in the future.”
“I’ll stab him in the back? I’ve never laid a finger on Artpe in my life. I might want to put my hands on him for a different reason, but I’ve never harmed Artpe. On the other hand, the hero……”
“Oh my. I’m so scared. I’m just telling the truth. I might hate you if you glare at me like that.”
After Regina dramatically intervened between the two, Etna and Maetel were able to break out of their fighting mood. However, the relationship between the two remained stormy.
Maetel was irritated by the fact that Artpe seemed to pay attention to Etna more than necessary. On the other hand, Etna had regained her memories from her past life. She believed Maetel had been the one to kill Artpe in their past lives. There was no way she would look kindly on Maetel.
‘Under the assumption that Etna had regained all her memories from her past life, it had been a near miracle that she had done nothing.’
Artpe let out a big sigh as he shook his head from side to side. He didn’t know how he would be able to solve this problem with his abilities. Maybe, if he threatened to fall on his own sword, the two might calm down. Artpe decided that would be his last recourse.
“I don’t like you.”
“Oh my. I’m in agreement. I really don’t like you either.”
Artpe ignored the two squabbling women as he spoke to the rest of his party.
“Well, we were successful in joining up with Etna. There is only one thing left to do.”
“You are talking about hunting down the Demon King.”
“That was the original plan.”
There was fear, duty and a bit of anticipation in Vadinet’s voice as she answered him. Artpe answered back with an ambiguous answer. Regina spoke instead of him.
“That is impossible now. The Demon King’s castle has fallen, and the Demon King is missing. The previous Demon King’s forces has made their presence known. The Demon realm is large, and we cannot search the entire place.”
“Regina is right. Our goal has become a bit ambiguous. If we aren’t vigilant, we might get idle. We might get distracted into doing other things. It come up occasionally in the hero’s story. The hero talks to a merchant or the hero starts feuding with a noble. The main quest ends too quickly, so the hero goes on a subquest instead of finding the next main quest. In turn, something worse develops from an entirely different direction. If I’m to simplify it, there are people that stray onto a different path instead of sticking to the main path. It results in them paying a price at a later date.”
“That sounds oddly familiar.”
Artpe ignored Elrick, who had tried to undercut his words.
“However, you witnessed it, right? We’ve been living under a delusion. We were wrong on a fundamental level. The Demon realm had been part of the human realm. The Demon race was the product of humanity’s twisted greed. It is no longer as simple as killing the Demon King. Events have ballooned too much.”
“If people find out about this, it’ll cause chaos. Each nation has at least one political activist that’ll cause trouble, and the priests from the temples will jump up and down in anger.”
“Mmmm. There will be those that will ignore reality. There will also be people that would want the Demon realm to be turned back into a human realm once again.”
In truth, Artpe really didn’t want to get involved with such work. However, Artpe was the only one capable of purifying the Demonic energy right now. This was why he couldn’t back out.
“Let’s quickly end this before it become more of a nuisance.”
“Artpe, are you perhaps going back to the Demon realm······?”
Artpe turned his head slightly to avoid Maetel’s gaze. She was right. They had to go back to the Demon realm. Maetel grabbed his shoulders, and she shook him.
“Why! Artpe always stressed the importance of moving in an efficient manner!”
They had entered the heart of the Demon realm, and they had destroyed the Demon King’s castle. They had learned the truth within Nanarai Bodra’s ruin, and as a bonus, they were able to kill one of the past Four Heavenly Kings. Everything was great up to that point.
Why did Artpe have to get into a fight with Petra over their ego? It had resulted in them returning to Glacia. When everything had resolved itself in Glacia, they had to return to the Demon realm once again! Why! Why did they have to make such vain efforts! Was this really the best they could do!
“Oh my. It seems the hero is very dense. Artpe went to the Demon realm to meet me. Since I wasn’t there, he used Petra to find me. All is as it should be.”
“You are merely the side dish!”
“You aren’t able to accept reality, young hero. How cute.”
As if she saw the perfect opportunity, Etna moved Maetel’s hands away from Artpe. Then she gently draped her arms around his neck. There was a gentle heat that was emanating from her skin. She warmed his cold body.
