Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 4: Starting Point
An amazingly thick giant fir tree grew in the backyard of the inn. It was so high, it looked as if it could pierce the sky. Thanks to it, the Ramons’ inn was particularly easy to find.
Piper Ramon was sitting under the tree, casually playing the ukulele as he was humming the song “Beautiful Sandra”. The afternoon sun cast its rays over the leaves, and the breeze was full of the aroma of plants.
Oliver, on the other hand, held a wooden sword and was laboriously chopping the thick wooden stake in front of him.
“No.” His father stopped humming and scratched his chin. “This won’t do. You have to find an unshakable faith—or else, the magic won’t activate.”
“An unshakable faith?” How old was he then? Oliver pondered. Eight? Nine?
“It’s something you’ll never doubt,” Piper popped a grape into his mouth, “just like your old dad. Back then, I… forget it. In short, once the swordsman begins to deny his will, everything will be over.”
“I don’t want to be a swordsman.”
“Dad just wants to teach you some lifesaving moves. If you’re not interested, you can learn something else.” Piper Ramon winked and smiled. “Don’t think too much, son. No one says you must be a swordsman. What do you think of the ukulele? Do you want to learn it?”
“Who would be interested in that kind of thing,” the young Oliver muttered in a low voice. “What’s the point of cutting stakes?”
Piper couldn’t hold back his smile. “What happened to the stake?”
“The guests would talk about the outside world.” Oliver dropped his wooden sword and wiped the sweat on his neck off with his sleeve. “Those particularly powerful heroes had killed a lot—”
“What do you want to kill?” His father put down the ukulele in his arms. It was rare that there was a lack of emotion in his voice.
Oliver was taken aback; he hadn’t thought about this question at all. The guests would talk about heroes, and the bards would sing praises to legends that made the great warriors in those stories sound terribly handsome, so that it always had an excess of appeal to children.
“Demons, monsters…” he replied uncertainly. “They’re the bad guys, right?”
“In order to become a ‘hero’?” Piper Ramon raised an eyebrow.
“For justice!” The little boy’s voice was loud, as if this was an unshakable truth.
He still remembered his father’s expression at the time. Oliver didn’t understand the meaning of that expression then, as he only remembered that his father smiled at him. Now that he thought about it, that smile was very familiar, as it reappeared again in their final farewell…
A bitter, sad but gentle smile.
What was father’s answer at that time? Oliver couldn’t remember. He only knew that after he had finished the last lesson, he had never picked up the sword again.
Oliver suddenly panicked. He realized that if he really couldn’t recall it, the answer would disappear completely. He had no one to ask and confirm. Those trivial, irrelevant memories have become extremely precious at this moment, but when he didn’t care, they were already blurred with very few left.
The fact that his father was dead had never been clearer. At that time, he had just learned how to play the ukulele from his father…
Then he realized that the sourness in his mouth did not come from his feelings but from something tangible that belonged to the outside world. His head became clearer, and his body fell from the flickering warm dream, smashing into this damn reality.
After Oliver regained consciousness, the first thing he did was wrinkle his face desperately.
“You’re awake.” Nemo Light looked down at him and smiled apologetically. “I can’t help it. The water in the forest is not very clean. Thoreau fruit are a bit sour… but you have to drink something.”
Oliver blinked, finally completely woken up. It was already dawn. The turquoise leaves in the sun looked charming and harmless, and the bird calls were gentle and pleasant. He tried sitting up, but the muscles on his body screamed in pain and objected. His left leg, which was scratched by the wolfhound, was bandaged simply. The wound was covered by linen, and it was still burning painfully and was abnormally swollen. His body felt heavy and weak so that he couldn’t even clench his fists.
Oliver had to continue lying down as he looked at the person sitting next to him.
Old Light’s orphanage and the town library were both on the east side of the town, while his inn was on the west. They rarely interacted, let alone had a friendship, but Oliver was extremely impressed with this person…
Strictly speaking, it was not Piper Ramon who discovered Nemo in the Frontier Forest that year, but 6-year-old Oliver. He had a big fight with his father and ran into the forest out of anger, scolding his unreliable father. At that time, the sun was high, and he was just walking on the edge of the woods, thinking he was safe.
Oliver still remembered how he felt at that time.
He was hiding behind a tree and peeking in the direction of the town in case his father had caught up to him while he wasn’t paying attention when he suddenly felt a chill behind his back, causing all his hair to stand up.
Something was peeping at him. The little boy quickly turned around and pressed his back close to the tree as he swallowed nervously. He saw it at a glance—it was squatting on the ground, with long tangled hair covered in dead vines. Grass, stems, and indistinguishable filth covered its entire body, and only its eyes were exposed in the gap between its hair, staring directly at him. It was the only thing that could be considered clean, but there was no emotion in its silver pupils.
