Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 15: The Last Lesson
The gray parrot was tied into a spindle by the vines and looked pitiful. It seemed to have suffered a major blow. After all, no one would think that normal vines could trap an intermediate demon. It swayed around without saying a word while staring at them.
“An expert?” Nemo hung the grey parrot firmly on the top of his staff and rubbed the vine debris on the palm of his hands onto his clothes as he tried to continue the conversation.
Ann, who silently witnessed the whole process of Nemo packing up the grey parrot, was momentarily stunned. “Oh… Oh, I mean you need to ask an experienced cleric. Demon worshippers only know about the demons that have served them. You’ll also run into those who will try to steal other people’s demons. Your demon is relatively rare, so it may cause trouble.” She glanced at the gray parrot, which exuded a lifeless aura. “Besides, I have never heard of a contracted demon who can attack its own master*.”
*Clarity: this is not to be confused with when one first summons the demon to be contracted. They can still attack and test their summoner before a contract is formed, like in the (supposed) case of the deadwood jellyfish.
Only God knows if the contract between them was still valid. Nemo wiped his face.
“Won’t the clergy just kill me?” he asked cautiously.
“Hailam has a confessional church,” Ann said. “The most wildly spread religion in Alban is the old sect of the Laddism Church, and they are the most hostile to demons. The Woden Sect is more popular in Garland, and they will give demon worshippers a chance to repent. After all, some people do not voluntarily cooperate with demons.”
‘Like me,’ Nemo thought bitterly.
“If things go well today, you can choose a mission near Hailam tomorrow. Hailam is the capital, so getting there is easy, but you have to note that the first task is also part of the test. If you fail, you’ll need to take the test again next quarter.”
“What?!” Nemo called out, while Oliver buried his face in his palm.
“My suggestion is to choose a simple one, and I’ll help.” Ann stopped in an area with relatively open grass and arched her shoulders. “Let’s take a break here.”
Her words were like a curse of gravity. Before she even finished speaking, Nemo and Oliver collapsed on the ground together. The deformed staff was casually inserted into the ground with the gray parrot still tied up in a ball, dangling from it, like a cocoon hanging from branches in the summer. The backpack was also thrown on the ground by him, and the area where his backpack had been had long been soaked with sweat.
Ann opened her backpack and took out a few pieces of dried bread wrapped in leaves. Long and slender fingers crossed the air, and several water balls condensed in front of her. She dipped the dry bread into the water, and the place wet by it showed some brown.
“Have something to eat,” she said as she turned her head to hand it to Nemo, but found that the other party had already fallen asleep.
Nemo fell on the grass and was sleeping soundly. His short ponytail was scattered, and half his long black hair stuck to his cheek, revealing a soft image belonging to a scholar.
“Let him sleep for a while,” Oliver said softly. He moved his body and naturally brushed away the hair that was stuck on Nemo’s face with his hands.
“You’re not sleeping?” Ann blinked and stuffed the bread into her mouth.
“I’m used to getting up early in the morning. After all, at home…” Oliver was stunned and didn’t continue. The word “home” had become like a fishbone that was stuck in his throat. It started to hurt faintly every time it was mentioned. He always carelessly forgot that… He no longer had a home.
He gave Ann a reluctant smile before burying his head in the bread.
“I’m sorry,” Ann murmured. “The taste must be very uncomfortable.”
“If they didn’t insist that I maliciously murdered him, I would be willing to be arrested,” Oliver said without looking at Ann. “I am indeed a murderer.”
“How idealistic.” Ann smiled bitterly. “If you ask me, it’s fortunate that you didn’t foolishly throw yourself into their net. If anyone finds out about your strength, you won’t be safe in prison.”
Oliver stopped chewing, frowned slightly, and showed a polite expression of inquiry.
“They cuff a cursed collar on you and throw you to the front lines of the battlefield. Trust me,” Ann said. “Even if you can survive, you won’t be ‘you’ anymore. That kind of place is hell, which is why I can’t really figure it out. The world is so chaotic. How could your father bear to give up such a talent like this?”
“I chose the path myself,” Oliver said as he looked down at his hands. His palms were covered with thick calluses from his daily manual labor, and his fingers were slender and powerful, but they were not the hands of a warrior.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Oliver said. “Didn’t I mention it before? Except for the last… I have never seen my father use a spell once.”
“That was my last lesson. I was about fourteen or fifteen at that time, and my father said he wanted to teach me something new,” he said. “He took me to a cave on the edge of Frontier Forest, our secret base, and then kicked out a man in front of me. The man had a strong body odor and weighed more than 300 kilograms. I still remember the smell. My father threw a sword at me and told me to kill him. The man cried and begged for mercy, even peeing in his pants.”
The female warrior finished chewing on the piece of bread and rubbed the crumbs off her hands. “What happen next?”
