Chapter 34 – Come to Think of It, I’m a Hero (2)
“M…my name is Aena.”
“That’s enough with your self-introduction.”
Artpe stopped his face from crumpling when he saw the face of the girl. He brushed aside her words.
“I want you to tell me your request, and what you will be able to give me. Keep it short.”
It was said from the olden times that it was crucial to clear a Quest as soon as possible! He just needed to know the content of the Quest and the reward. He didn’t care about minor details like her situation.
The girl, who came looking for them, and Maetel, who had been looking at Aena, turned to look at Artpe with dumbfounded expressions when they heard his words. Aena was barely able to open her mouth before Artpe’s expression could crumple.
“I…in truth, the soldiers came to our town couple days ago. He was captured by them, and he hasn’t been returned…..”
“All right. What’s the reward?”
He even skipped the content of the Quest! If others heard his words, they might have been impressed by Artpe’s strong desire for obtaining a reward.
However, Artpe’s expression was excessively harsh. It wasn’t directed at the girl or the quest. His anger seemed to be directed at someone else.
“A r…reward…. I don’t have anything I can give you……”
The girl looked like she was about to cry. Of course, Artpe knew this even before he heard her words. The girl wore very threadbare clothes, and when he checked with his Read All Creation ability, she didn’t possess any items worth having on her body.
Despite this fact, Artpe continued to interrogate her.
“What? You don’t even have a single bronze coin?”
“I do have a bronze coin, but that isn’t enough…..”
Aena’s eyes started to fill with tears. However, Artpe ruthlessly pushed his hand out towards her.
“Give it to me.”
“I want you to take out the bronze coin.”
Aena’s expression indicated that she had no idea what was going on, but she took out a bronze coin.
She possessed a very dirty bronze coin. It held very little value to Artpe that he wanted to snort, but it was a very precious and large sum of money for the girl. The money was very important to her.
Aena thought she had come looking for the wrong people. She thought she was getting ripped off in her time of need. Her eyes were shedding large amount of tears as she placed the bronze coin on top of Artpe’s hand. Maetel was very angry as she watched what was going on. She had to scold Artpe! She had to scold him a lot! Artpe that makes a child cry was a bad Artpe!
“Be quiet, Maetel. I’m trying to assume the Quest Reward. Usually, not even dogs interrupt that process.
However, Artpe replied as if he had predicted Maetel would become angry. She immediately shut her mouth. She was overwhelmed by Artpe’s attitude. She had no idea what made him so angry from the start, but Artpe was incredibly scary right now….. He also looked a little bit cool.
After he quieted Maetel, he firmly gripped the coin he extorted from the girl. He put the coin away, and after he blinked once, he stood up.
Then he spoke clearly towards the girl.
“All right. I’ve accepted your Quest reward. Your payment in advance was 100%, and your balance is 0%. I will undertake the Quest starting now.”
This was the very first Quest he had accepted in his lifetime.
“Our account is all settled now, so we are going to go find your dongsaeng”
Aena blinked her eyes as if she couldn’t believe what she had just heard. However, Artpe didn’t hesitate. He put on his robe.
In truth, he was very sleepy, so he wanted to lie down. However, he could always sleep later. He felt restless right now. It felt as if he wouldn’t be able to take it if he didn’t move right now. This was why he prodded Aena into action in annoyance.
“Why are you standing there doing nothing? I’ve received the reward, so I’m going to do the Quest. Are you deaf?”
“Ah, no. But….!”
“I’m going to go find your dongsaeng starting now. I’ll somehow find a way to track him down, and I’ll return him to your side. Are you sure you want to set this as the condition that will complete the Quest?”
“······ah. Ah. Ah.”
The girl finally understood what was going on. Until a moment ago, she had thought this young magician was trying to steal her money. However, he was saying he would really find her dongsaeng in return for that coin!
Even after thinking over it, the situation didn’t make any sense to her, so she wondered if he was lying. However, Artpe was looking at her with sincere eyes, so she couldn’t ask him if he was lying to her.
This was why she decided to trust Artpe.
“T…thank you very much! I…I don’t know how I should express my thanks….”
“You can thank me after I find and return your dongsaeng safely to your side. I hope I’m not too late, but……”
Artpe grinded his teeth as he took in the sight of the girl again. He activated his Read All Creation ability, and her status was revealed to him.
[Level : 1]
[Curse : The process changing into low Class Magic Type Foreign Species 1%]
[Drank water containing Cursed Mana four days ago.]
‘Which son of a bitch did this…..’
Could a person be turned into a monster? The correct answer was yes. It was easy for corpses in places with negative Mana to come back as zombies or ghouls. Then there were voluntary methods that would allow one to become a Death Knight or a Lich.
