Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“So Akdios is like a breeding farm for Fulgols?”
“I find it horrifying as well. But this also means that we are getting closer to Akdios. Ah!”
The boat shook once more.
“Are these fish trying to make us fall and then devour us?” Zero said.
I turned pale. “Hey, Witch. You got some Magic that can grill them all?”
“I do, but it involves shooting lightning into the water, so it will hit us too. Using it in this situation will kill us. Besides, we are in a cavern. The impact might cause a cave-in and bury us alive.”
“What a useless witch.”
“Alas, life is never easy,” Zero said. “Mercenary, watch out!”
A Fulgol jumped out of the water, charging towards us like a bomb shell. Jagged, sharp teeth were looming in front of me. Quickly I drew my sword and stabbed the fish through its mouth.
As I discarded the dead fish into the water, Fulgols began swarming the pool of blood and devoured the carcass, splashing ferociously. Each time the Fulgols went on a frenzy, they bumped the boat’s bottom, rocking it.
“Damn it! It’s only a matter of time before the boat is destroyed. But with so many fish, the oars are pretty much useless.”
“Hmm… I have an idea,” Zero said.
“If it’s a good one, then I’m all ears.”
“You are confident in your strength, yes?”
“Are you implying that I have nothing else to brag about besides raw power?”
“I like that skeptical side of yours. But this might be the time to boast about your strength.” Zero tossed the fishing net to me.
I stared at her blankly. “What do you want me to do with this?”
“Fish are creatures that swim with the current, and currently the water is flowing from the sea and into the lake. What happens if you try to catch a fish and pull it out of the water?”
“It’ll freak out and desperately try to escape.”
“Exactly. It will use the current to escape faster. In other words, towards the lake in Akdios.”
I understood what she was trying to say. Frowning, I stared back at her. Her plan was to use the Fulgols as a horse to pull the boat.
“Sounds too absurd if you ask me,” I said.
“With your superhuman strength and willpower, it is possible. If we stay here, the boat will be destroyed and that is the end of us. We have to try it.”
“I don’t know…”
All of a sudden the Fulgols, agitated by the smell of blood, rammed our boat with their mouths wide open. Looks like we don’t have time to think.
“Stupid ass fish!” I roared. “How dare you try to eat a beast?! You’re below the food chain, you fucks!”
I tossed the net, and Fulgols jumped out right into it. I braced my legs. Flailing to escape, the fish started swimming furiously, pulling the boat towards Akdios like Zero expected.
“Excellent,” Zero said. “I expected nothing less from my mercenary.”
“Haha! Maybe I should change careers and become a sailor instead!”
A strained laugh escaped my lips. It was all too crazy. But the presence of the school of Fulgol was proof that we were close to the lake.
“If we keep going at this speed, we’ll be through the cavern in no time. It’s much faster than paddling.”
“We should have done this from the start. We have discovered a new kind of power source.”
Pulled by the Fulgols, the boat raced at an astounding speed. Soon we made it out of the cavern, then crashed into huge rocks and were thrown into the water.
The Akdios lake was calm and glassy like a mirror.
Two figures pierced the calm surface and crawled up to the rocky shore of Akdios Island. It was none other than Zero and me.
“Seawater… so salty!” I said, gasping for air.
“The fish… Their teeth grazed the tip of my toes… So this is the law of the jungle! I was too conceited. I believed I was on top of the food chain!”
How we managed to swim to shore with countless Fulgols on us was a mystery. I drank a lot of seawater, and Zero seemed to have realized what survival of the fittest meant. Anyhow, we managed to survive and make it to land.
Unfortunately, we ended up at the back of the saint’s mansion, where we had to climb over a mountain of corpses. But we were closer to our destination now. Gotta think positive.
“I-It is cold, Mercenary, and it smells of rotten corpses,” Zero said, snapping me back to reality. So much for thinking positive.
Damn right. It was cold and it reeked. And my whole body was covered in blood. I had to kill a bunch of Fulgols while swimming.
Anyone who saw me like this would scream out loud. I doubt I could convince them that I wanted to clean up before seeing the saint in her residence.
“Why is it always like this?”
“Reality is a cruel thing,” Zero said. “Heroic tales are merely embellished for entertainment, but in reality they all involve blood, mud, seawater, and fish guts. I have experienced it firsthand, though I did not want to.”
After drying ourselves with Zero’s Magic, we felt somewhat better. We then headed for the saint’s mansion.
The island of Akdios was surrounded by a forest, so we needed to get through the woods first before we could reach town or the mansion. We trudged through the forest, pushing through tangled branches. When we finally made it out, I saw the tall walls surrounding the saint’s residence.
