Stray Ch78

Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong

Translator: Kinky ||

Chapter 78: Letters

Ann’s speculation wasn’t wrong. There weren’t many inns in this small village—in fact, there was only one with many mobile vendors gathered around its entrance. The inn’s building looked very old and only had two floors. Half of the walls were covered with vines, which made it look quite pleasing to the eyes from a distance. Unfortunately, it also made it so hidden that the group had to wander around for a while before discovering it.

The rusty signboard of the inn was exposed outside the thick climbing vines, which made it very inconspicuous. The hanging board was painted with a group of crooked vines that were next to the most common ordinary font.

“Earthsea Orchid.” The female warrior shrugged. “…Doesn’t seem like a Four-Leaf Clover.”

This time their luck couldn’t keep up with them. Unlike when they were at the Four-Leaf Clover, this time, not only were the general bunks not available, even the rooms were fully booked.

“Sorry.” There weren’t any uniformly dressed, young, and beautiful employees here. The innkeeper was a woman as large as a barrel. She sat behind a wooden platform with an apologetic face. “Usually this isn’t the case, but today there happened to be a large mercenary group staying here… But yesterday’s caravan is about to leave. Would you mind waiting here for a bit? I can make it cheaper for you.”

The environment inside the hotel wasn’t as bad as the female warrior thought. The lobby was clean and tidy, there were no muddy footprints stained with horse dung on the floor, and there wasn’t a sour smell mixed with sweat and rancid cloth in the air. Fresh flowers were placed in a dusty corner and the surrounding walls were covered with exquisite and interesting handmade decorations.

“It’s fine. We don’t have all our people anyway.” Ann pulled a rough wooden stool over and sat down in front of the lobby to wait. There weren’t many people waiting in the lobby right now, or rather more precisely, there was only a father with a little boy. If a caravan was leaving, they shouldn’t need to worry about their lodging issues.

Adrian stood leaning against the wall, while Jesse stood aside with the gray parrot; the bird had collapsed softly with its wings motionless as if it was out of breath.

There was a long silence.

“Actually, I still can’t believe that Nemo is… you know.” Ann casually brought up a topic. “I always drag him off the bed and look, I’m still alive.”

“If we don’t consider the rationality of Mr. Light’s own existence, it does make sense from the perspective of the law.” Adrian kept staring in front of him. “The law comes from cognition, and he should have taken measures to close his self-cognition. When Bagelmaurus attacked Mr. Light, he implanted his flesh, which began to instinctively dismantle the mimicry under this stimulation. This possibility, theoretically, exists*.”

*Clarity: He’s saying as the law of nature, whether innate or not, one has to follow it because the cognition exists, but if Nemo had no such cognition, then (theoretically) it’s possible to defy the law as he’s not bound to it.

The gray parrot sobbed loudly.

“Why?” it sobbed miserably. “In such a garbage place, with so many stupid-looking humans, why did I catch the one who wasn’t human? Can my powers be returned?”

The innkeeper widened her small eyes and stared at it curiously.

“At least you are still alive,” Jesse comforted it very sincerely.

“I also want to ask this question,” Ann murmured. “When I picked them up, I was thinking about taking two little fools along the way, getting a black badge, and happily eating and drinking and waiting for death—”

But she didn’t finish. The man sitting on the side stood up abruptly and stopped a girl who was about to walk into the inn.

“How’s it going?” The man asked impolitely.

“How’s what going?” The girl raised her eyebrows. There was still some childishness on her face, and she looked less than twenty years old. She wore a delicate and generous mage dress and had brown curly hair that was shoulder-length. “Sorry, I don’t know how to read minds.”

Her attitude wasn’t very good, and there was a subtle disgust on her face.

“Aren’t you from Horizon?” The man raised his volume. “How is my commission? You have accepted my deposit, so you can’t keep letting me wait here—”

“…The head of the team is dealing with it.” The girl’s tone became even worse. She raised her arms and clenched the dagger-length rod tightly in one hand. The green magic stone at the top of the staff gleamed. “We just got here not long ago. What do you expect us to do? Just give you Ms. Nadine’s head?”

The innkeeper stood up abruptly. Her fat body squeezed the wooden platform away, and a harsh rubbing sound pierced the ears of everyone present.

“Howard?” Her freckled face began to redden slowly, and the gentle smile on her face disappeared in an instant, replaced by a forbidding anger. “Are you crazy? That’s Ms. Nadine! I’m still wondering why they’re here… You found Horizon? God, you went to Horizon!”

“You watched Charlie grow up!” The man rubbed his nose and yelled back. The little boy on one side, Charlie, hung his head, frowned, and did not look at his father. “He’s only fourteen years old, Lisa! That old woman just shook his hand and took away my son’s life of five years… Five years! Maybe she took more! It’s not that we don’t want to give money—”

“Everyone knows.” The innkeeper, Lisa, was sullen. Her face had now completely turned red. “Everyone knows that if it’s a disease that can be cured by ordinary doctors, she will never ask for a lifespan exchange.”