“You traveled the long distance for me, Artpe······ You spoke about increasing the power of your party, but that was just a thin excuse. Hoo hoo. I always liked that about you. Yes. I like you even more now.”
“Don’t rub your cheeks against him. Don’t act as if you are close to him.”
“However, we really are close?”
Artpe was truly in a bind. When Silpennon regained his memories, he had been afraid that Silpennon would become his enemy. Now that Etna had recover her memories from her past life, he worried her simple love would evolve. He became afraid that her love would become a deep-seated love that he could barely manage.
“No······ Maetel, there is something we can do now in the Demon realm. It is only possible, because a reliable ally like Etna had joined our party. It isn’t what you think. This wasn’t a waste of time. I guess I could suggest joining up with the continental alliance, since we are in the human realm. However, you know that’s not a good idea, right?”
“Ooh-oooooh…. I still can’t accept it······.”
Of course, the current iteration of Artpe’s party was powerful. They no longer had to move around in a small elite group to assassinate the leaders of the Demon King’s army. They could just join up with the human army, and they could eradicate all the Demons in the human realm.
Moreover, the Demon King’s castle was gone now. The current Demon King was missing, and he had no idea where the leaders of the past Demon King’s forces were located at. Even if he moved his small elite party, he had lost his targets.
“So why are we going to the Demon realm? Please give me the specifics.”
When Artpe explained the situation, Maetel accepted his reasoning. However, she became more puzzled, because she had accepted his explanation. Artpe put on a bright smile as he answered her.
“I want to work on turning the Demon realm into a human realm.”
Maetel had a faraway look when she heard his words. The rest of his party had a similar reaction. However, Artpe wasn’t done speaking.
“It isn’t just the Demon race. I’ll return the entire region to normal. It’ll consume a lot of Mana, but that is a secondary problem. This will aggro the Demons. It is the most ideal method to draw in the previous Demon King’s forces.”
The other side was trying to turn the human realm into the Demon realm. Artpe would do something that completely oppose their plan. He would do it within the Demon realm. Of course, his foes would be aggro’d to him!
“Do you think it’ll be possible?”
“You want to flip the hero’s story at a fundamental level. It is an idea that is befitting Artpe-nim, but······.”
If he had the time and resources, it would be possible. Time couldn’t be helped, but the resources could be provided by the human realm.
“Hey, Roa. There are many things to eat in the world other than Demonic energy.”
“Nyaa. I can eat other corrupted things. Nyaa-aaah. I now know why the Demonic energy was such a tasty meal. Nyaa.”
Artpe smirked at Roa’s words. It was to be expected. The Demonic energy arose from humanity’s twisted greed. Roa feasted mainly on corrupted energy. Of course, she would love the Demonic energy. Maybe, she had this realization when the truth of the Demonic energy became known.
“Can you really drive out all the Demonic energy from the human realm?”
“It is such an enormous task that I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it.”
“I can do it.”
His party members had questions about it, but Artpe answered them with a confident voice.
“Ooh ooh. When Artpe displays so much confidence, he always does something incredibly absurd…..”
“Good bye, Glacia. I’ll come back much stronger.”
Everyone got on the Steel Horse. Everyone was nervous except Regina. She calmly waved goodbye to the continent. It was as if the continent was answering her. A snowstorm kicked up.
“Regina’s ability also became stronger. Everything worked out if you look at the final result.”
“Ah. You just said final result. This is the final result!”
The Steel Horse moved at high speeds. It was moving towards the holy nation of Paladia. It was the first step in gathering their resources.
It was deep within the night. It was when everyone was asleep. Artpe naturally opened his eyes when he heard the language of the Demons near his ears. He saw Etna sitting next to him. Her hair was letting out a subdued red light.
[You are awake.]
[What’s the matter?]
The Steel Horse was on auto drive, so it was moving under the night sky. Everyone looked a bit ragged as they slept.