Amongst the Curses, there were a decent amount that turned a subject into a monster. Currently, a curse that turned a person into a monster was placed on her. This was the most representative example of someone violating a human’s free will.
He had expressed this sentiment before, but this was the type of nonsense he hated the most.
The sound of his teeth grinding could be heard.
“As expected, Artpe is kind. You always told me ‘A person should always be precise in one’s calculations!”
“Nope. My calculations were precise, right?”
“Pi. Liar. Artpe is just embarrassed.”
Artpe smirked as he started spouting bullshit towards Maetel.
“Listen well, Maetel. The value of an item is relative. Basically, if I think my calculation is correct, then it is correct.”
This was why the Quest Reward was important. If judged in an objective manner, even if something was worth a lot, it wouldn’t be worth much to him if it wasn’t something he needed. The balance in his calculation would be skewed. It was most definitely a tortuous way of thinking, but it was an absolute rule he followed.
“So what about you, Maetel?”
Artpe tapped his chest. It was the pocket where he put away the bronze coin.
“Is 1 Bronze enough for you as a Quest Reward?”
Maetel looked into Artpe’s rage-filled eyes. She wondered why he was so angry. She thought maybe she’ll be able to find out the underlying reason if she carried out Aena’s request with him.
She always wanted a deeper understanding of Artpe. She was sure this request would move her a step closer to her goal.
If she was able to do so, that was a reward in itself.
“·····Yes. It is more than enough.”
“All right. We’ll carry out the Quest at the same time.”
The two held hands as they immediately rushed out of the room with Aena in the front. They arrived at a very small hut, and numerous townspeople were crowded inside the hut.
“M…magician-nim. In truth, my son was also…..”
“My d….daughter was captured. Those soldiers took all of the nearby children saying they need to check thoroughly…….!”
“I beg of you, mage-nim. Please! Our children!”
Everyone had similar stories to Aena. When Maetel saw the crowd of people, she wondered why they hadn’t come along with Aena. Why had they remained outside? Maetel had a puzzled expression on her face, but Artpe already had a good grasp of this situation.
Aena was probably sent to them as a representative of the townspeople, who had lost their children. They wanted to make the request, but they were too afraid to meet with Artpe. This was why they had pushed forward the youngest and weakest amongst them to speak to Artpe.
Even amongst the weak, there was always someone that was weaker than the others. This was why people like them always insisted on sacrificing the weakest amongst them. When it looked as if Artpe had accepted the quest, they finally scrambled to meet him.
Artpe spoke firmly towards the townspeople surrounding him.
“I want everything you guys own.”
“W…what? But you only wanted one bronze from Aena….”
“I received her entire net worth. I have to be fair in receiving the Quest Rewards. So are you going to request a Quest from me? Or maybe…. Shall I extract the price with my own hands?”
Everyone gathered at the location was struck dumb. They didn’t need to look at Artpe’s twisted smile to know that he was serious about his words.
For some reason, the young mage was very angry right now, and if they were rash in provoking him, their missing children wouldn’t be the only problem they would face. The townspeople realized that they might be sent to a place where they would never be able to return from.
“We’ll bring it!”
Everyone quickly ran into their homes. Artpe spat on the ground as he saw their backs, and he turned to look at Maetel. It looked as if she was still having a hard time completely understanding the situation.
“You would do well to watch this carefully. A crappy hero goes house to house to seize goods. A veteran hero like me makes the townspeople do my work instead.”
“······Artpe looks like a really bad guy, but you look so cool that I like it anyways.”
Artpe wasn’t a veteran hero. He had merely been one of the Four Heavenly Kings in his past life yet he was shit talking in a confident manner. Maetel let out an opinion that was bit strange for a hero to say. When Aena looked at both of them with a dumbfounded expression, Artpe let out a bitter laugh as he asked her a question.
“Do you have any clues as to where your dongsaeng was taken…. Of course, you don’t.”
“Yes. I just know that he was dragged away by the soldiers…….”
Aena once again had tears in her eyes as she lowered her head. As if Artpe had expected this, he nodded his head. He easily organized the situation in his head.
This incident began when the heroes were born. The palace tried to acquire them, yet they had failed. This brought instability to the throne. This allowed the Archduke to be successful in his rebellion, and the throne was stolen.
The Archduke probably unleashed all the soldiers in this region to search for the runaway crown prince and the heroes. He might have mobilized all the soldiers inside the country. If he wanted to build a firm foundation for his power, the archduke had to kill the crown prince. If he wanted to gain legitimacy for the throne, he had to procure the heroes.
Artpe could somewhat see the natural flow of events. However, there were two problems that he couldn’t explain.
First, the soldiers were capturing all young children to check up on them. Secondly, Aena and maybe other children were being cursed through the drinking water. The curse placed on them would turn them into monsters.
