Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 5: A Question
The body behind him was getting hotter, to the point of abnormality. The woods ahead seemed endless and the crisp birdsong began to make him feel restless. Nemo took a deep breath and mechanically moved his legs.
It wasn’t that he hadn’t thought of a way. He even tried asking for help from the grey parrot, but the annoying bird was not only useless, but it also kept making countless inaudible noises, prattling as if ‘demonic healing magic’ was an incredible blessing.
It was a good thing he didn’t encounter any monsters, so Nemo forced himself to cheer up and move on.
“Bah,” the gray parrot suddenly yelled, “your luck is here.”
Nemo subconsciously glanced around, seeing nothing special, until a dog’s barking could be heard. He hurriedly hid behind a tree with Oliver on his back and held his breath. As the sound got closer, he could hear the wooden wheels of a carriage crushing dead branches and the faint sound of laughter coming from it. It didn’t sound like their pursuers but more like a caravan.
He poked his head a little and saw two carriages not far away, heading in the same direction as them. It seemed to be a small caravan with a small number of people. The coachman’s clothes were the popular style of the Garland people.
Nemo didn’t know if their story had spread from Roadside Town, but he was out of options. Being too cautious, would cause Oliver to die on his back even if he didn’t die from the wolfhound.
“Help!” He chased in the direction of the caravan, yelling with all his strength. “Please help me!”
The caravan pathfinder dogs discovered him first. They were well-trained, so they stopped him by barking frantically at him. The carriage slowed down slowly and two people jumped out of the carriage. Nemo ran forward, stumbling with Oliver on his back. His heart was beating wildly, as if it would jump out of his throat at any second.
He tried to open his mouth several times before he succeeded in making a sound.
“We were attacked by wild beasts.” He spoke rashly and quickly, not daring to take a closer look at their expressions. “My friend is badly injured. Do you… Do you have any medicine? I can exchange it for something.”
“Let me see.” The man with a goatee was the first to speak. He looked at Nemo from head to toe. “Put your friend down.”
Nemo gently lowered Oliver down. The latter’s face was flushed, his breathing was short and painful, and there was no sign of waking up. The linen cloth tied to his left leg had been soaked in blood and pus.
“This is very troublesome.” The man twisted his goatee and raised his eyes. “We do have medicine to deal with this, but it’s really not cheap. What do you have to exchange for it, sir?”
Nemo tore open his waist bag neatly. There was a golden pendant that was firmly sewn into the inner layer that looked heavy and exquisite. Unfortunately, it had encountered many difficulties as the entire pendant was marked and full of scratches.
“It’s made of gold.” He hesitated for a while, opened the pendant, and took out the pictures inside. “Would you take a look?”
The goatee merchant put the pendant on the palm of his hand and looked at it carefully for a while.
“Ann, give them a bottle of decontamination medicine,” he said to the woman standing on the side. “Also get two sets of old clothes.”
The woman raised an eyebrow before taking a dark brown medicine bottle from her pocket. She looked like a warrior, with short chestnut hair, and was tall and heroic-looking. There was a scar below her right eye that was particularly eye-catching, but it didn’t seem to affect her eyes, as those amber eyes were shining and full of banter.
“Get the clothes yourself. Don’t order me around,” She grinned at the goatee man, showing a row of beautiful teeth. “Do you want these two boys to wear women’s clothing?”
The goatee man smiled and shook his head, then returned to the carriage.
“What the hell do you have in this bag?” Ann approached them with the medicine, and Nemo could smell the faint aroma of thyme. “Open it quickly.”
Nemo carefully unwound the bandage, but the pus and blood had firmly adhered to the wound and linen, causing it to make an unpleasant tearing sound when it was removed. He tore at it slowly, his hands shaking unsteadily.
The female warrior shook her head and decisively pushed his hand away. She quickly removed the blood-stained linen cloth, took a metal pot from her belt and poured the liquid from it directly on the wound. The rich aroma of wine suddenly drifted into the air.
Oliver frowned, but still hadn’t regained consciousness. Ann took out a small dagger and cut off the blackened wound that had started to rot, dexterously as if it was cheese, then took out a clean handkerchief and carefully wiped away the remaining dirt and blood clots.
The whole process took less than five minutes until the ointment was finally applied and Oliver was rebandaged.
“It’s actually better to sew it as it’ll heal faster,” she murmured, glancing at Nemo casually, “but this works just about the same… Don’t worry, young man. Your friend won’t die. Give the rest to him and have him drink it three times.” She shook the medicine bottle.
“Thank you.” Nemo took the medicine bottle and thanked her solemnly.