In truth, sleep wasn’t necessary when one was at their level. However, they had been traveling with Petra for the past couple days. The journey had started when they had left Nanarai Bodra’s ruin. Lot of things had happened in between, so they hadn’t been able to relax. They were using this time to unwind.
Moreover, Artpe wanted to recover too.
[Don’t glare at me like that. I get hurt even by your small actions. ….didn’t I just sound like a girl in love?]
[You should be resting, Etna. You need it the most.]
[Hoo hoo. You already know about it. I’m whole, and I’m in a peaceful state. You are no longer referring to me as Etna-nim. I’m happy.]
[You want to talk about old times?]
He wondered if she wanted to talk about their past lives with him. It would be analogous to an old mercenary telling a story to a drunk crowd. However, Etna shook her head from side to side.
[No, I just want to stick close to Artpe.]
[You shouldn’t be so straightforward with your words…. Why do all the women I meet start to take after Maetel?]
[Maybe, the little miss might be taking after me?]
Etna laid down next to Artpe, and she leaned into his shoulder. Maetel was sleeping on the other side. Etna moved in a way that didn’t wake Maetel. Artpe thought it was quite the feat. Etna spoke the language of the Demon race to him. Only the two of them could understand it, and it was almost as if she was singing her words.
[I don’t know how we were able to return to the past like this. I’m not even sure if this is reality. Artpe used to be a Demon, but you are human now. Moreover, you are the hero. I don’t know why everything is flowing differently from before….. There are so many things I am curious about…]
[I can tell you everything.]
Etna turned her head slightly, and she gave a short kiss on the nape of his neck. This was different from Maetel throwing a tantrum for a kiss. Every gesture was so mature that he needlessly felt his heart speed up. However, he had a feeling of disillusionment when he found himself comparing Etna and Maetel. He stopped thinking about it.
[Artpe came to find me. That is why I’m ok with whatever that happens in the future.]
[I’ll say this once. It wasn’t as if I didn’t like you in the past, but I wasn’t in love with you either.]
[Mmm mmm. I understand Petra always was always the problem. This was true in this life and the past life. Ah, jeez. We said we won’t talk about the past.]
[If we want to talk about the present, it is inevitable that we’ll have to talk about the past. There is no need to avoid it.]
[Then Artpe likes the little Ms. hero? What I mean to say is… Have you always liked her even in the past?]
It was an ambush. Maybe, she had been waiting for Artpe to say those words. It had allowed her to ask this question. Artpe was taken aback, but in the end, he willingly answered her.
[Yes. A lot.]
[Miss hero said the same thing to me. I thought she had killed you, so I became really angry….. Maybe, the one that had the most valid reason to act out in anger was that young lady.]
[······thank you for holding back.]
When she regained her memories from her past life, Etna could have gone crazy against Maetel and Regina. It would have been a reasonable reaction. However, she had suppressed her feeling as if it was nothing.
[Mmm. The fact that you are alive makes me feel as if I can forgive just about everything….. Moreover, all of our circumstances has changed.]
[I think I can get along with her. The little Ms. hero won’t oppose me if I’m on Artpe’s side.]
She really had a really good grasp on the situation. Maetel listened to Artpe’s proclamation. She prioritized the safety of all her party members above all else. Even if she might grind her teeth, she would never point her sword towards an ally.
[I’m in the same boat. I······ I can do whatever you want if it is for you, Artpe.]
[I am a man with a lot of sins.]
Artpe acted like a cheeky jerk, but Etna just laughed. Then she leaned into Artpe once again.
[We meet again······.]
[I guess so.]
Her body temperature rose slightly. Artpe turned, so Maetel won’t wake up. He was careful. Etna extended one hand, and she lightly grabbed his sleeve.
[I’ll protect you, Artpe. In the past, I wasn’t able to protect you. I’ll work harder knowing this… At all costs…. No matter what…..]
[You are obsessing over weird things······ Etna?]
She stopped speaking. When he took a closer look, Etna was asleep. She had stated that she hadn’t been tired, yet she had immediately fallen asleep next to him. Artpe smirked when he realized this fact.
He lightly grabbed the hand holding onto his sleeve, then he went back to sleep.