Chapter 49 – Frate’s Festival (2)
Etna, who was the leader of the army of thieves, had her eyes fixed on Artpe. As he met her red-hot eyes, Artpe kept cursing the gods inside.
‘This situation has become a big headache for me now. I wanted to move as quietly as possible, yet I was discovered by Etna. This happened despite the fact that she doesn’t have any Thief type abilities. Either god placed a curse on me or the Demon King placed a blessing on me. It has to be one or the other. I’m sure of it.’
In his estimation, it didn’t seem she was here on the orders of the Demon King. He assumed she wasn’t here for a mission. She probably had come here, because she wanted to participate in Frate’s festival. She didn’t have any of her underlings or equipments with her. There were other evidences that also pointed towards this conclusion. However, there was one decisive fact that gave the most credence to this conclusion.
The Demon world’s greatest chef would never send a midboss so early in the process!
‘Should I have ignored her? No, she would have found me once I decided to stay in this city.’
Of course, his opponents couldn’t find out he was a hero unless they had the help of a high ranking priest. However, it was also true that Artpe couldn’t hide his massive reservoir of magical energy.
She was at the pinnacle of the Demon race, so she probably realized how talented he was as a mage. It really was something annoying, but the meeting between them was inevitable.
‘I have to get out of here without raising any suspicions. I have to come up with an idea. I have to think….’
“I…if you aren’t with anyone, would you like to go have a drink with me?”
Artpe had been very tense, but he came back to his senses at that moment. No matter how he thought about it, she was using a line to pick him up. When he looked at her expression, he realized, she wasn’t paying attention to his magical energy. She was focused on Artpe himself!
“No, I’m here with my girlfriends.”
While Artpe lived with Maetel and Sienna, he had become proficient at deftly turning aside their pursuit of him. He had instinctively turned down Etna. It was too late by the time he realized what he had done. He came to his senses, but Etna already had a sullen expression on her face.
“Is that so······? Women theses days have great eyes. They already placed dibs on you despite you being so young….”
‘It seems she thinks I’m young….’
If she hadn’t been one of the Four Heavenly king, she could have been the waitress A of the neighborhood’s pub. This was how friendly she was towards humans. Even in his past life, she had been very attractive, so she was easily able to make a favorable impression on others. Moreover, she had an outgoing and sociable personality. This was why she had been given periodic assignments to scout the human world on top of her own heavy responsibilities.
‘Once I start thinking about my past life, the memories are endless. She isn’t the Etna from my previous life. I wanted to focus on this present life, so she is the number one person I had to avoid….. Shit.’
“I do have a moment.”
She was in low spirits as she turned away from him. Artpe could have left Etna’s desolate figure alone. However, he thought it would be a great opportunity to be able to gather information about the current Demon King’s army from her. He couldn’t miss out on this opportunity, so he stopped her.
“A cup of tea should be fine. This is my first time visiting Frate, so it would be great if you could tell me about this place.”
The beautiful woman’s expression had been filled with disappointment, but now a smile blossomed on her face. How could she show her feelings so overtly? It was a wonder.
Etna didn’t realize Artpe was already viewing her as a half idiot. She had on a bright expression as she spoke.
“Yes, you should leave it to me. I’ll tell you everything!”
She was the past and current Four Heavenly King. He was the former Four Heavenly King turned into the current hero. It was the start of a weird couple’s date.
Both of them had already done a cursory search of their surrounding. Soon, they decided to head towards a nearby pub.
The pub would have alcohol and other types of beverages. There would be no better place to talk, since they would be within a crowd of people.
“The auction that occurs periodically in Frate is called Frate’s Festival. The size of the people gathered here, and the various specialty items and artifacts that shows up here makes everyone go wild for this festival.”
“So are you here to participate in the auction?”
“Yes. Ah, you can call me Etna.”
Etna told him her real name as a Demon. She acted as if it wasn’t a big deal. If all Demons were as innocent as her, Artpe thought the Demon King would have been killed at the outset.
Since she told him her real name, Artpe did the same. First, Artpe wasn’t a rare name in this world. The second reason being it would raise major red flags later on if she discovered he had given her a fake name.