Sensing the presence of people, I pushed Zero behind a tree and hid myself as well. Two guards were standing just out of the woods. As it was common with bored lookouts, they were engaged in idle conversation.
I heard them talking about how they couldn’t find my body or the priest’s. They had been scouring the lake for days, because they would not be able to rest easy until the Beastfallen’s corpse was found. With the adjudicator dying in the line of duty, it would not be long until the Church officially recognized the saint. Thanks to Ideaverna’s governor, their bridge had been fixed, although temporarily.
“The bridge is already fixed? That geezer sure is something.”
Apparently, that lecher was being treated like some hero for being the first one to send supplies and personnel to Akdios in its time of crisis. He openly supported the saint, while secretly plotting to overthrow her. Politicians sure are terrifying.
We hid behind some trees for a while. Eventually the guards split into two groups and started walking in different directions. Several guards—probably eight—were patrolling the perimeter. Two guards watched four corners of the area, then regularly split up to make rounds.
The two people just now probably came from one corner and met each other in the middle of their paths.
“Let’s get over the fence before the next patrol comes by,” I said.
“How can I climb such a high wall?”
I looked at Zero. She was considerably shorter than me, although not that much. The wall wasn’t that high for me. I carried Zero without a word.
I moved back to gain momentum and dashed toward the wall. Hooking my feet right around the middle of the wall, I lifted myself up in one motion, my hand barely reaching the top. Grabbing the wall tightly, I crawled up and jumped down into the mansion’s grounds.
Before us was a lone guard. Eyes wide open and mouth gaping, his gaze was fixed on me and Zero.
Amateur, I admonished myself. Why did I think there were no guards inside the walls?
“No, don’t shout!”
Right before he could scream, I quickly grabbed his neck and strangled him, taking his breath away.
“I see,” Zero said. “So that is how you squeeze the carotid artery.”
“You strangled him. If you stop blood from flowing through, the person will faint and eventually die because the brain is deprived of oxygen.” Zero nodded.
I had no idea what she was talking about.
“You were doing it without knowing how it works?” Zero asked.
“Who cares about how it actually works? As long as I know what’s happening, that’s good enough for me.”
“You and I have fundamentally different ways of thinking.”
“Well, yeah. You’re a witch and I’m a mercenary.”
I tied up the unconscious soldier and dragged him behind some shrubs. Suddenly, I heard the sound of a whistle in the distance. People were shouting in town.
“What’s going on?!”
“It’s the bastards from Fort Lotus! Get your weapons and go!”
“I‘ve had enough of this! Don’t let any more bandits get close to Her Eminence!”
“Oh, right.” I nodded to myself. “Cal mentioned something about a diversion to draw troops away from the city.”
Torres must have informed Cal of our plan with a messenger pigeon. With the guards distracted, we could move around a lot easier.
I climbed up a tree and headed towards the window to Lia’s room.
In old castles, the bedroom would often be located at the back of the hall, but in a relatively new mansion, finding it would be difficult. Common sense, however, dictated that it was located at the top floor, except for the attic. The largest room was usually the master’s bedroom.
Fortunately, it was nighttime and light spilled out from the windows. It wasn’t hard to figure out which room had people in it.
“You always look alive when it comes to shady jobs,” Zero said.
“Are you saying I look like a dimwit normally?! Look. There’s someone in there.”
Standing on a tree branch, I peered into a room and spotted Lia.
“How will we enter? Breaking the window is not a good idea.”
“Maybe we go with the classics, like throwing a rock at her window? Say something like, I apologize for disturbing you this late at night, Princess.”
“Wait,” Zero whispered, leaning forward. “Something is not right.”
“Not right how?” I looked closely.
She was right. Lia’s back was against the wall, and she had a frightened look on her face, like someone was cornering her. But all we could see was a portion of the room. Someone else was in there with her. In the next moment, we discovered who it was.
“You’re kidding,” I mumbled subconsciously. To my surprise, my voice sounded tight from shock and fear.
A small body. Charming freckles. Sun-damaged brown hair that had been trimmed recently. In their hand was a knife too big for a child’s hand.
“I’m sorry,” Lia mouthed. “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I’m sorry.”
Hatred raged in his eyes.
“No!” His voice was so sharp, it even pierced the window and reached my ears.
He pointed the knife at Lia, intent on killing her.
“It’s my father’s memento.”
I knew his name, and the fact that he hated the saint.
“This is Theo’s mother. She died two days before we ambushed the saint.”
No. If he went through with it, he’d be ruining everything. He still had a long life ahead of him, but it would be tarnished by crime, hatred, and regret.
He smiled and said he wanted to go on a trip with me someday. I will not let him murder someone.
“No! Don’t do it, Theo!”
I smashed the window and leapt into the room.