Chapter 25 – Yesterday’s Enemy (4)
The fire made by Artpe was very warm. The two of them caught fishes from the ravine, and they cooked it over the fire. They used 3 silver worth of salt. Maetel hadn’t had any fish for over a year, so she was surprised by the sudden and unexpected taste.
“Heeng. This is so tasty…..”
“If you eat when you are hungry, everything tastes great .”
There were still traces of tear left near Maetel’s eyes. Still, she was briskly eating the fishes. She was even eating the bones. He couldn’t help but smile. He started to eat his own portion of fishes as he spoke.
“You have worked hard, Maetel. It is true that the Dungeon was very hard, but as a result, we were able to significantly decrease our growth period. We’ll be able to move with a little bit more time to spare. No, even if you don’t like it, we’ll move at a more leisurely pace. I’m really tired and exhausted.”
Maetel was still unable to calm her heart. She sniffed as she asked him a question.
“Are you really sure that you don’t like older women?”
Was she still worried about that!?
He was dumbfounded. He smirked as he shook his head from side to side.
“Didn’t I tell you earlier? I gave her a little bit of a warning as recompense for the gem we received.”
“Are you really sure?”
“I’m really sure.”
“……yes, I’ll believe you.”
It seemed her worry about Artpe looking at other women overshadowed her psychological uneasiness at killing humans. It seemed Artpe wouldn’t have to worry too much about her.
Artpe let out a sigh of relief, and he was about to clear away the trash. However, at that moment, Maetel spoke as if she just had an idea.
“I want to sleep next to Artpe.”
“You aren’t a child anymore.”
“I want to sleep with you. You said you’ll grant me any wish I want.”
Maetel’s voice was shaking slightly. When he heard it, Artpe realized he was under a misconception.
She wasn’t being unnecessarily clingy towards Artpe. Her mental state was uneasy. Moreover, she was still worried about the thought of Artpe leaving her.
“….all right. I did say that I’ll grant you a wish, so it can’t be helped.”
He took out a bedroll(5 silvers). It was a bit cramped for two people, but he was prepared to go through with it tonight.
He gathered some leaves on the ground, and he placed a cloth over it. Then he placed the bedroll on top before he lie within it. As if she was worried about Artpe going back on his words, she quickly got in. She had a satisfied expression on her face as she closed her eyes.
“Good night, Artpe.”
“It’s cramped and uncomfortable in here, so how can we sleep well…. She is already asleep.”
When Maetel was held by Artpe, it seemed all her worries were let go. She was breathing easily as she quickly fell into sleep. Artpe was dumbfounded by the sight, but in the end, he let out a bitter laugh as he moved to put her in a more comfortable position.
‘It feels like I’m raising a kid.’
In truth, it may not be too far from the truth. Maetel didn’t remember her past life, so she was just a young 13 year old girl. If Artpe added in his past life, he had lived for couple hundred years. He was a demon that was turned into a hero. Sometimes, he felt the disparity between the two lives keenly, and in those moments, he had a hard time breathing.
Still, Artpe liked being with Maetel. It was strange, but at times, he felt pleased and full.
It wasn’t just because she was a talent, who could free Artpe by defeating the Demon King. At this point, Artpe had no choice but to accept the fact. Maetel was fairly…. She was quite dear to him.
It was unfortunate that the innocent child was changing. She was being stained by his presence. However, he was thankful that this small child cherished him, and she wanted him around.
It was as if he had committed a sin. It felt as if he was slowly being buried under a soft marsh. It was as if he was melting away. He was afraid to struggle… It was that sweet.
‘Still, I shouldn’t pay too much attention to it. I can be complacent after we kill the Demon King..’
Yes, he had things to do right now.
Artpe was careful not to wake Maetel. He carefully snuck his hand out of the bedroll, and he activated his magic. The Hero’s Unique Spell called Mana String was activated in no time.
“We were found…..!”
The five strands of Mana Strings extended out into the surrounding. The Mana Strings let out a black light as they danced in the air. Red lines of blood bloomed underneath the dark night sky like flowers. Accompanying dull thudding sounds, human body parts started to fall to the ground.
They had been sure that they had succeeded in their stealth mission. They paid for this belief with their lives. Of course, there were still a lot of them left. Artpe would extract a price from all of them.
Artpe looked at them with cool eyes, and he spoke with a voice that was colder than a block of ice.
“She’s sleeping. Be quiet, so she doesn’t wake up.”
“Are you to playing games with…kahk!”
