Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Chapter 45: The Second Task
The night was dark.
“I pray to you.” The young man’s voice echoed in the cellar. He squatted in the corner of the iron cage, trembling. “Merciful God, all glory belongs to you. Please forgive me for my sins and take me out of this quagmire-“
There were only a few torches in the cellar that were lit. The ventilation was terrible, and the air was filled with the smell of excrement mixed with physical decay. One by one, standard cubic iron cages leaned against the wall with men and women inside that were either sitting or lying down. Most of them were sluggish and quiet. The mud was mixed with dried blood stains. And now, there was a brilliant blond hair that was disproportionate to the environment.
“What’s with that look in your eye?” The man roared, stepping on the blond young man’s neck. “Unconvinced, boy? Have you looked in the mirror? With such a face, you’re still wandering in the Frontier Forest at night; this is your fault.”
“Oh—were you planning to sell me?” The blond young man, Jesse, said lightly. His throat was trampled on, so his voice sounded a little muffled, but his eyes were full of banter. “Please be sure to find a gentle buyer for me. I’m afraid of pain.”
The man moved his foot away and kicked Jesse Dylan hard in the abdomen. “Respect,” he emphasized in a coarse voice. “Respect, little boy. I’m not joking around.”
Long blond hair covered the young man’s face, and no one could see his expression at this time. Considering that the face of the “commodity” couldn’t be injured, the man spat and mended his feet. His strength was strong enough that Jesse let out a muffled groan as he slammed his back into one of the cages. He coughed a few times as blood flowed down the corner of his mouth. The light golden hair glowed like silk from the light of the fire as it fell from his cheeks.
“…You know everything. You can do everything. You spread love and compassion to the world…” The boy in the cage shivered and prayed harder.
The smile on Jesse’s face disappeared, and his expression was mixed with just the right amount of fear. “Please… Please stop. I shouldn’t have looked at you like that. I’ll listen to you—”
“Just know, it’s called the law of the jungle. When you’re locked up in the chains of those noble masters, you’ll have plenty of time to think about what you said. You’ll understand by then that these feet are just trivial. You’ll miss me and cry, gentle Gentry—”
“I think you have a point,” Jesse said without a trace of obedience. He stood up briskly, patted the mud stuck to his clothes and kicked the iron cage behind him. “And you—I just wanted to say, you’re so noisy that it affected my performance.”
The young boy stared at him in horror and anger.
“Gentry, right?” He casually tied up his blond hair and wiped the blood from the corners of his mouth with the back of his hand. “If I recall, 1,800 gold coins? I must say, your performance disappointed me. What else can you do besides kicking people? No taste at all. I didn’t even have a good time.” Jesse’s tone contained a bit of mournfulness.
The short and stout man didn’t have the mind to listen to his nonsense. He instantly pulled out a knife from his waist, and the soil arched slowly under his feet.
But before he could even move, the world in his eyes turned upside down. The beautiful commodity, who was extremely weak just now, patted his hands, and stepped directly on his face with one foot, then crushed it hard a few times with his sole. The bridge of his nose shattered instantly, and blood flowed everywhere. Gentry wanted to struggle, but the foot was as heavy as a mountain, and the pressure seemed as if it would burst his head.
“This is indeed a world that revolves around the law of the jungle. You’re right!” Jesse exclaimed happily.He leaned down, neatly broke Gentry’s wrist, and grabbed the knife in his hand. Gentry let out a sharp howl from his trampled mouth.
“You can’t kill me!” He struggled desperately. After realizing the disparity in strength, fear had appeared in the man’s voice. “I was also forced! Part of this batch of goods will be given to the Abyssal Church. I have children to support. I’ll give you good information—I can give you information, valuable information!”
“That’s really unfortunate.” Jesse touched his chin and didn’t take his foot away. “Intel… Sounds good.”
“Yes. You’re a bounty hunter, right? I’ll tell you everything I know. Please be merciful—”
Jesse burst out laughing.
“Wow—when you’re the predator, you clamor about the law of the jungle, but when you become the prey, you ask for mercy? You’re very interesting.”
He didn’t hesitate and slashed with the knife. Blood spurted everywhere from the man’s neck.
“I think these gold coins should suffice!” he announced with a grin as he held the freshly cut off head in his hand. The headless corpse was still lying in place with blood continuously seeping into the soil.
“…Zenni, give me courage…” The young boy who was sprayed with blood shook like a sparrow in the cold wind. He shrank to the corner of the cage in horror, trying to get as far away from the corpse as possible.
“Are you blind?” Jesse purposefully brought his head closer. The head’s eyeballs were still protruding from fear and caused the boy to scream in fright. “If you’re not, you should see the key is on this guy’s belt. You can reach out and grab it, or would you rather pray? Oh, I see. After all, your suffering is also given by God,” he said in a mocking tone as he kicked the headless body away. “Go on, this distance is just right. You can reach it by dislocating your shoulder. Enjoy your suffering.”