Mr. Howard let out a nasty snort full of anger. “It’s pointless to argue with people like you. Aren’t you a friend of little Nadine? Of course, you will defend her grandmother. If dear Ms. Nadine’s approach was reasonable, Horizon wouldn’t take my task.”

“Oh, I have to say a few words about this.” Although Mr. Howard’s attention has been turned away, the girl dressed as the mage still remains in place. “We promised you only because of two points… First, you gave us a high price, and we just happened to pass by. Second, Ms. Nadine is not a human being, nor is she a human-friendly race—Believe me, if she is, I would definitely stuff this contract into your throat with my own hands,” she whispered briefly. ‘With all due respect, Mr. Howard; of course, this is only a personal opinion—you make me sick.”

“I’m your client, you little bitch—”

The girl turned the dagger-like rod in her palm at will, and the man’s mouth closed abruptly, as if he was suddenly choked by an invisible hand.

“I probably know what you are thinking,” the young female mage said coldly. “The commander will not care too much about you, but as for me… As a rascal who’s also from the bottom, I’ve investigated your financial situation. Mr. Howard, all your belongings are only enough to pay for the deposit, right?”

She raised the staff, and the man was finally able to open his mouth again. His face began to turn pale.

“I was surprised at first.” The girl’s gaze swept across the Black Chapters who were enthusiastically watching in the lobby. “This kind of task is more suitable for a Black Chapter. It’s much cheaper to entrust them with it. Sorry, I don’t mean to belittle you guys, but you chose the most expensive option.”

“Charlie is my son, so of course I have to give my son the best—”

“Oh?” The female mage glanced at the little boy. The boy’s eyes were already red. He let go of the hand holding his father and buried his head lower. “Really? Why do I think you just want to use our name to scare Ms. Nadine, and then cancel the mission after she returns from the exchange? In this way, you only need to pay a deposit instead of the full commission.”

This time, Mr. Howard did not look the girl squarely in the eyes.

“Indeed. We will not directly kill non-human creatures that can communicate and do not show malice,” the girl said softly. “You did a good job on your homework, but one thing… I don’t know if you have ever thought about it. What if Ms. Nadine refuses?”

“…How could she refuse,” Mr. Howard ground his teeth. “She doesn’t know how long she has lived; it’s just five years. Why would she be so reluctant to give it up. She didn’t waste much effort—”

“Really?” The innkeeper interrupted coldly. “Then you can stop going to her and treat Charlie by yourself. Like you said, it won’t take much effort.”

“We didn’t expect her to be merciless to children, okay?” Howard’s attention returned to the female innkeeper. “You see, I didn’t really plan to let her die. She is what you people are used to… a witch. It’s already kind enough that we haven’t expelled her. She’s still living here and receiving rewards!”

“Do you know how many people she has saved—”

“In exchange for a price!”

“Fine.” The innkeeper, Lisa, walked out from behind the wooden platform, grabbed a bench directly, and threw it in the air. “This is my property. You didn’t pay, so please leave.”

“…Dad, please stop arguing,” the little boy said timidly. “Will you withdraw the mission? Anyway, I… either forget the best five years or die five years earlier. I have gotten back my five years and Ms. Nadine is very kind to me…”

“Shut up, Charlie!” Mr. Howard was really angry this time. “If she wants to be kind to you, what is she doing with your lifespan? Don’t interrupt child.”

“You’re not even as good as your son,” Lisa sneered. “Little Charlie, I agree with you. Everyone is human, and no one is born to serve another.”

The man who had completely lost face kicked over the wooden platform, and countless gadgets mixed with letters scattered all over the place. Just as he was about to say something, the girl stretched out her right arm and pointed her rod at Mr. Howard. It caused him to stumble out of the inn’s entrance like he was being pulled by something.

“Just you wait. I will definitely complain to the Mercenary Guild—” the man’s shouting quickly disappeared.

Charlie Howard wiped his eyes and bowed slightly to the people in the lobby.

“I’m sorry,” he said at a volume not much louder than the sound of mosquitoes, “for causing trouble for everyone.”

“You did nothing wrong.” Lisa rubbed his head. “Go ahead, kid.”

“I can’t stand it,” the girl muttered, and began to bury her head in the ground while picking up the letters. “This is definitely an unlucky time after the success of an important mission.”

The lobby was almost covered with letters and paper. Ann and Adrian joined the ranks and started picking up the letters. The chubby female innkeeper put down the stool, gathered her hair together, and lifted up the heavy wooden platform. “…Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” The young female mage carefully put away a stack of letters. “I have always disliked him. I think Mr. Howard may have misunderstood something—he acts like the entire Horizon is his dog since he commissioned us. Alas, I hope the commander can convince Ms. Nadine. Otherwise… Attitude is one thing; credibility is another.”

