Chapter 41 – Hero VS Kingdom (3)
He had a dream.
It was a land of despair where everything was dyed with blood and darkness. He stood face to face with her on top of a castle wall made through the pain and suffering of people.
No, it was a too one-sided encounter to call it a face to face meeting.
Artpe had already lost to the hero. All his magic spells had been blocked by their magician. He had thrown his daggers in desperation, but an archer with long ears destroyed all of them with her sharp arrows.
Normally, his subordinates were lazy, and they had treated his authority as their commanding general as shit. However, they acted in a way that was incongruous to their past actions. His subordinates fought desperately to protect him, but in the end, they were easily slain by the warrior’s great sword. If they had always done well as they did right now, their actions wouldn’t have felt sudden and unexpected to Artpe. They decided to act in such a way at the last moment, and it almost brought tears to Artpe’s eyes.
“Don’t do it. Wait a moment. Don’t swing that.”
The steel knight, who never took off his helmet, refused to stop. He was about to sever Artpe’s head. However, the hero desperately halted his action.
All the other members inside the hero’s party let out a sigh at the same time. The hero paid no attention to them as she stepped forward. She made a sincere entreaty towards Artpe.
“Please don’t cause any trouble, and surrender to us, Four Heavenly King Artpe Hirtana Kelduke. There is no need for us to fight each other any longer.”
“It is impossible.”
“Everyone be quiet······ Please surrender yourself.”
Artpe hadn’t been hostile towards the hero from the beginning. She was the only one that was aware of this fact. Artpe had watched over the hero for a very long time, and she was aware of this fact too. If Artpe had wanted to, the hero knew he could have killed her a long time ago.
This was why they could be on the same side. She was sure they could be on the same side. They…..
“You speak as if the Demon King’s army isn’t on a campaign to bring peace to the world.”
However, Artpe made light of the hero’s words as he mocked her. His sharp purple eyes were half hidden by his drooping black hair. It wasn’t just the hero. His eyes twinkled as if he was mocking the entire hero’s party.
She asked the question as if she couldn’t understand him. However, Artpe didn’t give her an answer.
He didn’t want to stop the hero’s steps. A heavy burden was already on her slender shoulders, and he didn’t want to add more to her burden.
Instead, he tried to relax her contorted face a little bit. He let out a grin as he opened his mouth.
““Hero. I’m pretty sure a very good looking noonim will be coming here soon, and she’ll be very angry when she sees my corpse. I want you to give her this message.”
His words were very comedic when one considered it to be his last words. It made the hero’s face scrunch up. Unlike her, the members of the hero’s party thought Artpe was scheming to screw over the hero. This was why they started moving before Artpe could finish his skit.
The Warrior unsheathed and gripped his great sword. The magician held a staff that looked too heavy for her even if she was holding it with both hands. She prepared a spell. The archer pointed an arrow towards Artpe. The red haired thief rushed towards Artpe with his daggers drawn.
They all treasured the hero above all else. They wanted to shield her from the fucked up truths that dominated the world.
“Don’t try to confuse her, Four Heavenly King.”
“In truth, I…. Kuh-huhk!”
The dagger scored a clean hit. Artpe had already exhausted his magical energy, and his defensive gear were all broken. His consumable artifacts were all used up. Artpe could no longer put up a fight, so he exposed his heart to the dagger of the thief.
Yes, he already knew this would happen.
“In truth, I’m not too fond of older women… Kahk. Please tell her…!”
His vision was being dyed black. He could feel Etna’s Mana swell from afar. She was the commander of the Army of Thieves.
‘Ah, if I was going to die anyways, I shouldn’t have called noo-nim here.’
He had such useless thoughts as he died.
“This makes you… It makes you seem like a normal person….!”
He could hear the tearful voice of the hero as he was at death’s door. Her voice somehow made his chest burn.
However, he couldn’t turn back the time. This was a story that had already ended.
This was how his previous life came to an end.
Artpe’s Innate ability had reversed the world, and he opened his eyes from within a small human body. He wanted to hurry up and wake up from the nightmare that rehashed the past events……
He heard a female’s scream. It was the voice that he had heard during the last moments of his previous life.
Wait a moment.
Who’s voice of despair was it······?
Artpe opened his eyes. His ears were deafened by the sound. It was the worst kind of nightmare.
He had a harsh expression on his face as he tried to get up. However, his body was strangely heavy, so he looked down. Maetel and Sienna had fallen asleep from exhaustion after they had a territorial fight over his abdomen.
