Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 11: The Causal Relationship Between Danger and Fear
They didn’t run into other candidates again. In their field of vision were just endless trees, and beneath their feet, they had stepped on countless ferns, dead leaves, and slimy mushrooms. Time seemed to reverse, going back to a few days ago. They wondered if it was because Ann had chosen a safe route, as they were not harassed by any dangerous monsters along the way.
A few hours later, Ann, who was walking in front, suddenly stopped. It was about noon. The bright sunlight had turned the stone walls in front of them white. Looking up from where they were, they could see a small cliff above. Countless wide gaps stood upright at the bottom of it. It couldn’t be called a cave as it could barely accommodate a few people.
Ann poked her hunting spear inward, causing the purplish-white lightning to reflect on the moist stone wall. Although they didn’t find any creatures in the gap, they could smell the scent of burnt hair coming out of it.
“A stronghold.” Ann announced this happily, as if she had completely forgotten the unpleasantness just now. Unfortunately, her teammates were still affected by the impact, and they didn’t respond to her. The female warrior raised an eyebrow at the awkward silence. Without making a comment, she began to draw a simple spell on the ground at the entrance of the cave.
The grey parrot got out of Nemo’s backpack and stood on his shoulder as it combed its feathers. Oliver leaned against the stone wall, resting his hand on the scabbard, and stared thoughtfully at Nemo’s face, causing the latter to feel itchy from his gaze.
“Do you have something you want to say to me?” Nemo finally couldn’t bear it anymore. This time he felt, “Oh my god, I have something to tell you. I’m suffocating from it” was written all over Oliver’s face.
“How much do you remember before we met?” After hesitating for a moment, Oliver finally asked, in a serious tone.
“What?” Nemo looked back in confusion, “You have to ask a specific question—“
“Our first encounter.”
Nemo frowned. This topic wasn’t a pleasant one. He didn’t sense any hostility or disgust in Oliver’s questioning, but the faint doubt made him a little flustered. “I don’t remember. Not many people remember what happened when they were only six years old.”
“You grew up here, didn’t you?”
Ann stopped the movement of her hands and glanced at Nemo.
“I really don’t remember, okay?” Nemo scratched the back of his head irritably, almost causing the short ponytail on the back of his head to come loose. “I remember hearing someone talking. There were stars in the sky, and I ran over to the voice and saw you. I don’t remember anything before that. What are you trying to say? Do you think I shouldn’t be afraid of this place, or are you thinking ‘it’s impossible for a child to survive in the Frontier Forest’?” At the end, his tone was inexplicably aggressive.
“…Sorry, I didn’t mean that. You seem to know nothing about it. I just can’t figure it out.”
In fact, Oliver knew that this was not what he wanted to ask. He had seen too many people after working at the inn for so many years. There were monsters wearing human skin, and there were also people who looked like monsters. Oliver prided himself on having a somewhat discerning eye. He was vaguely aware of the source of the discordance…
People’s real fears always came from instincts that can’t be guided or destroyed. Mice that had never seen cats also knew how to run away frantically when they encountered one in the wild. That was something that was engraved in their bones. Fear wasn’t taught. All people could do was learn how to deal with it, understand it, or ignore it.
But Nemo was different.
Oliver didn’t think Nemo himself was aware of this. He fled because everyone would flee, and he was afraid because everyone should be afraid. That discordance was like a seasoned actor performing a repertoire onstage; the feelings were real and infectious, but ultimately lacked something crucial.
This was even true when he faces death. This person seemed like he had given up, but what if that’s not actually “giving up”?
However, he couldn’t ask this question that he didn’t even know the answer to.
Oliver had many friends, many of whom were likable or had unflattering personalities. After dealing with people for so long, he knew that it was impossible for a person to agree with all the opinions of his friends, so he once thought that he could naturally ignore those negative factors and become good friends, or even comrades in arms, with Nemo. They were able to discuss future plans together and support each other through these dark times. Even if they part ways because of something in the future, they could occasionally talk to each other or get together in small groups. According to Nemo’s character, they should have easily developed into this kind of relationship.
But every time he tried to do this, a weird sense of self-loathing vigilance would always suddenly appear, like a cold hand holding his heart. He didn’t like this feeling at all.
Oliver didn’t think that this kind of warning from his subconscious mind would just come out of nowhere. If they were still in town, it would be enough to maintain a good relationship. Now that he had lived precariously, there were many things that could kill him. If he let go and let himself be affected by this subtle fear, the situation would only get worse.
He stared at the silver-gray eyes solemnly. Nemo wasn’t looking directly at him. He stared at the corners of his clothes, as if he was infinitely interested in the stitches on them.
Oliver suddenly had a weird feeling; perhaps Nemo was ignorant of his “incongruity”.
