Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 7: Father
“What are you talking about?” Oliver asked blankly. He just woke up, and his brain buzzed like a honeycomb, feeling pain as it overflowed from every bone in his seams. The misty dizziness disappeared as he shook his head, and Nemo’s voice sounded a lot clearer.
“I just said that Miss Savage gave us a proposal.” Nemo sat beside him. He was a little blue, while the gray parrot sat on his head. “She suggested that we mix into Noer and then qualify for a black badge.”
“It turns out that you humans call ‘I’ll kill you if you don’t do this’ a ‘suggestion’?” The gray parrot jumped a few times. “I’ve learned something new.”
“Black badge?” Oliver turned his head and looked at the female warrior who was maintaining her weapon, “But we don’t—”
“I’m not interested in whether you’re innocent or not. I’m pretty sure my conscience is not worth three thousand gold coins. It’s just a transaction.” Ann rubbed her cloth on her hunting spear harshly. “Noer’s black badge certification has three days left. That’s why I rushed back to check on this matter. It doesn’t matter if you disagree. Regardless, I’ll get it.”
“Do you prefer I exchange your heads for gold coins?” The corners of Ann’s mouth turned up, but there was no smile in her amber eyes. “Look, I think this deal is very good. With me, you’re guaranteed to pass. What you have to do is very simple. Form a team and let me join it.”
“You should already belong to a team though,” Oliver coughed a few times, but his throat was still dry and itchy.
“Yes, it’s a pity that everyone’s dead. I have to find a new team to register with. That’s the rule,” Ann said. Her face didn’t look sad.
“Why did you choose us?” Oliver stared at the heavy hunting spear with fear. “…Uh, I mean, it sounds really good. I’m just a little curious.”
“I don’t like to act with others. I tried a team of refugees, and they either died too quickly or disbanded too soon. The criminal team lasted longer, but it was a pity that most of them were unpleasant scums,” Ann explained calmly. “You don’t look like the kind of trash who likes to cause trouble. There are many people at the ‘dangerous’ level who are more or less capable. It should be okay to do some low-level tasks and I can live in peace for a while. I’m betting three thousand gold coins on my intuition.”
“I think it’s okay.” Nemo moved in Oliver’s direction, muttering in a very spineless voice. “If you can live for one more day, it counts as another day.”
“I have no problem.” Oliver responded in a low voice. “With three thousand gold coins on the line, it’s better to promise before she changes her mind.”
“What the hell is a black badge?” The gray parrot squeezed between them, its’ ass almost hitting Nemo in the face.
“Second-class citizen or cannon fodder.” Nemo grabbed the bouncing bird and put it on the ground. “Choose one that you can understand.”
Although the black badges were given out under the Mercenary Guild, which should sound appealing, they were essentially cannon fodder. There were many small countries on the mainland with a constant war raging. With the laws of each country being different, it directly led to criminals and refugees fleeing everywhere; the former to evade legal sanctions, the latter to beg for food. If they were inattentive, they would eventually become the former.
Once people cross the border, official negotiations become extremely troublesome. The current president of the Mercenary Guild, Pollock, was a good example. Before he was president, he secretly raised intermediate-level demons in the capital of Alban, and his wanted level soared to ‘outlaw’ after he was discovered. Seeing that things weren’t going well, Pollack quickly absconded to Willard, the enemy country of Alban. Unexpectedly, in the days that followed, he became prosperous and climbed the social ladder, eventually becoming an extremely wealthy man.
Alban persistently tried to extradite people back, resulting in raising tensions between the two countries to the point that they almost extended their front lines.
After Pollack became president of the Mercenary Guild, he created a system where refugees and criminals could pass the Mercenary Guild’s test and obtain a black badge that could be used in lieu of one’s identification documents from the country where they were originally from. It was just that what they could do was tightly restricted. Most jobs were either troublesome or dangerous, which legal citizens would be unwilling to deal with, and the taxes and commissions for them were surprisingly high.
Black households without identity certificates could hardly live a normal life, so even if the jobs were terrible, a considerable number of new black badges were born every year. In fact, even without Ann’s “suggestion”, they would’ve embarked on this path sooner or later, unless they really wanted to break the jar and become actual villains in exile.
“We agree,” Oliver said. “What do we need to do now?”
Ann tapped her chin with her fingers, then whistled, causing the white horse to run over. She took a sword from a leather bag hanging from the saddle and handed it to Oliver.
“This kid said it was you who cut down the wolfhound. Have a look.” She clenched her spear. “If you make any superfluous moves, I won’t mind stringing you up and dragging you to Noer.”
Oliver licked his chapped lips. “Actually, I don’t know what happened last night.”