“Then your rules are really fucked up.” The female boss buried her head in sorting out the letters.

“Not true. After all, the witch is on the hostile list.”

Ann also picked up a stack of letters, and she frowned at the sender’s name—each one was “Nadine”.

“The little Nadine that Howard said just now is…?” She raised her head and looked in the direction of the innkeeper. “Do you know ‘Nadine’, miss?”

“Call me Lisa.” The female boss smiled. “Little Nadine is my best friend. She is traveling outside right now! Ms. Nadine in the village is her grandmother and helps her take care of the house.”

“They are all Eastern Witches?”

“Actually, I don’t know what an Eastern Witch is. Are they kind witches? Probably.” Lisa put the letter away carefully. “Anyways, they are no different from us… They’re all nice people. Isn’t that enough? There are also people who come from out of town to ask Ms. Nadine for her help.”

Ann wanted to speak but found that the female mage of Horizon made a silent gesture and shook her head gently, so she raised her eyebrows and swallowed her words back.

“I have to think of a way. Howard is more stubborn than a donkey,” the innkeeper murmured. “I’ll try to persuade his wife… I’m sorry, I have to leave for a while. Nadi, Nadi! Stop playing and help mom look at the counter for a while.”

A little girl with a horn braid came out of the corner of the corridor with an unhappy face. Lisa kissed her quickly and hurriedly ran out the door.

“Ann Savage.” Ann stretched out her right hand towards the young female mage. “Well done, young mage.”

“Debby Light.” The girl shook her hand readily, and her cold expression was replaced with a playful smile. “I have heard of you, Ms. Savage.”

“The caravan is leaving. The caravan is leaving.” The horn-braided girl rolled her eyes and shouted angrily as she looked at the flashing guest list. “Please be prepared for guests who need to check in. If you bring livestock, please take it to the livestock shed—”

“I’ll go,” the knight commander nodded to the girl. Ann and the mage from Horizon continued their chatting, while Jesse remained motionless.

The knight commander looked out the door at the two fuller goats, one fake, one real, leaning tightly together. Even the frequency of their swishing tails moved exactly the same, making it look extremely odd. Until now, they still haven’t figured out the purpose of the arthropod lizard…

And many other things.

Adrian narrowed his eyes. The witch’s fat orange cat had its back to him and was rubbing its face with its paws in front of White II. The cat seemed to have noticed something. He shook his head and walked towards the two goats and gently drove the cat away.

Due to his distance and being too far away, Adrian Cross missed a lot of details.

Just ten seconds ago, the cat that had its back to him was raising its head and hissing at White II, making a sound that was unlike a feline. Its slender tongue stuck out of its mouth and rolled around. Realizing that someone was approaching behind it, the orange cat quickly stood up and ran away from the lawn, leaving a slightly withered yellow paw print on the grass.

The wind blew across the lawn, instantly covering its footprints.

The residence of the witch.

“Uncle Ramon? Flint Lopez?” Nemo didn’t control the volume this time. “Impossible! Flint Lopez doesn’t have a right arm, and he… He couldn’t even beat a deadwood jellyfish.”

“My father won’t lie to me about murder.” Oliver’s expression was very stiff. “You see, you’re not the only one who has more questions now.”

“Suppose, I mean, suppose this is true… Then Godwin Lopez…” Nemo stopped talking.

“…Is my cousin…” Oliver accepted it bitterly. “Can we pretend we don’t know?”

Nemo patted him on the shoulder, painfully.

“If you mind, I can go outside first—” Oliver turned to the witch, Nadine.

The witch chuckled.

“Oh, you and Mr. Light said the exact same thing,” she said softly. “No, I don’t mind. As I said, Mr. Lopez is also my benefactor. Even if I could never forgive him, he did save me. I’m glad you’re willing to help, both of you. Before I die, there are two handsome young men… I don’t know what’s coming to accompany me, but I’m very content now.”

Nemo coughed dryly, and the witch’s smile became a bit stronger. She knocked on her cane and moved towards the workbench with difficulty.

“If you are curious, I can talk to you about Mr. Lopez,” she said calmly. “You can ask about anything. At least I have a little time left. It’s better than being alone… much better. “

She fumbled and took out a quill pen and a piece of paper, tried to control the trembling of her right hand, and dipped the nib in the ink bottle.

“I can’t see it clearly.” She sighed at the ink stains dripping on the workbench. “The letter next to it… Can you please read it for me? The light-yellow envelope. The sender is Lisa.”

“But there is no letter here…?” Nemo rummaged for a moment and found no light-yellow envelopes.

“It will be there soon.” As soon as the witch’s voice fell, a rattan lark swept into the room from the open window and threw an envelope on the workbench.

“Please,” she said.

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