Of course, these two problems might have nothing to do with each other.
The Archduke might be doing a thorough job by gathering all the children. The girl might have been unlucky in having a curse placed on her. The curse might not have anything to do with the other captured children.
‘Still, I used to insist everything will go well before I suffered crushing defeats. I had enough of that in my days as one of the Four Heavenly King inside the Demon King’s army.’
This was why Artpe decided to assume the worst. It might not just be Aenea or the children of this town. Maybe, all the children in this country were cursed.
He entertained the possibility of the people, who cursed the children, might have ties to the Archduke. They might be acting under his order.
‘If we are lucky, it might just be a simple black magician. If we are unlucky, it’ll be the Demon king’s army. If my past life is any indication, the Demon King didn’t use such a full-scale tactic at this point in time……’
He shouldn’t just take it for granted that something won’t happen, because it hadn’t happened in his past life. No, he had to be more vigilant for that eventuality.
Moreover, the world that had restarted thanks to his high rank ability didn’t exactly match up with his previous life. If he domineered over others by clinging to old memories, he might die an ignominious death that was befitting the weakest amongst the Four Heavenly Kings.
‘I’ll work under the assumption that there is a connection between the Archduke and the Demon King’s army. If so, I have a possible motive as to why the Archduke captured all the children of this town. The Demon King’s army may have used this opportunity to infect the children with the curse, and they are using the soldiers to collect them….’
What were they planning to do with the children, who were turned into monsters? He didn’t even need to ask that question. The general population would fall into chaos, so the Demon King’s army would have achieved its goal. Anything that happened afterwards was a bonus.
Artpe looked at Aena, and he thought how unlikely all of this was. If they hadn’t come to this town… No, if he hadn’t frightened away the soldiers, it would have been Aena’s turn to be taken away.
There weren’t any cursed children left in the town besides Aena. If she wasn’t here, he wouldn’t have been so aggressive in jumping into this matter. He wouldn’t have budged no matter what anyone would have said to him.
Basically, a small flame he had created at a whim had turned into this Quest.
“….so this is what it like to be a hero.”
Artpe shut his eyes as he mumbled to himself.
When he researched the progress of the hero in the past, he had wondered why trouble seemed to follow the hero. Now that he was the person directly involved in the matter, everything was falling into place.
He had no more excuses. Their actions forged the future. It sounded as if he was using circular reasoning…. Ah, it couldn’t be. He probably wasn’t.
At that moment, it became noisy outside. The townspeople had brought their ‘entire fortune’
“M…magician-nim! We brought it all! This really is all our fortune!”
“It really is tough to make a living these days, so this is all we have. We are telling you the truth….!”
“Will you really find my child just from receiving this? I feel ashamed to say this is all we have….·!”
When everyone gathered, Artpe opened his eyes.
He didn’t plan on going through all the stuff brought to him by the people. He just wanted to punk them for their disgraceful behaviors. He planned on saving the blameless children from the start.
Of course, he couldn’t outwardly express such an attitude.
“You should all give your thanks to Aena. You were too scared to meet me even though your children were captured. If it wasn’t for Aena’s bravery, I wouldn’t have cared if your children died or not.”
The townspeople flinched at his venomous words. His words also struck a nerve.
It should be enough to bring them to their senses. He hoped it was so.
“All right. After this, I’ll include all of you as clients. I’ll return your children… Huh?”
He was indifferently gathering all the ‘fortunes’ gathered by the townspeople when he saw a black pebble amongst the items. His eyes widened. A village woman flinched, and she spoke as if she was giving an excuse.
“M…my husband found it in the past! It was so pretty that I was hoping it was an expensive gem….. I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
Artpe firmly shook his head.
“There is no way this is a gem, ajumma.”
“I’m sorry! I’m really sorry! Please my son….!”
Artpe had a twisted smile on his lips as he picked it up.
He didn’t know if it was fate or inevitability. It might be either, but….. Ah ah. This was quite fun.
“Its outer appearance looks like a gem, but this is something much more important. Rejoice, ajumma.”
“You saved all the children.”
[Obsidian of Greed]
[A magical stone that sucks in all curses. If it contains a curse, it doesn’t differentiate between Mana or a physical object. It absorbs and stores the curse. It can be used as activation ingredient for certain special curse magic. The amount of curse and the quality of curses will determine how much of a boos the magic spell will receive. Currently, the stone is empty.]
Artpe’s purple eyes confirmed the true nature of the black stone, and he once again let out a laugh.
He didn’t care who was pulling the strings to this plot. The idea of thoroughly crushing all of them made him so happy that he couldn’t stop his laughter.
It was the first sortie for the rotten hero.