Oliver did what all 6-year-olds would do in fear—he burst into tears. The thing seemed to be frightened too, as it shrank into a ball in place, motionless. Piper Ramon, who was looking for his son everywhere, heard the cry and rushed quickly over and carried them back together.
It was… really shameful.
Because of this subtle psychology and the fact that they had no reason to communicate, they both maintained a state of acquaintance in which they simply nod when they meet. As a result, more than ten years later, he still had those silver eyes that he saw in the frontier forest that day, and now, comically, they had returned to that starting point.
To be fair, Nemo Light was very good looking; he didn’t look much like him. Although he had a strong physique, his skin had an aristocratic paleness to it. His black hair was always a bit messy, and he would casually tie it into a short ponytail that would swish around in all directions. The silver eyes could easily make him look gloomy, but he always had a smile on his face that would make his eyes blossom, abruptly turning the gloominess into casual elegance.
It was a look that was extremely popular with the girls.
‘If he didn’t need to take care of several children, like an old mother hen for so long, he would have received a bouquet of flowers at the Rose Festival,’ Oliver commented impartially in his heart.
But at the moment, Nemo Light’s condition was not easy to compliment. His whole body was covered in blood and grime, and the left half of his sleeve was completely gone, revealing his entire arm. Fortunately, he didn’t seem to have suffered any serious injuries.
Still, Oliver remembered that he screamed last night. As soon as he wanted to open his mouth to ask questions, Nemo grabbed another Thoreau fruit and squeezed all the juice into his mouth. Oliver’s face wrinkled even more severely as it was so sour that he couldn’t say a word.
“Are you still thirsty?” Nemo picked up another fruit with a gentle expression like a child.
Oliver shook his head desperately.
Nemo shrugged and took out the small packet of butter from his bag. After carefully cleaning the blood stains on it, he stuffed it into Oliver’s mouth.
“The wolfhound didn’t follow us,” he said. “It’s still safe here for the time being… probably.”
“That puppy is dead.” The gray parrot, who had finally learned how to fly, swooped over, and grabbed a Thoreau fruit with its claw then flew above Oliver’s face and released it. Oliver suspected that it was practicing its aim. “It seems that you are still useful.”
Nemo caught the fruit that was about to hit the bridge of Oliver’s nose with one hand and skillfully grabbed the parrot with the other and threw it aside. The swelling on his right wrist seemed to have disappeared without a trace.
“The blinding lasted for most of the night.” Nemo continued, “I didn’t dare to stay there long, so I kept dragging you forward… It didn’t catch up to us, so it might have been seriously injured.”
“It was killed by this gingerbread head,” the grey parrot said as it used its beak to clean its feathers. It seemed that it was getting more accustomed to being a bird.
“He has a name, Oliver Ramon. Not ‘gingerbread head’.” Nemo rolled his eyes. “Just like I’m Nemo Light, not a ‘once-in-a-century idiot’. If you call our names wrong again, I’ll pluck out all your feathers.”
“Your injury?” With the butter melted in his mouth, the sour taste finally became less unbearable. Oliver hurriedly spoke. “Last night, I heard you… um, scream.”
“I don’t know either.” Nemo scratched his head. His hair was covered with clotted blood, looking very uncomfortable. “Maybe I was lucky, and my arm got stuck between his teeth.”
“Bullshit!” the grey parrot yelled. “I know where my power has gone. Come. Cut off your hand—”
Nemo threw the fruit in his hand at the damn bird.
“Why are you so irritable?” The parrot said. “That’s my power.”
After that, it swooped in and clawed at the back of Nemo’s hand, leaving two gashes behind, causing Nemo to inhale sharply. In the next moment, under the gaze of the two people and one bird, the wound healed quickly. Except for a small amount of blood that was still stained on his skin, it seemed as if there wasn’t a previous wound there at all.
“Look!” the parrot said triumphantly. “Next time we can try your head. Maybe you can grow it—”
Nemo rubbed his temples and wiped his bloody face. He didn’t seem happy about it.
Oliver wasn’t surprised. A skilled human healer can treat a wound of this degree. Even if Nemo was truly lucky and gained the ability to regenerate limbs, it would not be of much use to him, who has no fighting capabilities. It was like giving a box of gold coins to a person who’s about to die from thirst in the desert. They won’t be grateful for it.
“Oh.” Sure enough, Nemo responded without enthusiasm. “Oliver, can you stand?”
“Sorry.” Oliver responded apologetically, “I can’t move very much.”
Nemo stretched his arm. “I’ll carry you on my back.” He said simply, “You are burning up badly. We need to find someone to deal with your wounds quickly.”
“Don’t be so…” Before Oliver finished speaking, he found that his upper body was pulled up, “…anxious.”
“Hold onto my neck. Don’t be embarrassed,” Nemo said generously, “It’s okay. I can carry you. I’m sure if our positions were swapped, you wouldn’t leave me behind.”
