Stray Ch73

Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong

Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/


Chapter 73: Memory and Lifespan

The old lady seemed to be accustomed to such a reaction. She shakily put the watering can on the wooden shelf holding a flowerpot, and then knocked on the ground with her cane. The wooden fence door of the courtyard opened in response.

“You have to tie those two goats outside,” she muttered in that pleasant voice. “They can’t chew around… Well, which one has the problem?”

She approached with her cane and took out a pair of glasses that looked like the bottom of a wine bottle from her pocket. “Let me see…”

The old woman’s little sandy golden eyes peeped out from under her flabby eyelids. It looked hard on the group. The orange cat slipped out of the open courtyard door and began to circle around the two fuller goats. Its fluffy tail stood upright and finally selected White II, who had no luggage on his back, and jumped on the back of the sheep neatly. White II remained motionless and even chewed up some leaves of grass.

“It’s me,” Nemo admitted honestly, taking a step forward from the rest of the team. The gray parrot was still standing firmly on his shoulder, staring vigilantly at the cat not far away. “I’m missing… Well, maybe a very important memory.”

“Well.” The old lady stretched out her right hand like a chicken claw, grabbed the front lapel of Nemo’s robe, and pulled his upper body down. “Get closer and let me see your eyes… Very well, you’re not lying. But before I invite you in, you have to know the price first.”

She took a few steps back slowly and put away her glasses: “You can pay for physical illness or injury, but if it is an invisible injury caused by mental problems or magic… you need to pay with your natural life span.” She coughed a few times.

“Life span?” Oliver’s voice was a little nervous. “What do you mean?”

“As an example, this beautiful young man—” she raised her chin to Nemo, “he could have just hurt his head, or he could have been cursed by magic from other creatures.” Both conditions could cause memory loss. If it’s the former, you pay some money, and I can deploy potions for him… But if it’s the latter, and he wants to restore his memory for those few years, I will take away from him the life span equivalent to those years. You can come back after you think about it. My bones are brittle, so I don’t want to mess around in vain.”

Ann’s mood became serious, while Adrian frowned slightly. Only Jesse let out a long “oh” sound full of interest.

“You said natural life span.” The blond young man raised his arms. “This statement is very interesting… Can you take away people’s life span?”

“It’s just life essence. I can’t determine when they’ll actually die.” The old lady turned her head with some difficulty. “I just taking part of their physical time. But how many people have really died of old age nowadays? Diseases, natural disasters, man-made disasters— I’m not the goddess of fate, and the natural life span of the body will never replace the real time of death, dearie.”

“Then I’ll trouble you.” Nemo didn’t hesitate for long. He walked directly to the courtyard that was covered with clusters of flowers.

“Interesting,” the old lady sighed in a youthful voice as she trimmed the frills of her skirt. “Most people suffer for a while when they hear this price.”

“It doesn’t make much difference, does it?” Nemo pressed hard against the strange feeling of his internal organs. The answer was right in front of him; he had this premonition. “Money is also exchanged for time, and what you take away is also time. It’s essentially the same thing.”

“Very well.” The old lady raised her eyebrows and returned to the yard with her cane. She pointed to the watering can with her cane, and the kettle swayed and floated, watering the flowers by itself. The orange cat that had just been grinding its front paws on the back of White II hurriedly twisted its ass and jumped off the back of the fake goat when it saw its owner was going back.

Oliver followed Nemo with a complicated expression. He stretched out his hand as if to pat Nemo on the shoulder, but the hand paused for a moment before he took it back.

Six years.

If Nemo Light was really an ordinary human, then six years would be a lot for his life, but the black-haired young man walking in front of him had firm steps, and his back even faintly exuded an unspeakable power.

He had to respect Nemo’s decision. Oliver grasped the hilt of the sword fiercely, thinking bitterly. That was Nemo’s own choice. If the situation was truly not ideal, maybe they could find another way…

The courtyard was really small. Before this thought ran through his mind, they had already walked into the witch’s residence.

The house was well lit, and the bright sunlight crossed the open windows and painted the wooden floors with a layer of gold. Everything was orderly with soft colors that interweaved with each other, giving off a clean and warm feeling. They didn’t see any legendary or terrifying witchcraft materials. There was indeed a long workbench in the corner of the house, filled with bottles and cans of various powders. The label looked brand new, without any strange traces of corrosion, and the logo on it was round and cute. Over the clear glass instrument, the wall against the workbench was plastered with parchment rolls. Oliver glanced hastily and saw most of them were images and research materials about plants.

There was only the fresh smell of herbs in the room, which wasn’t a good smell, but it didn’t make people uncomfortable.

“Sit down.” The old woman pointed to the cushion wrapped in a knitted sleeve. “There’s ice lemonade on the table. This is just a pre-diagnosis. Don’t be nervous—just pay for the pre-diagnosis. Besides, you may really just have a head injury.”

Nemo reluctantly smiled. He thought from the bottom of his heart that this possibility was pretty low. “How should I address you? What do I need to do?”

“Just call me Nadine. You have to give me your hand.” The old lady stretched out her crumpled, skinny right hand. “Then… Don’t resist.”

Nemo just wanted to ask what she meant by resistance, but he understood in the next moment. Several icy incantations climbed up his skin along his hand like snakes made of ice. They slithered around his arms, wrapped around his chest, and finally around his neck. They weren’t powerful, and Nemo was sure that he could destroy them in an instant, but he obediently did not resist, and did not even dare to move.

