‘Nothing much happened today too.’
Zich lay on top of a large tree branch chewing on a piece of beef jerky. The sun had already set, and darkness was dominating the area. The only forces that put up a resistance against this darkness were the moon which shone the most brilliantly among the twinkling stars and the reddish light of the bonfire a bit of a distance away from Zich’s tree. Zich stuffed another piece of beef jerky into his mouth and looked toward the bonfire. This was where the mercenaries guarding Walter and Ellie camped. The carriage where the children stayed was in the deepest part of the camp while the mercenaries slept in a circle around the carriage; next to the bonfire, there was one person vigilantly surveying their surroundings.
The travel was going so smoothly that Zich was losing his momentum while tailing them. Although the mercenaries encountered one group of monsters, they defeated them instantly before Zich needed to step in. Yet, Zich didn’t let his mind drift from the matter and heightened his guard again.
‘It’s about time for something to happen.’ Their current location was in the middle between Pialu and the city they were going to; in other words, this point was at the farthest distance from a city. Due to the monster invasion at Pialu, there was hardly anyone on the streets, especially in the dead of the night when people should be asleep. They had met all the conditions to have the least amount of people in their surroundings, and likewise, Zich felt no presence in their surroundings.
‘If I was planning to do something, I would do it now.”
Then, like he had predicted, he saw one of the mercenaries who had been sleeping rise. It wasn’t time to change onlookers yet. Perhaps, he could be going to the bathroom, but the man’s demeanor indicated something else. The mercenary who just got up met eyes with the other mercenary acting as the onlooker, and a tense atmosphere flowed between them.
‘I doubt they are planning to have a secret meeting.’ Zich spat out the beef jerky he was chewing and carefully jumped down from his tree. Then, he snuck into the back of the camp; he moved so stealthily that it made his past declaration to Lyla that he wasn’t an assassin seem like a big joke.
The two mercenaries carefully lifted the weapons that they had placed beside them beforehand. The light from the bonfire shone on their swords and glinted ominously. They met each other’s eyes again, nodded, and approached the companion nearest to them. Their movements couldn’t have appeared more suspicious, and Zich hid between the blades of grass near the camp. He already had a couple of stones that he had picked up on his way. He could easily slice the necks of these two mercenaries but decided against it.
‘I have to reveal that they are the betrayers.’ If he didn’t, Zich might be the one who could be accused as the ambusher even after trying to help them.
‘If I wake everyone up after those guys killed some people, they won’t misunderstand the situation, but…’ He couldn’t let any of the mercenaries die pointlessly.
‘How bothersome it is to act as a hero,’ he thought. Although his body shuddered at the word, hero, his hand flicked one stone without faltering even a bit.
“Ugh!” The mercenary—no, ambusher let out a groan while attempting to strike his sword down at a sleeping figure. He needed to avoid making noises on this quiet night, but his hand hurt too much. Punch! After getting struck by a stone, the ambusher’s sword twisted from its trajectory and missed its target by a lot, and hit the area above a mercenary’s head. As dirt spluttered on top of his head, the mercenary opened his eyes.
“…Huh?” The mercenary’s eyes looked sleepy and lethargic from suddenly waking, but when he saw the unleashed sword in front of him, all his drowsiness immediately disappeared.
Punch! The ambusher’s sword aimed for the mercenary’s head again, but the mercenary was an experienced veteran. He quickly rolled his body sideways and evaded the sword; and even while he did this, he didn’t forget to grab his weapon. The ambusher’s sword missed its mark again and simply sliced the blanket the mercenary was sleeping on.
“Shit! Which bastard…!” The mercenary cursed harshly and while calming his thumping heart, his eyes widened. It was because he had checked the ambusher’s face.
“Nedvill?” The mercenary’s stunned voice indicated his shock at seeing his closest companion attacking him.
“Damn it!” Nedvill also cursed at the ruined situation and swung his sword at the mercenary again in hopes that he would be able to resolve the situation by taking his opponent by surprise. Yet, his faint hope soon disappeared without a trace.
Clang! Clang! Clang! Their swords clashed. Since they knew each other’s skills well, the fight didn’t die down easily. Soon, others woke up from the commotion.
“Is it an ambush?!”
“What are the night duty guards doing!”
The mercenaries quickly looked around their surroundings and picked up their weapons to judge the situation. Yet, what they saw weren’t monsters, thieves, or other enemies they had imagined; they were stunned to see their own companions fighting fiercely.
“…What the hell are you guys doing?” the other mercenaries asked in confusion and Nedvill yelled, “Gronick, this bastard, suddenly attacked me!”
Gronick scowled as he fought with Nedvill. “Stop your bullshit! You are the one who tried to pierce me with your sword while I was sleeping!”
“What? You, bastard? How dare you lie when you were trying to separate my head from my body!” Nedvill rolled his tongue fervently, unwilling to lose to Gronick. The others hadn’t grasped the situation fully yet, but this state of confusion didn’t last long. This incident happened during Nedvill’s shift and Gronick’s blanket had been ripped with a sword. Moreover, there was some mysterious figure that hindered his ambush. ‘If I don’t react properly, I’ll die!’