Oliver never thought that he was a very courageous person. He considered himself to be only moderately brave. But at this moment, he couldn’t help but stretch out his hand, ignoring the increasing colic in his stomach that was becoming more obvious because of a sense of crisis, and finally succeeded in grabbing the other party’s hand.
Nemo hated being asked about his past.
He really only remembered the touch of his skin rubbing against the gravel, and the stars in the dark, and perhaps faint singing. There were at least a dozen species in the Frontier Forest that could make people forget themselves, like dementia. Forgetting wasn’t surprising in and of itself, but the fact still remained; a child had survived in the Frontier Forest.
Old Patrick Light didn’t seem to care as he happily adopted him. Every year, poor people or prostitutes would throw babies that couldn’t be raised into the Frontier Forest, so it wasn’t absolutely impossible to occasionally find a survivor. “This guy is really lucky.” The old man would assert and firmly believe it.
He gave the child, who knew nothing, a name and taught him carefully.
“Fire.” He pointed to the beating flame on the candle. “You can’t touch it, or you’ll get hurt.”
The young Nemo stared at the fire as if he didn’t understand it. It just so happened at this time, a child on the other side overturned a bowl of soup, which made the old man get up to grab a rag and candy. Nemo took the opportunity to put his finger into the flame.
‘Very warm,’ he thought.
The girl who was next to him mimicked his actions and put her finger to the flame as well. She burst into tears, startling Nemo, who quickly withdrew his hand. The blisters on the girl’s fingers did not disappear for several days.
Nemo couldn’t help but try again when no one was watching. This time he felt the severe pain of being burned by the flames, and he got a blister on his fingers for several days. After that, he learned his trade and tried to avoid all the dangers that the old man had warned about. He didn’t even have to experiment on himself. Every day, he would witness other children giving live demonstrations of being injured.
“You shouldn’t get close to dangerous things. If you feel scared, you have to run away quickly.” Old Patrick concluded telling tonight’s horror story to the audience of trembling children.
“What is fear?” Nemo raised his hand to ask elegantly.
The old man mysteriously took out a huge dead spider with an exaggerated expression. “Look at this—“
The children’s screams became louder, while Nemo took the dead spider and subconsciously stuffed it into his mouth.
The old man hurriedly took the spider back. For a while after that, Old Patrick seemed to have found an interesting topic. He would change his appearance to scare the kid who hadn’t even learned his words well, but this was a kid who had survived in the Frontier Forest. He was seemingly born without the feeling of fear.
Until one day…
Old Patrick took the children to the edge of the forest to pick berries, but unfortunately they met a mutant spider-dog. The thing slid out of the shrub like a ghost and poked its sharp forefoot at one of the children. The old man didn’t hesitate to turn around and block it, and he was severely cut on the side of his neck.
Blood flowed instantly.
Nemo looked at the flowing blood and found that he seemed to understand what “fear” was for the first time. The old man might die, and he suddenly developed an awareness that shouldn’t belong to someone of his age, along with the realization that there was nothing he could do about it.
This fact made his feet soft, and he felt suffocation in his chest. He rushed forward to press on the wound, trying to stop the steady gush of blood, but to no avail. The other children had already howled into a ball, and finally he couldn’t help but start to shed tears. The old man breathed out, patting him on the head, and made a feeble grimace.
‘You shouldn’t get close to dangerous things.’ Nemo thought. ‘Then he should be afraid of those dangerous things.’
Old Patrick discovered that Nemo Light had become “normal” since he was injured. He began to be afraid of monsters, sharp objects, and the night. Even ghost stories scared him, leaving behind an unfulfilled feeling.
Since then, he really seemed to be no different from others, but Nemo himself knew very well that the order of his cognition had not changed. He needed to know what was dangerous first, and then fear it. He even became a librarian for this purpose.
For some reason, he lacked the ability to automatically recognize danger. He had long attributed this to simple dullness. The flame he first felt was like a thorn that he couldn’t pull out of his memories. He finally managed to wrap his cognition tightly and firmly, but it always stabbed him when he wasn’t paying attention; reminding him that there might be abnormalities behind his lost memory.
But he obviously didn’t care.
Nemo stared at the corner of Oliver’s clothes, trying to drive the candle out of his mind. Oliver’s question had ignited it again, and it became bright, with a disgusting ugly face and a voice that sounded a lot like the grey parrot.
“You’re not normal,” it said.
At the next moment, his hand was held by a cold hand, and Nemo, who was contemplating, almost exploded.
“If it makes you unhappy, I am very sorry,” Oliver said, his voice firm and his green eyes gleaming slightly. “I know my recent actions may be a bit strange… Yes, there are indeed strange things happening to you.“
His palms were still a little sweaty, but his hands were stable and did not tremble.
“In any case, I won’t be scared of you because of it.” Oliver said with great emphasis.
So many mysteries surrounding Nemo.