“Oh my. Even your name is cute.”
“You should continue with your explanation. In truth, I just heard from the innkeeper that it has been 3 years since the last festival.”
“You do know that the Diaz Kingdom was in turmoil recently? That turmoil has died down somewhat, so Frate’s Festival was recommenced. When the kingship of the Diaz kingdom changed hands, the humans followed the king’s example. They went nuts as they shed a massive amount of each other’s blood. Naturally, in the process…..”
Countless legends were born during this time period, and a curse had spread within the kingdom. On top of that, the Artifacts became strengthened. Humans, monsters, Demons and even Artifacts consumed the records of others to grow.
“So you are saying all those Artifacts will show up here to be auctioned.”
“Exactly. These items were reborn through the blood of the people. The people who made such horrors will gather here in excitement……”
It was called a festival. He didn’t know who made up the name, but he had a great sense for naming it that way. Artpe and Etna shared a bitter laugh. It was as if they’ve promised beforehand to laugh at the same time.
She smacked her lips as she asked him a question once again.
“Do you want to have a drink?”
“I really want to, but I’m still underaged.”
“Then I’ll be the only one drinking. One beer!”
He was 14 years old, but his outer appearance didn’t fit his age. He looked pretty mature for his age. Still, he had a youthful face, so he couldn’t boldy order alcohol for himself.
While Artpe became shy about drinking alcohol, Etna tried to down the alcoholic beverage she ordered in a refreshing manner…. She tried.
“Ooh-ehhhk. It’s warm.”
She blanched as she put it back on the table. It hadn’t been her intention, but her action evoked another memory from Artpe’s past life.
‘She’s the youngest daughter of the Phoenix, and she had been blessed by hell fire. She was the pure one amongst the thieves. All flames obey her, but this means the cold rejects her..’
Anything she grabbed started to heat up. This was why she went looking for cold things throughout the year. This was also why he had gifted her an ice sculpture in his prior life. The ice had originated from the first winter of this world. It alleved her need a little bit.
Of course, he hadn’t given her the present, because he had liked her. He had wanted another Four Heavenly King as an ally. However, the gift had been a little bit too effective. It was one of the choices Artpe had made that he always regretted.
She had misunderstood his intentions. Her affection towards him became much more intense when she thought he had liked her….. It also meant that ‘his’ jealousy had also intensified.
“The alcohol is too warm!”
“No way. Our beverages are very cool and refreshing!”
When she voiced her complaint, one of the waitress got angry with her. At that moment, Artpe smirked as he placed his hand on her cup. A faint light sparkled, and in the next instant, frost covered her cup.
“It’ll last until you drink it.”
“No way····· Uh?”
When Etna put her lips on the cup, she became surprised. Her scorching magical energy was still being transmitted into the metal cup, but a cold energy from the cup was neutralizing the heat.
While the heat and the coldness fought a tug of war, her alcohol maintained a cool temperature. It flowed down Etna’s throat.
Etna felt the cold alcohol travel down her throat, and it elicited a deep smile on her face. She moved her face towards the still beaming face of Artpe. Her voice hardened slightly.
“You aren’t going to hide what you are?”
“I felt a powerful magical energy from you. It was strong enough to make it hard for me to breathe, so I know you are a higher caliber of magician compared to me. I’m sure you are able to see me more clearly than I see you. So what would I accomplish by hiding what I’m capable of?”
It wasn’t just that fact. He knew Etna was level 376, and she was the commander for the army of thieves. She was also one of the Four Heavenly Kings from the Demon King’s army. He knew all of it.
Despite all the knowledge he possessed, Artpe was exceedingly excellent when compared to those his age. He was weaker than her. This was why he decided to act like a magician that was naive about the outside world. He planned on being faithful to this role. He activated a skill he developed as the weakest amongst the Four Heavenly kings. He activated his Method Acting skill.
“Didn’t Etna approach me because of that? You got close to me after seeing my magical energy, right?”
“Uh? Ah, uh. Huh? Yes!”