“My father said the man had killed his wife with his own hands and turned her body into a potion. According to Alban’s law, this was worthy of the death penalty.”
“Did you do it?” Ann took out a water bag and took a few sips.
“I didn’t dare. It was the first time I’ve seen someone that scared. It was like… Like a whining animal. He said all kinds of flattery to a fifteen-year-old kid and desperately stressed that he was innocent. It was his wife who attacked him, and he just responded in self-defense.”
“I couldn’t do it because he was still alive… I can’t describe the feeling. I was hesitant for a while when suddenly a little girl rushed in with a tracking spell on her. She started crying and begging us not to kill her father, screaming that her mother was the bad one. I immediately dropped my sword and had no idea what to think. After all, my father had never lied to me before, and I couldn’t understand what he thought at that time.”
Ann held her cheeks with her hands and raised her eyebrows.
“After a while, several soldiers came in. One came to protect the girl and the other inquired what was going on. The soldier said the man had controlled his wife and daughter with abyssal magic for a long time. His wife was finally able to break free and wanted to take her daughter away. Their whereabouts are currently unknown. He wanted information about the man’s wife, claiming that he could not be convicted if the body was not found. I thought this crazy lesson was about to end, but when they were about to leave, my father picked up the sword and killed the man with his backhand. A sword was thrust into his chest and blood spurted everywhere. You know what, though? For a moment, I thought my father was awesome. He killed a bastard that couldn’t be punished by the law.”
“The soldier who went to check the man’s heartbeat suddenly shouted, pointing out a witch’s emblem that slowly appeared on the neck of his corpse. You should know… Eastern witches like to deceive men. When their daughter reaches the right age, they will pretend to die and escape, putting the blame on the husband, so that the child can accumulate enough pain to become a new witch. In other words, the man did not lie. He was innocent from the beginning, but…”
“It’s not supposed to appear that quickly.” Ann curled her lips. “Your dad wasn’t taken away?”
“No.” Oliver lowered his head so that Ann couldn’t see his expression clearly. “I was scared to death. Suddenly, the soldiers and the little girl disappeared, leaving only the corpse staring at me behind. My father then asked me a question; he asked, do you know what ‘to kill’ means?”
“’This is just one person. If you want, I can teach you how to kill thousands in one breath, but do you really understand what that means?’ he said at that time.”
Yes, he remembered every detail. At that time, he was just a teenager and was a little complacent about his strength. He often couldn’t help but fantasize about resisting thousands of troops in a heroic war and becoming a hero who was qualified to meet the king.
But it all ended in that dark cave.
“Ollie, you have to know that reality will not give you time to investigate the innocence of each enemy. Girls will not come, soldiers will not come, and emblems will not be discovered. Many times, when you kill a person, you kill part of the truth in this world.” His father’s tone in his memory was cold. “Telling yourself that they deserve to die is the easiest way. If you can’t fool yourself in this way, then try to emphasize how miserable you are—ah, a tragic existence is the most effective self-anesthesia. Of course, if you don’t have a tragic past, then you can preach that you had no malice. Remember, this is a common practice among cowards.”
“Killing itself is never worthy of praise. It should be your last resort, not a tool to show off your strength, and unfortunately, when you find out that you’re wrong, you just have to bear this mistake for the rest of your life. There is no escape. All you can do is take responsibility.”
“And to make matters worse, actions borne of goodwill may not necessarily lead to the ideal ending. The flowers and glory that idlers extol may never appear, and you may be faced with animosity, stupidity, or indifference. At this time, you hold the power to make them surrender. Can you control yourself?”
“If you pick up the sword, then this is all you’re destined to experience. Everyone likes to say that there is a price for doing evil. Let me tell you now that there’s also a price for doing good. Those who can understand this pain are qualified to be called ‘heroes’. I don’t want you to accept all the silly songs and then be disappointed with reality.”
“Answer me now. Ollie, do you want to pick up this sword?”
He raised his sword, which was still stained with the man’s blood.
“So how did you answer?” Ann’s question pulled Oliver out of his memories.
“I said I couldn’t imagine it,” Oliver replied calmly, “so I gave up.”
“Because of fear?”
“No, because I know how selfish and ignorant I am. I can only work slowly by protecting the people around me… I don’t think this requires the power to kill thousands in an instant.”
“It’s hard to say. What if you have to make enemies with the majority of people for the sake of the people you love?
Oliver thought for a moment. “…I’ll run away with that person. We’ll escape together.”
Thinking about it carefully, that should be the only time he saw his father look so serious. Before they left the cave, he had asked his father a question.
“So, all this is fake?” He looked at the disappearing body of the man on the rock.
“No, it used to be true. I just adjusted the scenes a little faster.” There was no smile on Piper Ramon’s face. “I’m glad you didn’t do it, Ollie. You’re not like me.”