He looked to the side, and he saw Aena who had gotten up early. She glared at him with white eyes. She was looking at him as if he was a convicted criminal.
“······well, I’m popular. What can I do about it?”
Aena’s cheeks were puffed out as she quickly turned her head away. Artpe let out a bitter laugh when he saw her. Then he woke up the two brats that clung to him like koalas. It was time to head out now.
When the morning brightened, the townspeople and the children were led out the town by Artpe and Maetel. Since all of them had packs on their backs, it looked as if they were refugees. Fortunately, it was late spring, so the weather was mild.
“Mmm. We are quite noticeable. That’s great..”
“Isn’t it bad if we are noticed, Artpe?”
Maetel tilted her head in puzzlement as she asked the question. Artpe let out a light laugh as he gave an explanation.
“That only applies when we are exploring a Dungeon where we have no idea if strong enemies are present or not. However, we know that there are only level 100 cast offs inside this region. This is why it would be more convenient if they scouted and came towards us.”
When their enemies caught sight of the group, they would immediately attack the party. In such a scenario, Maetel would be able to cut them down without being repulsed by what she had to do.
Artpe didn’t explain any further as he expanded his Mana Threads into a wide net. This wasn’t something like feeling an ominous feeling when one was being watched or ambushed. He would be able to know who was going to attack him. At the very least, it would allow him to prepare a counterattack.
As he controlled a massive amount of Mana, he directed a question towards the nearby Village Person A.
“So which village is closest to this location?”
“The village doesn’t have an official name…. If we go past that hill, we’ll be there.”
The town didn’t have a name. These towns were so unimportant that it would probably not be recorded in the hero’s chronicle. They went to several of these villages as they gathered more people. Moreover, they cleared out all the soldiers and black magicians they encountered….
The Quest Reward would continue to bottom out.
The thought of it made him sad. However, even if the Quest Reward was garbage now, he had to go through it to get to the next stage of this Quest. This was the charm of a chained Quest, so he had to endure it.
‘Still, I hope this ends before the summer of this year. I want to avoid what always occurs in the fall……’
If he went by the schedule, they had plenty of time. They would have enough time even if they ran in place going nowhere for four years. Even if such delays occurred, Maetel would probably learn skills like Jump and all the techniques associated with it. She was scary like that.
The problem right now was the fact that the world and the monsters changed depending on the seasons. There were monsters that were calm in the spring, and they would cause trouble in the summer. Then there were the monsters that attacked after the fall harvest in the winter. They attacked to steal the food of the humans. Artpe was trying to proceed on a specific route, and there were those on this route that would be affected by the seasons..
‘If Silpennon is able to grow up quickly, I can use him. No, it might be faster to develop this one. ’
On one side of him, a lovely white-haired girl was grabbing onto his sleeve like Maetel. He smirked as he looked down at her.
She was skilled enough to control her Mana, and under his tutelage, she was emitting a white colored Mana. She was moving it around with one hand. Her skill level was better than him in his previous life. She had ridiculous amount of potential. Why were there only geniuses around him!
The genius pouted as she looked up at Artpe.
“This is tiring, oppa.”
“Mana is nature. If you accept nature as being Mana, nature will soon become one with your Mana. It will fill you up.”
“Ok. I’ll try harder.”
Demons possessed overwhelming more Mana compared to humans. After consuming Mana, Demons also had a much faster recovery time. The reason for this difference was the fact that the Demon race looked at Mana in a fundamentally different way than humans.
No matter how much he explained it, humans were unable to understand the perspective seen by the Demon race. There were magicians in historical records that were barely able to understand this truth after many years. This foundation allowed them to be able to compete against Demons.
In his past life, the magician from the hero’s party understood this perspective. It was thanks to this magician that the Demon race’s strongholds in the human world was all brought down. Any Demon that got in her way had died. In truth, Artpe was more afraid of the magician than the hero in his previous life.
“Ah. It quickened a little bit. Oppa, it is as if the Mana is smiling at me!”
“······yes, I see. So that’s how it is.”
In this life, it seemed there would be at least one more terrifying prodigy that would be on par with that magician.
Artpe wonder why such a monster-like prodigy like Sienna hadn’t made a name for herself in his previous life.
He stroked the head of the girl that was smiling brightly at him.
“Ughhhh, Artpe. I….I want to learn Mana…..”