“Wow, thank you for your compliment!”
“Merciless demon. Sooner or later, you’ll meet retribution!”
“I’m looking forward to it.” Jesse started humming a tune and turned the pocket of the headless corpse over. Before leaving, he didn’t forget to pick up the corpses of small demons on the wooden table by the side and held them in his hands along with the head. “This was a pleasant conversation, but it’s a pity that I still have an appointment to catch—” He glanced at the blood stains on his clothes in annoyance, then magically took out the black badge and pinned it on a relatively clean shirt. “If I don’t hurry up, they’ll slip away!”
In fact, Nemo and his party were indeed slipping away.
Even though they passed the Black Chapter’s qualification, this time they brought back a freshly baked wanted criminal and had to climb the wall again. Fortunately, there was no weird demon worshipper who came to their door this time around. As soon as they started napping in the straw pile, they were awakened mercilessly by Ann.
“No one has come so far. It seems that Dylan isn’t planning to shed his pretenses,” she whispered while holding the spear vigilantly. “Get up. Your physical strength should be restored. We have to register and leave here quickly.”
Nemo grabbed a handful of straw and tried to bury his head deeper in order to escape this reality. His plan to eliminate his headaches by sleeping was only halfway done, and Ann’s wake-up call was counterproductive and made his head hurt even more.
Oliver got up quickly. He patted his face violently, with a posture as if he was going to assume the responsibility for the team. Seeing Ann’s arched eyebrows rising higher and the lightning flickering between her fingers, he quickly pulled Nemo up, who was still dozing.
Adrian was standing straight up to the side. Nemo looked over bleary-eyed, suspecting from the bottom of his heart that this man could sleep while standing like a horse. He yawned and turned his weight to Oliver’s side.
“…Humor me. You’re obviously the least likely of us to be sleepy,” Ann pointed out discontentedly.
“My soul is sleepy,” Nemo muttered.
Adrian frowned slightly, looked at him up and down, and said nothing. The gray parrot shrank uncharacteristically into the pocket of Nemo’s robe, looking as if he was thinking about big problems related to bird life.
It didn’t take long for them to return to the familiar registration office. In fact, it was more prominent now. Since it was late at night, except for some special shops, most of the streets fell into darkness. The building of the registration office was still brightly lit, but no one came in and out, giving the building a lonely vibe.
“Let’s hand in the task,” Oliver announced, a little unaccustomed. He tried to find the contract in his pocket, but it took him a long time to realize that the contract paper roll had already turned into ashes. “So… Um, the consultant registration.”
The staff on duty must have a lot in common with Nemo. His upper and lower eyelids were almost glued together. He groaned and held out his hand. “The black badge of the leader of your team.”
Oliver took off the black badge in front of his lapel and carefully handed it over with both hands.
“Hm… Oliver Ramon’s team… Oliver Ramon?!” The man in the uniform instantly woke up. He wiped his nose carelessly and swept his eyes from Nemo’s bloody robe to the silent Adrian. “My God! The person you want to register isn’t—”
“Yes,” Oliver said nervously. “We hope to register Adrian Cross as a consultant.”
“You have to think clearly.” The staff puffed up his chest and sniffed in his snot.”You’re only ordinary people and doing this is tantamount to directly challenging the Laddism Church. I strongly suggest you think about it again.”
“We already deeply offended them,” Nemo explained bitterly. “It shouldn’t be a problem to offend them a little more.”
“Different! You’re just a nobody, but he is—sorry, Mr. Cross—is a stain on the Laddism Church’s teachings. They give priority to getting rid of stains…”
“Less thinking and cut the crap,” Ann said impatiently. “I know what you’re planning. If we give up now, Cross will not be associated with the Mercenary Guild, and you’ll notify everyone that Cross is here within the next second. “Am I mistaken?”
The staff scratched his big nose and smiled. Ann turned her gaze to Oliver.
“We hope to register Adrian Cross as a consultant,” Oliver repeated firmly.
The staff muttered and took out a pile of parchment paper, quills, and ink, which danced in the air like he was juggling them. He reluctantly reinserted the black badge into Oliver’s hand, lowered his head, and rummaged through the drawer for a moment before tossing Adrian a strange ring.
“It’s done,” he said bitterly. “Sign it, captain. The reward for the last task was… Let me see, the title deed to the Edwards’ estate. You can choose to sell it directly to the guild or keep it for yourself.”
“…Keep it.” After glancing at the silent crowd for an instant, Oliver sighed. He grabbed the quill pen that almost poked him in the face, lowered his head, and signed.
As soon as he put down his pen, the black badge on his chest melted. Ann closed her eyes as if she had resolved to accept her fate.