He made up a valid reason for her. He gave her an out where she would be able to justify her own actions. However, she had become flustered by his words. It was a very cute sight where it did not befit her age. Still, Artpe wasn’t into older women, so it had no effect on him! He drank the lemonade in front of him as he waited for her to calm down.
“Yes, your magical energy is absurdly outstanding compared to those your age! That is why I was surprised. Yes!”
“Fortunately, it seems you don’t plan on bullying me after learning that information.”
“There is no way I would have bullied you! Never!”
The surprised Etna started waving both her hands in denial. Even in his past life, Etna had avoided taking a single human life unless she was explicitly given a command by the Demon King. He was confident that she didn’t hold any evil intent towards him. Still, he had asked the question as part of a plan! He was trying to exploit a weakness with his next attack!
“Please I hope you understand where I’m coming from. Suddenly, a strong and pretty noona like Etna approached me. Isn’t it unreasonable to expect me to not to be on my guard.”
When she heard his words, Etna’s smile stretched from ear to ear.
That’s right! She was weak against flattery!
She kept grinning as she nodded her head.
“I’m not bothered by it at all. It’s fine. Yes, I just thought Artpe was coo…… I had a favorable impression of you! Of course, age and skill doesn’t always match up. Still, it doesn’t matter how talented you are. You’ve reached a stage that can’t be reached unless you go through several life-or-death crisis. I just thought that was incredible…..”
“You look young to me, Etna.”
Naturally, Artpe enacted a second wave of flattery. He didn’t even need to see the result. It was a critical hit.
“Is that so? I look young. Mmm. Ooh-mmm.”
It didn’t matter if it was a human or a demon. After a certain age, the ultimate compliment that could be given to a woman was that she looked young! The effect of this phrase was amazing! Her weakness had been assaulted, and the gap in Etna’s defense was revealed!
Etna was so happy that she didn’t know what to do with herself. Artpe’s emotion remained cold as he watched her. He was using all kinds of methods to avoid becoming suspicious to her, and he was buying her good will. He was going to use the advantage he gained to acquire first hand knowledge about the Demon King’s army. This was the only thought going through his head.
“So you really just talked to me out of curiosity?”
“Yes, that’s right …..of course.”
······huh? He thought he saw a single cloud cross her constantly smiling face.
Was he mistaken?
He tilted his head in puzzlement as he continued his conversation with Etna. He had to find out what had caused the conflict of emotion on Etna’s face, so he had to keep her here as long as possible.
“All right. I’ll put my trust in you. So you should tell me about other sights worth seeing in Frate.”
“Yes, I will….. By the way, if I order another beverage, will you cast another spell to keep it cool for me?”
“Thank you! I want another glass of highball!”
At Artpe’s assertion, a smile akin to a full moon was plastered on Etna’s face.
He had done something so simple, yet she was truly happy. She really wasn’t fit for the role of the Four Heavenly King. He let out a bitter laugh inside as he faced her.
Her mouth opened easily.
“If we are talking about what you should do in the harbor town…..”
Around two hours passed from that point.
Their conversation started with Frate, but their conversation naturally moved onto other topics. Etna didn’t talk about the specifics of her circumstances to Artpe. Still, she talked about her everyday life, and she talked about stories that was reminiscent of what happened in their past lives.
Of course, he already knew her identity, so it was easy for him to decipher the current situation of the Demon King’s army through her stories.
‘It seems there isn’t another Artpe in the Demon king’s army. I’m sure about that.’
He had wonder if there would be another existence like Artpe, but with a different name. He also wondered if there was someone different with the same name as him. Neither case was true. It seemed no one in the Demon world was given the same position as what he was given in his previous life. Moreover, there was no one who had possessed a similar ability as his.
He also learned something knew. Unlike Etna’s ranking in her previous life, she was ranked 3rd amongst the Four Heavenly Kings.
She mentioned three beings that were above her. He was sure by the speech and behavior she describe that two of the three was the Demon King and ‘him’. It was the being that was ranked number one in his previous life. The remaining third figure must be the other Four Heavenly King!