“Maetel, you are already pretty good at handling Mana……”
In short order, they arrived at the first town. The town had been in a rut, since they had lost all their children. They rejoiced when they saw the safely returned children. They also cried for the children that would never make it back to them. Then they became shocked at Artpe’s edict to leave their town.
“I….I can’t do this!”
“Of course, you saved my child, so I’ll give you compensation as thanks. However, I can’t abandon the village…..”
“We won’t force you to do this. However, if you all continue to live like this, the soldiers will steal your children once again. Shall I give you more bad news? They won’t hesitate to torture you for information regarding my party. They will kill several of you as an example.”
“O…our king would never······.”
“There is a different king on the throne.”
The people discussed the topic in a heated fashion, and sides were formed. The people that lost then recovered their children followed Artpe and Maetel’s lead. The rest stayed behind. Since the children obediently followed Artpe and Maetel, the townspeople decided to put their trust in them.
“If the soldiers come asking questions, you guys tell them everything you saw here.”
“I…if we do that, magician-nim will….”
“It’s all right. You tell them everything. You can even tell me what I’m trying to accomplish. It is better than you guys dying just because you hid the information.”
The people remaining behind in the town had rejected Artpe, yet he was being considerate towards them!
Of course, he didn’t think the soldiers would let the townspeople live even if the townspeople told them everything. However, Artpe had given them a fighting chance. He had done enough for these idiots who had basically forfeited their lives, because they were afraid of change.
It took several days, but Artpe’s party toured all the nearby villages. Most towns reacted similarly to each other, and the people who lost their children showed strong feelings towards Artpe.
“My child! What happened to my child!”
“You did it! I bet you killed my child!”
Artpe understood their rage, so he didn’t get mad. Maetel had been restless over the situation, and she had done well holding herself back until now. However, her composure broke when she met the parents of the dead children.
“No, it isn’t like that. When we found the children, they were already…..”
“That’s enough, Maetel.”
They were unfairly placing the blame on Artpe. Maetel had emerged from this tragedy alongside him, so it would have been weird if Maetel wasn’t agitated by the current situation.
However, the truth would place the people in more danger. If townspeople decided to stay behind, they were told the children were kidnapped, and some had died under unfortunate circumstances.
He left it at that.
“I was too late to save them. I’m very sorry. I have no excuses.”
Artpe spoke only those words. Deception and disdain were necessary skills for the Four Heavenly King, but he briefly put away those skills. Right now he had to use an essential skill used by swindlers. He pushed forward with his version of the story. There were omissions, so he wasn’t technically lying.
It was enough.
“Koo-hoohk….. We already know you aren’t at fault. However, if we accept that as fact then who should we hate!”
“Hoohk······ My baby…. My baby…..!”
In the end, many people rejected Artpe’s offer. He was a being that possessed mysterious powers, and that fact was enough for to be ostracised by them.
On the other hand, the people who accepted his help stuck very close to him. Artpe had to be satisfied with that fact.
Still, Maetel’s heart hurt as she took in everything.
“No one here is at fault, Maetel. The people who are dishing out the hate and the people who are receiving the hate aren’t at fault. Sometimes screwed up situations like this occurs. In truth, this is some of what happens in real life.”
The war in his previous life was similar. Even if the Demons didn’t want to fight, they had no choice thanks to the Innate ability of the Demon King. A kindhearted girl had to repeatedly fight horrific battles just because fate had chosen her to be the hero.
What happened in her past life was about to be repeated in her present life. He had no other words he could say except that it was screwed up.
“Ooh-ooooo. All right.”
Maetel understood the meaning behind his words, so she suppressed her emotions. This in turn increased the frequency of her sneaking into his arms when he slept. Sienna unnecessarily burned with a strong sense of rivalry, so she stuck close to Artpe too. It just made Artpe exhausted.
There were a lot of words and troubles exchanged, but all the people were gathered in a week. There were around 2,000 people gathered.
It took them an additional two days to search for a land that would be suitable for them to live on. They ended up at the mid-slope of a hill where monsters rarely appeared.
“So are we supposed to build the town here, magician-nim? No, I guess we have to call it a small city.”
“There are two thousand people here. I wonder if this many people can really live here…..”
“I’ll help you build your city. Don’t worry too much about it.”
A large number of people came here, because they looked up toward Artpe and Maetel. It looked as if Artpe felt a bit abashed when he scratched his nose as he spoke. However, his inner thought differed a little bit from his outward appearance.
‘Since I’ve made a bait this large, a large fish should be biting it soon.’
This was how the city construction started.
The fish became aware of this without delay.