The badge didn’t ignite their clothes or even radiate heat. The gray lizard pattern disappeared, and a snake head replaced it. They were no longer dusty and dirty gray badges, but pure black with a metallic luster. Nemo removed it from his robe and the magic array on the back of the black badge was flashing, indicating that it was activated.
“The magic array will issue direct orders from headquarters when necessary.” The staff were still secretly staring at Adrian. “It will also regularly remind you to register your whereabouts, which is its main purpose. The four-eyed snake rank was not my personal decision! Honestly, I think this result is too moderate.”
“Well, at least it’s not the sea scorpion.” Ann raised her arms to the sky.
“…What are you doing?” Nemo asked curiously.
“Welcoming a new low in my life,” Ann said with a flat face. “Once you adapt to this rhythm, it’s actually quite exciting.”
“If we’re planning to leave, isn’t it better to take a task first?” Nemo looked away with some guilt. “The task of this month has been completed. We have also become an official Black Chapter. We should be able to take a break—”
“Snake level,” Ann said bitterly. “Good idea. We can see if there are any tasks suitable for humans to do.” She accentuated the word “humans” deeply.
“Didn’t you want to act alone?”
“Snake level! Dear Mr. Light, weak humans cannot complete tasks on the snake level alone,” Ann complained. “What can I do? The Laddism Church is eyeing us. Even if I quit, I won’t get any benefits. You have to take responsibility, especially you, Mr. Leader.”
Oliver turned his head and silently pressed on the black badge to call up the list of tasks available. Columns of words flickered before their eyes. Even Adrian, who had been examining the ring just now, leaned in.
“…” After reading two lines of text, Nemo cast his gaze towards the ceiling.
Oliver sighed deeply. Now he had a new understanding of what “snake level” meant. “Explore the demon tower west of the Felix Basin,” he whispered. “Crusade against a small bone dragon or the hundred-year old parrick ogre… Do you have any good suggestions?”
“Being blown up by Abyssal magic, sprayed to death by corpse flame from the bone dragon, and turning into the excrement of an ogre… Which one do you prefer?”
“What’s the one above?” Nemo decided to divert their attention.
“The golden one? The tomb of the 13th generation of the Hero has been found.” Ann checked her black badge directly. “A tomb of high elves. It’s said that the holy sword that killed the Demon King was in it. Even Horizon participated in that exploration mission. I must say that if you choose this…
“Of course not!” Nemo replied immediately, and Ann and Adrian looked at him speechlessly.
“It sounds dangerous, doesn’t it?” He gestured and almost swept the grey parrot out of his pocket with his arms. “…I mean the one below it.”
“’Looking for my daughter Melody Delany’… huh? Is this mark wrong? How could this mission be on the rank of a snake level? Is this the daughter of the legendary Bigfoot?”
“Is Melody Delany a famous person?” Oliver asked carefully, trying not to look in Adrian’s direction.
“At least I haven’t heard of her.” Ann frowned. “But you have to know that, generally, this kind of task doesn’t usually appear on the Black Chapter’s task list. I’m sure you’ve experienced it before. There may be fraud involved.”
“The location is on the border of Willard, Vincent Town.” Adrian broke the current delicate atmosphere with a stern face. “I have heard of this place. It’s said that there’s a demon curse there, and it’s next to a habitat of demons.”
“This can explain a lot of the issues. If there are demons and curses, it’s not normal to find ordinary people to complete such thing. The task was just sent half an hour ago.” Ann studied the task text carefully. “We have a half-assed demon… Worshipper, as well as a former demon slayer. Demon curses shouldn’t be a problem.”
Nemo worked hard to reduce his sense of existence under the attention of the staff.
“This place is quite biased. It should be a good place to avoid the limelight,” Oliver said. “One month should be enough, though it does seem to be the safest task. Everyone can also take a good rest and think about what we should do going forward.”
“But I have a bad feeling,” Ann murmured. “I always think it’s nothing good when I see the words ‘looking for someone’.”
She scanned the content of the task thoroughly, but she couldn’t pick out anything that was wrong with it. It looked much easier than the other tasks that were full of words leading to death.
“I agree, captain.” Nemo solemnly raised his hand.
“I have no opinion.” Ann gritted his teeth. “A long night is fraught with dreams. There’s also Dylan to keep in mind. Let’s leave Garland’s sphere of influence first.”
Adrian nodded quietly.
Oliver called out the mission contract and signed his name carefully. “Let’s go directly to the teleportation array in the city?”
“Well, Cross has already registered. No one will stop him as long as they’re not from the Laddism Church.”
However, it turned out that if the Goddess of Fate really existed, she would never have any affection for them.
“Oh? Where’s everybody going?” Jesse Dylan’s slightly ostentatious clothes had suspicious blood stains on them. He leaned against the entrance of the building where the teleportation array was located, showing them a bright smile. “Didn’t we agree to have a drink tomorrow?”
This ends the second arc.