‘My existence was completely erased. However, it seems someone else was inserted as the new Four Heavenly King in my place. I wonder who it is? It was someone that was able to reach a higher rank than Etna. It seems nothing is turning out like my previous life.’
Of course, he couldn’t ask her more detailed questions. It would basically reveal the fact that Artpe knew Etna was a Demon, and that she was one of the Four Heavenly Kings. Instead, he let out a laugh befitting his age as he spoke his next words.
“Etna, you are so strong, yet there are others that are stronger than you? I don’t know which country’s magic tower you are from, but it interests me.”
“I’m not from a normal place. It is as you’ve said. I’m strong, but there are others that are stronger than me….. It isn’t a place where a person with a normal heart cannot survive.”
Etna’s voice was as serious as it could be. When he heard her words, Artpe couldn’t hold back a sigh.
It was something he had repeatedly felt in his past life, but he couldn’t believe how lax this woman was. If he wasn’t careful, she would probably reveal that she was from the Demon world by mistake.
Artpe tried very hard not to dig any deeper into Etna’s words. He was barely able to focus the topic on her.
He could see the anguish she had possessed from the moment she was dominated by the Demon King to the last moment he had died in his previous life. It was so clear to him that it was as if he could grasp them with his hand. He didn’t know it, because of his Read All Creation ability. The anguish she was feeling was similar to what he had felt in his previous life.
Maybe, that precipitated it.
He gave up on trying to act like a child. He spoke with words that held a good amount of his true feelings.
“There aren’t that many that is special from the beginning. One starts out with a normal heart, but it gets continuously chipped away by one’s environment. In the end, it takes on a shape that looks special to other people. Others may think think it is special…. In truth, it is something that is egregious hurtful and sad.”
Etna’s eyes turned round in surprise when she heard his words. Then she started chuckling. Her expression looked as if she had been sucker punched. Artpe realized he had made a very serious mistake.
He might have made a mistake that exceeded the ice sculpture he had gifted her in his past life.
“You are an angel sent from the heavens to soothe my heart. What should I do? I’m conflicted. Should I just wrap you up and take you away with me?”
“Please refrain from doing so. You will make my girlfriends cry.”
“······yes, I’ll refrain. However, when I meet you again, I really might not be able to hold myself back.”
As she spoke those words, she got up from her seat. Her chest sensually jiggled, and every male eyes were on her. Her chest was large enough that it made one wonder if they were a burden to her slender body. Of course, Artpe was unfazed.
He was unfazed.
“Artpe, I went through the effort of talking you about Frate, so I’m sorry about this.”
“I want you to leave this city as soon as possible. You should do so with your precious girlfriend.”
“Goodbye for now.”
Her last farewell contained a teaspoon of regret, and two teaspoon of anticipation. Artpe knew she had a secret she was keeping. Etna didn’t say anything further as she suddenly disappeared from her sesat.
Since she hadn’t left the city, Artpe could find her with his ability. However, he didn’t feel the need to do so. He had heard everything he needed to hear.
‘She wants me to leave the city? That means Etna hadn’t come here for sight seeing. That can’t be. There is no way the Demon King would use her at this juncture in time. This city doesn’t have any weird items or people. Maybe, it has something to do with something on one of the boats that will influx into the city……’
However, Artpe couldn’t continue down that train of thought. He was so inwardly focused that he hadn’t been able to properly activate his Read All Creation ability. This was why he didn’t notice the two people that had moved stealthily towards him.
“Oppa, where did you go go by yourself?”
These rascals…. He was sure that their inability to move stealthily had all been an act. Artpe let out a big sigh as he got up from his seat.
“Can’t I spend some quality time alone?”
“Then why is there a cup on the other side? Ah, I also smell a sweet citrus type perfume! Woman! It was a woman!”
“Wow. Unni is amazing!”
Maetel made a sharp observation. At such times, she didn’t seem dumb. She even showed qualities that would make her a great detective. Artpe absent-mindedly had such thoughts as he was interrogated under the clutches of Maetel.
Of course, he had no intention of leaving Frate.
This stage would truly be his from now on.