Their sizes were not that much different, but Oliver was slightly bigger. He was worried that he would crush Nemo to the ground, but it turned out that Nemo had some strength in him. He stood up in a single breath, shook twice, and walked forward steadily. He even paid careful attention to the wound on Oliver’s left leg throughout the whole process and didn’t touch it at all.
“In any case, it seems like I have some connection to a demon, so it’s not easy for me to get tired.” Nemo said. Oliver could feel the vibration in his chest as he spoke. “Just keep walking west, right?”
“Yes.” Oliver put his chin on Nemo’s shoulder to prevent him from being poked in the face by the short ponytail behind Nemo’s head. At this moment, the black hair was still covered with reddish-brown blood stains, exuding the peculiar smell of stale blood.
“That bird…” Oliver spoke, completely ignoring the parrot flying nearby. “It shouldn’t be a superior demon.”
“Those who form contracts with superior demons aren’t called demonic worshippers. They are called demon warlocks,” Oliver continued. “One had stayed in my inn before. I heard from my father that there will always be a part of a demon warlock’s body that becomes deformed.”
“Perhaps my intestines have turned bow-shaped,” Nemo grumbled. “Thank you for the comfort. It’s okay. I’m still a long way from collapsing.”
“It’s not that kind of deformation.” Oliver sighed slightly. “Let’s put it this way. The one who stayed at my inn, both his arms had extra joints, and they were long enough that they dragged on the ground. His chest was covered with insect-like feet, as if his ribs had been turned inside out… It’s said that this is a relatively normal appearance among demon warlocks.”
Unfortunately, this explanation was counterproductive as it caused Nemo to tremble and slowed down his pace.
“Demon worshippers are completely different,” Oliver quickly added. “They will only get a little power from ordinary demons, and their body appearance will not change.”
Nemo breathed a long sigh of relief this time.
“Thank you, I feel much better.” He turned his face slightly, and his tone was sincere.
“I don’t feel good at all,” the grey parrot said. “You’re slandering me.”
It was a pity that no one cared about it.
“What shall we do next?” Nemo murmured. “Do you have any ideas?”
“I have never left Alban,” Oliver replied dryly. “I heard from a businessman from Garland that the entry inspections at the border cities are quite strict. As for how long it takes to exchange information about wanted criminals… I don’t know.”
“I haven’t even been outside Roadside Town.” Nemo tried to make his tone sound optimistic, “but since we’re both unlucky now, good luck should be coming our way, right?”
Oliver chuckled. ‘It’s a bit cold,’ he thought wearily. Nemo didn’t seem to be in terribly bad condition, so it was fine for him to take a little break…
With a strange sense of peace of mind, he lost consciousness again.
On the other side of the forest, the garrison of Roadside Town was silent as he stood in front of the corpse of a ratliff wolfhound.
It was reasonable to say that the corpse of any creature that stayed overnight in the Frontier Forest, even that of a dragon, wouldn’t be left unscathed, but the corpse of the wolfhound, which exuded a strong smell of blood, didn’t lose a single hair. The frost everywhere had not disappeared, and there were still traces of coldness despite the summer sun. The trees on the edge of the forest were staggering, compared to what a disaster scene should look like.
A soldier pulled a bloodied object out of the wolfhound’s mouth that seemingly resembles a human arm.
“Sir, there are no fresh human corpses nearby.” The white light conjured by magic and used for reconnaissance disappeared as a solider saluted and reported loudly.
“Look at this,” the captain of the garrison in Roadside Town lowered his face, “which bastard said last night that it was fine to deal with it according to the ‘exception’?”
The soldiers looked at each other, then lowered their heads in unison. They all lived in the same town and knew more or less about the inhabitants’ affairs. What kind of combat power would the son of an innkeeper and a librarian have?
It’s a capital crime to be involved with demons. Sending a wolfhound after them was more than enough to deal with two unruly ordinary people, overkill even. It was just that the wolfhound was so hungry and restless last night, so they intended to let it loose with the intention of letting it hunt for its food after they gave it instruction.
However, when it never came back, they realized that something was wrong and used magic to locate it but found that its sign of life had already disappeared.
“Raise the wanted level of those two people to ‘dangerous’.” The captain ordered, while rubbing the wolfhound’s fur distressingly. He then tore off the silver medal engraved with a location array on its neck. “Oliver Ramon, a murderer of unknown strength. Nemo Light… No longer a suspected demon worshipper. Treat it as if he is one.”
He picked up the fleshy arm, and the fragments of clothing on it had the embroidery unique to a librarian’s uniform.
“Those two bastards are trickier than we thought. Notify Garland’s side immediately. No delay is allowed.”
How Oliver and Nemo met kinda of reminds me of Ike and Soren from Fire Emblem Path of Radiance/Radiant Dawn. Even their classes are the same.