Artpe clicked his tongue as he watched the men emerge from the darkness. He moved his fingers. The Mana Strings moved according to his will. They moved like whips with sentience, and they split through the air. The lives of two to three people were killed in a flash.
“He is stronger than the girl….!”
“It seems you guys are incapable of learning. Don’t you guys realize that you guys are dying in the order of who opened their mouth first?”
Artpe’s purple eyes let out a radiant light within the darkness. It was as if his eyes could pierce through all lies. His eyes only contained the truth. The party of men had tried a surprise attack relying on the darkness. His eyes was like the deliverer of death for these men.
“W…we can’t win.”
“The one that is terrifying is actually him…. Kahk!”
‘Mana String. The experience I picked up struggling as a weakling was mixed with the Hero’s power to become a Unique spell….’
It wasn’t a proper spell. The Mana Threads was something he developed during the rough patches of his life as a demon. In the beginning , the Mana String was an unwelcome development for him.
However, he was able to quietly take care of this problem thanks to this spell. He was able to let Maetel sleep peacefully. This single reason was good enough for him to value this magic.
“We erred in assessing their capability…..”
“Where are you running away?”
Mana String was able to impart overwhelming force using Mana, but it consumed a lot of Mana. This was why it wasn’t a weapon that could be used freely in a battle situation.
This was why Artpe used all the information coming in through his eyes to find the most efficient trajectories. He moved his fingers according to the calculations he had made.
The men tried everything to stop it, but their weapons and feet were slower than the Mana String, which had no weight.
“Wait a moment. If you cooperate with us, you will have a place in the newly created kingdom…..”
The five strands of Mana Strings gathered at a single location. The last remaining man was still struggling to live. He died as he was cut into several slabs of meat. His face was full of resentment. Artpe let out a bitter laugh when he saw it.
‘From your perspective, your side was probably in the absolute right. In your next life, I hope you will be able to live a life as a farmer where you won’t have to kill or be killed. I will pray for you all.’
Artpe retracted the Mana Strings, and he checked Maetel, who was snuggled up against him. Her breathing was even. She was still asleep.
‘That wasn’t too bad.’
However, it seemed the disturbance wasn’t at an end. From not too far away, the main guests were coming towards them.
“We were discovered, captain! If you are done retrieving the gem, you should help…. What!?”
From the beginning, Artpe hadn’t bothered hiding his location. He didn’t have any particular difficulty in dispatching the first group that had ambushed him, and it would be the same for those that had followed behind them.
“What the hell is…..”
He had wondered about the identity of the second group, who was drawn towards them like moths. It was none other than the knights that had accompanied the crown prince Silpennon. There were some amongst them that was suffering from serious wounds. Some amongst them had bloated face as if they were suffering under the effects of poison.
Still, they were better off than the men that were killed here. They had come here to ask for help, so they hadn’t expected to witness the death of their other party. They were extremely surprised.
Artpe was wide awake, while Maetel was asleep. It wasn’t too difficult to determine, who was the culprit.
“You guys are too noisy.”
Artpe only brought out a single strand of Mana String to confront their anger. These men were like scraps compared to the men that had ambushed Artpe’s party. They were maggots, who ran away, because they couldn’t handle a single level 118 knight.
“Be quiet. Forever.”
The Mana String cut through the air. Four knights had survived, and they had run away towards this direction. He took care of them in six seconds. Afterwards, a woman ran into the clearing. She had great timing.
“You bastards! You dare to call yourselves knights, who protect the royal family…. Mmmm!?”
Artpe was still within the bedroll, and he was glaring at the female knight Leseti with narrowed eyes. Leseti saw the numerous corpses strewn around the clearing, so she closed her mouth.
She was pretty good on the uptake, so she was able to easily identify, who was behind the slaughter.
‘I had a hunch that he wasn’t normal, but I never expected him to be such an overwhelming force. Who is this young man…. Mmm?’
She was so scared that she was unable to let out even a squeak under Artpe’s murderous gaze. She silently went over the situation when she suddenly had an epiphany.
There was an incident near here only a year ago. Two heroes had been born in a country village. When they disappeared, the whole kingdom had been in an uproar!
They were incomprehensibly strong compared to their ages.
Black hair and blonde hair….
Leseti couldn’t hold back her exclamation of surprise. Maetel opened her eyes. Leseti belatedly realized she had made a mistake. Artpe sharply raised a finger, and Leseti shut her eyes when she saw it.
A brief amount of time had passed.
“Are you ok, Artpe?”
“I wasn’t hurt at all, so you don’t have to touch me constantly. I’ll clean this up, so you should keep your eyes close.”