The old woman still had a little smile on her face, but as time passed, those smiles seemed to be erased by the sound of the second hand. She frowned, causing her wrinkles to gather into a pile.

“What is this?” Her voice was a bit cold this time.

Nemo didn’t react for a while. The old woman was still grasping his hand tightly with his right hand, but her palm became cold and wet, and her force became a bit stronger. “Ms. Nadine, I don’t quite understand—”

“Your body…” she said slowly, her voice clear and cold. “At least this body has never lost its memory. On the contrary, it has never abandoned any details. You shouldn’t even be able to do something as ordinary as ‘forgetting’.”

“But I really can’t remember what happened before I was six years old.” Nemo took a deep breath. He was even mentally prepared to pay for it with his lifespan, but the answer was beyond his expectations. “I didn’t lie to you.”

“Maybe…” The old lady put her right hand back and pondered for a moment. “Your memory is really messy… Have you been gradually remembering trivial things of the past recently?”

“Yes.”

“Although I don’t know why your physique is only revealed now… Perhaps it’s your body that is protecting you. It’s not a good thing to forget.” She held up the glass and took a sip of lemonade. “When excessive memories flow back all at once, it could cause a great burden on your spirit. I think so far, you will only remember the parts you want to know. You don’t need medicine for this situation, as you’ll recover by yourself sooner or later.”

“But…”

“If you insist on not remembering, then there is only one possibility left.”

“What?” Nemo also retracted his hand, and the touch of being entangled by the ice snakes completely disappeared.

“You’re remembering it wrong.” The orange cat jumped on the old lady’s knees, squeezed its head into the glass in front of her, and licked the water in the glass desperately. The old lady stroked the cat’s back gently and sighed. “People always add their wishes to their memories and distort them into their expectations. This is normal.”

Nemo swallowed his saliva. He suddenly felt a little dry in his throat.

“…Of course, I can also help you sort out your memories so that you can remember what they were like.” After the cat drank the water, it laid on the old lady’s lap and purred loudly. The old lady began to scratch its ears. “The kind that won’t put pressure on your spirit, and you only need to pay me for one year of life.”

“I’ll pay.” Nemo tried to ignore the beating of his heart that was getting faster. “Uh… How do I pay?”

“Drink this, and then give me both hands. I’ll wake you up at the right time.” The old lady snapped her fingers, and a small glass bottle appeared in the air. “You can pay your price after you recall it. This is a simple contract.”

“…How do we know how much life you’ll take away?” Ann stared at the bottle vigilantly. The liquid in the bottle was like melted gold, with a beautiful and dangerous color.

“This is the interesting thing—you don’t know.” The old lady put the cat back on the floor with difficulty, patted off the cat’s fur that was on her knees, and then squeezed her eyes slyly at them. “I might steal it for two or even three years. Unfortunately, such is the deal. If you don’t trust me, you’re welcome to find someone else.”

Nemo grabbed the glass vial floating in front of him, unscrewed the cork and sniffed it. It looked good, but the smell was unbearable. It was like rotten medicine residue or moldy berries.

His answer was in this cold vial.

Ann’s brows tightened tighter. She wanted to continue saying something, but Nemo didn’t give her another chance. He pursed his lips and drank the bottle. Then he stopped and stared at a point that didn’t seem to exist in the air, as if he was in an aimless daze.

Nemo’s eyes were open and unblinking. The originally flat round pupils gradually cracked and turned into a cross shape that did not belong to humans. And the orange cat, who was still lying at the feet of the old woman just now, jumped away abruptly. Its fat body arched, and its hair exploded.

It began to hiss at Nemo, wrinkled its nose, and bore its sharp teeth.

“Be quiet, Caramel.” The old lady stared at those abnormal eyes. She hesitated for a while, then held the other party’s hands on the small table.

The witch Nadine had treated many people, and she had also treated many creatures that were not humans. She had always justly taken away their life span, and thanks to her ability, she could see the degree of aging of those bodies and the remaining time they should have left. The matter of “taking away lifespan” was difficult to describe directly. If one had to make an analogy—human lifespan was like water bottles of different shapes. Some were almost full, and some were half empty. She would take a water cup and wait quietly for the contract to be completed. When she was done, she would take a little out with her cup, just the amount that they agreed upon before.

The length of life is nothing more than the difference in the size of the container, and the degree of aging is nothing more than the difference in margin. She had even treated a dragon before. At that time, she saw a small pond with ripples. She had thought that was the limit she could see.

Until now.

She was still holding her “cup”, and at this time, her feet were like in a boundless ocean.

The old lady closed her eyes and tried to suppress the trembling in her hands.

The cat was not the only one in the room who overreacted.

Oliver had seen Nemo like this a long time ago, so he didn’t have much reaction. The two veteran soldiers lowered their heads; it was unknown what they were thinking. The gray parrot, who was strutting around on the workbench, was stunned and plopped directly on the workbench.

Jesse Dylan was unmoved. He took the opportunity to drink the last glass of iced lemonade.

Nemo was unresponsive to everything in the outside world now. He only felt that he had drunk a bottle of concentrated magma. It rolled through his esophagus, and then exploded and burned in his body. The still water floating with memory residues was boiling, and all the details of his past were quickly returning to place, like scattered books being put back on the bookshelf one by one.

The witch Nadine was right, he didn’t lose his memory.

[I remember hearing someone talking and there were stars in the sky. I rushed over and saw you. I don’t remember anything before.]

He once said this to Oliver during the Black Chapter test.

In a sense, he was right… That was the only thing that happened in the “lost” six years.


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