“We’re just exchanging money for doing things.” Ann glanced at his blood-stained face. “What’s the matter with you? Have you wandered into the woods without anything? I don’t think you even have a bag of water on you. “
Nemo looked away in embarrassment.
“Here, take it. This will last for a day.” She pulled out a leather pouch from her waist bag that had water condensation roughly embroidered on it. “This place is not far from Noer in Garlan. I suggest you wash yourself before entering the town. Don’t look at me like that. This thing isn’t really expensive. The pendant just now was pretty good, so it’s worth the price.”
“Two sets of clothes.” He didn’t know when, but the goatee man returned and handed Nemo a flat cloth bag. “Do you want to go with us? It’s hard to carry the sick on your back.”
Nemo moved his lips. “…No, thank you,” he said, as he carefully put the medicine bottle into the package, then held it to his chest. He bowed slightly to the two of them, and picked up Oliver, who was still asleep. “It’s only a few steps away. We can go by ourselves.”
The goatee man shrugged. “Then good luck, young man.”
The speed of the carriages was very fast, and the caravan quickly disappeared from his sight. He hoped that news about them hadn’t reached Garland yet. Nemo closed his eyes and slowly breathed out a sigh of relief.
“You didn’t want to hurt them, right?” He didn’t know when Oliver had woken up, as he asked softly behind his back. His tone was more like a statement than a question.
“Those two people were good just now,” Nemo said. “We’re lucky enough to have medicine and clean water.”
“Perhaps they recognize the two of you and were planning to turn you in to the guards at Garland for a reward,” the gray parrot remarked maliciously as it flew down from the branch.”They just gave you a bag of water. Tsk tsk. What about weapons? She didn’t mention a word, right?”
“I’m a realistic person.” Nemo stopped its chatter angrily. “I just look at the results.”
“Bah,” the parrot said.
Nemo found a relatively clean place for Oliver to lie down. There weren’t many dead branches and rotten leaves, and the ground was covered with thick moss. The air smelled fresh and clean. Oliver seemed to have recovered a little, as he was able to get up by himself and sit down, leaning against a tree.
“Take a break,” Nemo suggested. “We just need to leave this goddamn place before dark. Just in case we need to escape, we have to save our strength.”
“Okay,” Oliver replied quickly.
Then they fell into a subtle silence. The situation was urgent before, so the two of them had no time to waste on interpersonal communication. Now that the tension had faded, the unique sense of awkwardness among strangers had resurfaced. Nemo tried to find a topic, but he didn’t know if the other party had the mind or stamina to chat, so he had to grin in vain towards the air and then stiffly lower his head to study the moss on the ground.
In the end, Oliver, who had been through many hard battles in the service industry, took the lead in breaking the silence.
“Hey Nemo.” He blinked a few times, and his tone was as relaxed as leaning on an oak chair in a tavern. “Are there any girls in town who’ll miss you?”
Oliver almost immediately realized that he had chosen the wrong topic as he saw Nemo plucking up the moss on the ground uncomfortably.
“We broke up.” He sounded a little regretful. “You know, I’m too… Uh, busy. It was my fault.” It was just like any other love story and breakup. Even the reason was ordinary. He had the idea of inheriting the orphanage, but she wasn’t interested, which he couldn’t blame her for because it was a natural reaction.He hadn’t been with anyone in a long time, and he wasn’t as sad as he thought; he was just a little embarrassed when the subject was brought up.
“What about you? “There are many beautiful girls who visit the inn,” Nemo quickly responded to his question.
Oliver instantly understood what it meant to dig one’s own grave.
“None.” He slid down the trunk a bit.
“How could that be?” Nemo didn’t bother hiding his shock. Oliver was pleasant and had a handsome appearance. He looked gentle and harmless, making it difficult for people to be wary of him. He was sociable, had a good temper, and was going to inherit the only inn in town. This made no sense at all.
“There’s a question that I haven’t figured out yet.” Seeing Nemo’s eyes widen larger and larger, Oliver quickly defended himself.
“…My parents love each other very much.” Oliver raised his head and stared at the blue sky that was exposed between the leaves.
“Isn’t that great?” As an orphan, Nemo had no thoughts on this. His only relative was Old Patrick, who has long passed away, and the group of young children who were taken away when they were minors, so he lacked the empathy to relate.
“I don’t think that’s a good thing.” Oliver was still staring at the sky. There was a strangeness to the calm tone in his voice.
“You know, I have never seen my mother. She passed away a long time ago. In contrast, my father…Nemo closed his mouth immediately and looked at him nervously.