He really had no impression.
“Oh, where did you get so much shit!” When he saw the opportunity to prove that he was telling the truth, the gray parrot became excited. “Just cut it! Why don’t I help you brew your emotions—”
Before Oliver could say a word, a hapless spider-dog appeared out of thin air. The spider-dog kicked its eight legs angrily, trying to bite Oliver’s face. Oliver only felt the tips of his hair stand up, and without a second thought, he raised the hand that was holding the sword.
However, this was just an ordinary sword.
The spider-dog grabbed his right arm and opened his mouth again to bite. Oliver panicked as he was quite sure he was about to lose his right arm, so he hurriedly made up for the blow with his left arm, sweeping the spider-dog onto the ground as he gasped for breath.
Ann didn’t say a word as she stood by, watching with interest.
How did he swing the sword last night? Oliver desperately recalled how he felt at the time. He gritted his teeth and stabbed at the spider-dog again. As a result, he almost stabbed himself.
Before the sword could pierce, countless icicles formed, stretching frantically forward along the tip of the sword. The spider-dog was directly blasted into the soil, but the icicles did not stop there. It exploded as soon as it touched the ground, bursting out a huge, hideous, and transparent ice flower. The sharp petals had icy thorns pointing in all directions, and the shortest one was more than one meter long.
These cold thorns had no self-awareness. Oliver’s failure to stab the spider-dog almost made him poke one of his eyes out on one of the sharp icy thorns. Oliver took a few steps back and almost tripped over some weeds behind him as he leaned back. Nemo quickly rushed up and supported him.
The moment the icicle burst open, the sword was shattered into several pieces, and at that moment, only the hilt of the sword was frozen in ice, looking awkward. The fine ice chips drifted into the air, causing the temperature to drop a few degrees in the sultry summer.
“Although the style was a bit different, the wolfhound was basically finished like this.” The grey parrot explained affectionately to Ann. “You see, I’m an honest demon. I’m just here for the view!”
“Three thousand gold coins…” Ann stared at the huge pile of ice spikes with an ugly expression on her face. “How cheap.”
Nemo was holding Oliver from behind, and when he first touched him, Oliver’s short light brown hair buried into his face. His nose was sore from being hit, and he wasn’t sure if he was bleeding. Fortunately, the medicine Ann gave had a good effect. Oliver was no longer burning up like a human charcoal. He quickly stood up before Nemo couldn’t support him any longer and coughed a few times.
“Thank you.” He turned around. His face wasn’t shocked but was frowning slightly.
Nemo rubbed his nose, trying to conceal his somewhat stiff expression of shock. “Oliver, you—”
“I changed my mind.” Before he could utter half the sentence, Nemo was cut off neatly by a low female voice.
Nemo turned his head abruptly; his movements were so large that he almost twisted his neck. At this moment, he wholeheartedly hoped that this sentence was not what he thought it meant.
“Take it easy.” The female warrior’s expression was serious. Her tone wasn’t as relaxed as before. “I’m not going to kill you. Now it seems that I’ve missed my best chance.”
Nemo found that his arm was grabbed by Oliver and was pulled behind him. Whether it was intentional or not, it made him a little inexplicably angry that he slapped Oliver’s hand away and instead stood in front of him.
Ann sighed, “Sit down, you two. We need to have a good talk.”
Nemo and Oliver looked at the hunting spear in the female warrior’s hand at the same time, without moving a step.
Ann didn’t say anything. She thrust the spear hard into the ground and took the lead to sit down. “That brown-hair kid, Oliver Ramon, right? You have a bit of foundation, but your movements are too rusty. I’m really curious. Even a blind man won’t miss this talent. What was your teacher thinking? For Alban to let go of this kind of talent… If he knew about this, the bishop of your area would probably pull his hair out.”
“I gave up very early.” Oliver thought for a moment, while still standing. “Because I… Don’t like it very much. My father also said it’s not a big deal. If I didn’t want to learn, I didn’t have to. That was all.”
“No big deal? I have been in this business for nearly 20 years. To be honest, I haven’t seen many at this level,” Ann raised her voice, “Forget about the demon-boy. Abyssal magic is as indistinguishable as wild mushrooms. I can’t judge it well, but you’re a purebred human, right?”
For a moment, Nemo felt that he had been classified as a parrot hybrid.
“Yes,” Oliver answered with incomparable firmness. “Is there a problem?”