“I’m not going to close my eyes. I’m all right now. I’ll be fine since Artpe is here.”
“You don’t look fine…. All right. You do whatever you want.”
If she hadn’t seen the corpses everywhere around her, she would have been able to continue her sleep. However, once she found about about them, sleep wasn’t an option. The two heroes got up from their sleeping place, and they put away the bedroll. They started working on cleaning up the corpses strewn about their surrounding.
Artpe took all of the equipment that was useful. He also took all the silver coins they possessed. Maetel gathered the corpses he was done ‘looting.’
“Artpe, why do we have to kill other people?”
“It is the same reason as to why we killed the monsters. We all have something we want from each other. Everything else is just an excuse. The plethora of excuses given for harming living beings are just embellishments.”
“I see….. The act of living is very hard in itself.”
“The important part is to realize that we have to live within such a world. You can respect the lives of other people, but when there is a collision, you have carry through to enforce your way of life.”
“Yes. All right.”
Thirteen year old brats were talking about philosophical bullshit as they calmly cleared away the corpses. What was she supposed to say to them? Should she disagree with their views? Should she tell them to go read more books?
Of course, Leseti was banned from speaking, so she didn’t say anything. She continued to raise her two hands as she sat on her knees. This was a punishment devised by Artpe.
“That it. Did you gather all of them Maetel?”
After Artpe threw all the corpses into the fire, he turned to look at Leseti. She still had her arms up as she carried out the order she was given. Artpe smirked as he spoke.
“Your punishment is at an end. You should go back to the crown prince. As you probably realize by now, no one will side with you even if you head back towards the palace. The two of you should go to a remote village. You should live a quiet life, while tending to cows.”
Leseti couldn’t give a proper retort. She just groaned.
Yes, the only thing going for the crown prince was that he was the legitimate heir. However, in regards to all other issues, the rebels held the upper hand. No one would side with them. That was the miserable truth.
At that moment, a young man pushed past the brush, and he gave a reply instead of Leseti.
“Do you know why there was a rebellion against the Diaz family?”
It was the red haired crown prince Silpennon. Of course, Artpe had already sensed him getting close. This was why he wasn’t surprised as he gave his reply.
“Did they perhaps attack the king on the fact that he wasn’t able to properly take care of the heroes?”
“You are correct. Of course, I don’t plan on putting the blame on you guys. That incident was merely the trigger. My uncle…. The duke was a wild beast, who had been waiting for an opportunity to tear into the king. If it wasn’t the escape of the heroes, he would have found another reason to start a rebellion”
Silpennon had already come to the same conclusion as Leseti that Artpe and Maetel were heroes. Still, his face remained aloof. It was said that a man grows through hardship. His gaze remained on Artpe instead of Maetel.
“You are right. Even if I recklessly went back to the palace, there isn’t much that I could do. I’m just a brat that was lucky enough to be born as the crown prince. If I act rashly, my head would be severed. It would be mounted next to the king’s head.”
“This is why I have to go with you guys.”
His words were very unexpected. However, Silpennon continued to speak with a sincere voice.
“The duke rebelled using the fact that my father had lost track of the heroes. The duke used that reason to gain the throne. Now he will use all available resources to find the heroes in an attempt to solidify his reign.”
“That’ll seems likely.”
“So what would happen if I’m already in the party of the heroes?”
What was this bastard talking about?
When Artpe glared at Silpennon, he provided an explanation.
“The new king would be unable to find the heroes, yet I would be in the party of the heroes. I would be helping the the heroes. In the end, we would succeed in killing the Demon King! At that time, who would the people and the nobles want on the throne! They would want me, who gained the title of hero!”
“Oh oh. It is a very risky and wild plan! Still, it isn’t too bad.”
It was a good idea considering it was devised by a kid. This stupid kingdom put importance on titles compared to any other place in the world. This plan sounded like it could actually work!
Artpe nodded his head as if there was merit to his plan. Silpennon was excited by this fact, so he started shouting his words.
“That is why you guys should team up with me! From this moment on, I’ll throw away my rank as the crown prince. I’ll help you guys defeat the Demon King. I’ll become a key player within the hero’s party!”
“Hold your horses. There is a very big flaw within your plan that can’t be ignored.”
Artpe spoke coldly.
“You are too weak. You won’t be of any help to us. I’ll be blunt. You’ll be a burden, so get lost.”
The astute comment was a critical hit! The crown prince had no way of refuting that fact! The current hero’s words had a multiplier effect!