“It doesn’t matter, since we’re talking about this.” Oliver obviously felt the other party’s nervous eyes. “We can open up and talk.” Regarding this subject, Nemo was more cautious, so it was better for him to start.
“My father never told me anything about my mother, and there was no portrait or memorabilia of my mother at home.” Oliver narrated it smoothly, as if he was talking about somebody else. “When I was a kid, I was a little curious about my mother, but then I stopped caring much about it.”
“Then how did you know…?” How did you know that they were in love? Nemo didn’t find anything sweet or lovable in the story.
“His eyes,” Oliver said. “The only thing that was left to my father was the ukulele that was given to him by my mother. It had her signature engraved on it. He sometimes talked to it, and it looked like—” he paused, and considered his words for a second. “I never thought anyone could show such sad eyes… How can I put it? It seems like a part of him died with her. To be honest, I think that kind of relationship is a bit scary. Can people really love another person to that extent?”
Nemo opened his mouth, not knowing what to say.
“I have heard people say that when my father first arrived in Roadside Town, he carried a coffin and hugged me in his arms. He had nothing else with him. The coffin supposedly contained the body of my mother,” Oliver continued. “I always thought he was just waiting for me to grow up, and one day he would tell me the whole story, but he never did.”
“He just looked at me, as if he had finally let go of some unbearable responsibility. That was the feeling that I got. I kept trying to persuade him to find a good woman to live with, but he would always change the subject every time. Last night I… I could feel his worry, but I also felt his relief. Why didn’t I talk to him sooner?”
Oliver hugged his arms and clenched his sleeves.
“…How could I not blame him.” He raised his eyes, and his cheeks were pale from the heavy blood loss. It was like pure anger that was finally wringing something out from his heart that had been building up for a long time and was full of bitterness. “If I hadn’t taken action at that time, would he still be saved? Why did he make such a request? Why didn’t he even try? I’ve killed my father with my own hands, and he didn’t even give me a reason!”
“He kept me alive but in the dark all this time. Sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m his family. I know the wine he likes to drink, the songs he likes to sing, and the books he likes to read… But I don’t know his birthday, his wife’s appearance, or how she died, let alone the story between them. I don’t know his hometown, I don’t understand his pain, and I don’t even understand why he chose to die.”
“What have I done…”
He finally poured it all out. Nemo thought. It was the kind of pain that was something he could relate to.
Nemo stared at Oliver as he raised his arm to block his eyes and clenched his teeth.
It was like this. For a moment, he finally found that the last bond between him and this world had disappeared, like a ship that had lost its anchor. The face and voice of the dead fade irreversibly from memory, only leaving behind remorse that would not dissipate, that would become a curse that corroded the spirit forever.
Oliver’s condition was even worse. He had to cut the anchor with his own hands.
“I can’t answer your question.” Nemo pulled the drawstring on the water bag a few times, causing the shriveled bag that was filled with water to gurgle. “I won’t comfort you by saying things like ‘it will pass’. We all know that it’s all bullshit. Take it and wash your face. It’ll make you feel better.”
“Thanks.” Oliver looked calmer. He moved his arm to block his eyes and took the water bag. Nemo didn’t see any tears this time; he only saw slightly red circles around his eyes. Nemo marveled at Oliver’s terrible self-control. In the days when Old Patrick had just passed away, he would shed tears just seeing the old man’s teacup.
“If you’re not going to cry together, I suggest you move somewhere early,” the grey parrot said, while looking satisfied with his flying posture. They didn’t know which tree it had just rushed down from, but it threw a roll of crumpled parchment paper on Nemo’s head.
Nemo frowned and pulled on the roll of paper in front of him, unfolding it. After half a minute, he released it, then buried his face in his palm, showing what depression looked like with every movement of his body.
“What’s the matter?” Oliver still had water droplets on his face, but since it was probably the cleanest part of his body, he wisely chose to let it air dry.
“You know what?” Nemo announced, in horror. “We’re worth three thousand gold coins together! I have never even seen three thousand gold coins in my life…”
As soon as Oliver’s expression eased, it quickly stiffened back up.
“What?” He let out a weak exclamation. “I haven’t seen it either.”
“I tore it off at the gate in Noer.” It may be his own illusion, but Nemo always felt that there was some schadenfreude in the parrot’s voice. “What did I just say, kid? That woman saw this thing and now she’s coming back for you—on horseback, with her weapons, just for both of your heads.”
The author has something to say:
…Yes, this is a story about bending each other!
I have to say, the author’s writing is quite beautiful and well done. Oliver will eventually find out that yes, you can love someone to that extent (hint: he’s right next to you).