“It seems that you two have no idea about the world outside of Roadside Town,” Ann said. Her face didn’t look good. “You’ve been living a good life safely and steadily, no? I’m really curious if your teacher is someone who has seen the world. It’s impossible for you to be so leisurely—”
“His father… There are no problems with his teacher’s character.” Nemo interrupted the female warrior’s words, and the inexplicable unhappiness became more apparent, as real as the melting ice on his skin. “You’re right. I was the one who implicated this guy. He could have lived a leisurely life, but it’s not because of anyone’s ‘educational mistake’.”
Ann turned her sharp gaze to him causing her nose to flutter quickly. When she spoke again, her voice was calm. “Your teacher is your father? Interesting. Now that I’m interested, tell me what you did last night,” she said. “I’m familiar with that expression. It looks like two groundhogs whose holes have been trampled on, confusing and scaring them to death.”
It’s a pity that Ann Savage’s nearly two decades of experience did not help her much in putting together their somewhat faltering narratives.
“I can probably guess what happened to your father.” Ann rubbed her lower lip. “If he wasn’t the one who summoned the deadwood jellyfish, he must have forcibly transferred the summoning ceremony to himself. I have seen this kind of deadly, completely laborious, and thankless practice.”
“What do you mean?” Oliver had already sat down honestly during his narration, only leaving Nemo, who was still standing stubbornly.
“For higher-level demons, the first thing they do after being summoned is to attack the summoner.” Ann said. “In simple terms, creatures with brains are reluctant to do the biddings of others. They need to confirm the strength of their future master. If the summoner is too weak, it means that they probably won’t get many benefits. If the summoner is killed, the demon can be free to eat and play to their delight before returning to the Abyss.”
She glanced at Oliver. “A powerful person can’t summon a deadwood jellyfish. If I guess correctly, the summoner was probably eaten to the point where there was only residue left. Your father probably forcibly transferred the summoning ceremony while the monster wasn’t completely free yet… Most likely to protect the town.”
“The next part is where I can’t figure it out,” Ann said, leaving no time for Oliver to ask questions. “The key point is that, according to records, only demon warlocks are capable of forcibly transferring rituals. Was there anything abnormal about your father?”
“I swear not. My father has absolutely no abnormalities.”
“Then there is only one possibility left,” Ann said. “A superior demon who obtained a human body can do it too.”
“Impossible!” Before Oliver could respond, someone screamed for him. The gray parrot swaggered over, its tone full of confidence. “I’ve seen that man. It’s impossible for him to be a superior demon! If he was, I would definitely detect—”
“You are?” Ann raised her beautifully shaped eyebrows at it. “What do you mean you can detect and suppress it?”
“Bah,” the grey parrot shot back contemptuously. “We rely on the aura of our peers! If we don’t want low-level garbage to find out, there are ways, but you can’t hide it from a demon on the same level.”
Ann took a deep look at it, then poked it firmly and slowly with her hand. The gray parrot exploded with anger and plunged into the shrub next to it, very unlike a parrot.
“Where were we?” She frowned. “Oh yes, Oliver, did your father use magic in front of you?”
“He did, but only once,” Oliver said. “It was a very ordinary illusion. I don’t think that can be used as a reference.”
Oliver didn’t seem to be shaken by Ann’s statement. Nemo suspected that he didn’t intend to believe this statement at all in the first place, and he could relate to this sentiment. The only thing Old Ramon might harm are mosquitoes passing through Roadside Town with his own hands. Even the raw meat at the inn was already prepared; it was purchased from the local butcher. Their share of shock in the past two days had long been overdrawn, and they didn’t need more additional blows.
“Alright.” Ann noticed their unhappiness. She raised her hands and made a gesture of conceding defeat. “Then skip this question. After the ceremony is transferred, the demon will also shift their target, which is probably why your father wanted you to kill him.”
Oliver raised his head abruptly.
“Assuming that you are telling the truth and he was really about to die when you met, then the transfer ceremony can only buy the army some time. He probably came up with this kind of plan if he was taking the monster out of town at that time.” She sighed. “If the summoner is killed by a third party during this confrontation, it’ll be deemed as a summoning failure. According to nature’s law, the monster will be sent back to the abyss immediately.”
“I can’t think of any other reason than to protect the town.” Ann shrugged. “I apologize for what I just said. If you didn’t lie, then Mr. Ramon is not an ignorant man and I don’t judge this kind of behavior. At least for me, I’ll never do this kind of thing for irrelevant people… And let my loved ones suffer like this.”
“I can be sure of one thing, boy. Knowing the rules behind demon summoning and being able to perform the transfer ceremony with your own hands… Your father is definitely not an ordinary person. If you have the heart, you can try to find—”
“Thank you very much for your explanation.” Oliver said as he stood up and shook his feet. He gave a non-standard salute to the female warrior. “Really… Thank you very much.”
“But no, I don’t want to know his past. It’s already enough.”