“Hey, Bill and Shed are also fighting!”
“Fuck! What the hell is going on!”
Nedvill’s accomplice, Shed, seemed to have also failed. His problem became even more complicated. The mercenaries were confused about how they should react. It was at that moment—
“Walter! Ellie! Don’t come out of that carriage!” Nedvill heard Shed’s voice. Even though it sounded like Shed was trying to stop the children from getting swept into the commotion, Nedvill interpreted his words completely differently. ‘Yeah, that’s right! If we capture those two as hostages, we’ll be safe from the others!’
Nedvill pretended to stand guard against Gronick and moved towards the carriage. Gronick, caught onto Nedvill’s intentions while glaring at him. “That ba…! Someone, protect the carriage!”
However, Gronick was too late. Nedvill began quickly running towards the carriage with Gronick’s voice as the signal. He succeeded with his plan. The other mercenaries were startled and tried to run towards the carriage, but they had to stop when Nedvill swung his sword. Nedvill let out a sigh in relief and Shed came and stood next to the carriage. He was successful in holding the carriage hostage.
Nedvill loudly shouted, “Don’t come closer! If you take even one step forward, I’ll destroy the carriage!”
“What? What did that bastard just fucking say?”
“You fucking bastard! That’s where Walter and Ellie are!”
All the mercenaries had been with Wolf’s Canine from the very beginning, and Walter and Ellie were like a nephew and a niece to them. There were a couple of mercenaries who really thought of them as their own kids as well. It was only natural that they would show intense fury at Nedvill and Shed’s actions. Combined with the feeling of betrayal, the mercenaries glared murderously at them as if they were ready to immediately rip Nedvill and Shed apart and chew their raw flesh.
However, Nedvill and Shed did not even blink an eye. “Shed, go in and capture those brats.”
“I got it.” Shed slowly approached the carriage door. A few mercenaries took a couple of steps in a burning rage, but they had to stop after seeing Nedvill’s sword vibrate with mana. Someone of Nedvill’s skill would easily be able to blow away a carriage, and it was impossible to think that weak children could survive such an attack. The mercenaries could only grit their teeth and glare at Nedvill and Shed.
Even though Nedvill seemed to have gained an advantage, he couldn’t lower his guard because there were a lot more people on the other side. Moreover, he couldn’t figure out what was the thing that hindered his ambush at first. Thus, Nedvill guarded against his ex-comrades while scanning outside their campsite.
‘I don’t know what the hell that was, but it might suddenly pop out again.’ As a trained veteran, Nedvill intently scanned his surroundings to not miss even the smallest detail. However, no matter how trained he was, he couldn’t predict that an enemy would come down from the sky the next moment, or that his enemy could reach him from the other side with a single jump.
Bam! He heard a loud noise from the carriage. Had Shed opened the carriage door? ‘No, the sound is too loud for…!’
Crash! He heard something break.
“Aghhhhhhhh!” A scream followed—it was Shed’s voice. Something was going terribly wrong. As soon as he thought this, Nedvill swung his sword towards his back. Even though he didn’t know who his opponent was and there were still enemies in his front, his instinct was telling him to immediately eliminate the unknown variable from behind. However, it was a completely different matter to act on his instinct and successfully carry his plan out.
Clang! His mana-infused sword all too easily bounced back. He scrunched up his face from the pain in his hand and after taking a couple of steps back, he stared at the person who had repelled his sword.
The person came into view under the light of the moon and sparkling stars. While sitting on top of the carriage, the man had a strange tree-branch-like sword in one hand and the throat of a ripped and bloody Shed in another hand. Nedvill knew who he was. Even though they had never spoken to each other, there was no way he couldn’t recognize who it was. The shock he felt while seeing this man’s monstrous strength in the battles at Pialu had left a deep impression on him. Moreover, before they left the city, he had seen the man at the lodging where the children resided.
“…Zich.” Nedvill murmured his name.
“Hey! Isn’t it the first time we’re conversing like this?” After saying this, Zich threw Shed to the floor. After he was thrown next to Nedvill, Shed screamed like crazy. His injuries scraped the floor and brought sharp pain throughout his body. However, no one spared a glance at Shed. In front of Zich’s presence, Shed’s scream was as noticeable as a firefly’s glow in front of the sun.
Tap! Zich jumped down the carriage. Nedvill immediately withdrew. “You know, I’ve gotten really curious lately. They say you get less curious as you age, but I don’t know why it’s the opposite for me.” Zich stuck out his lips and complained, giving him the impression that he was talking to a close friend.
However, Nedvill didn’t get this impression at all. Sweat began pouring down his face.
“But what can you do? I was born like this anyway, so even if people insult me for not acting my age, I need to satisfy my curiosity. So there’s something I’ve been really curious about, and I think you can give me the answer.” Zich lifted Windur. “You probably don’t want to say it, but you don’t have to force yourself. I’ll find it out by myself soon enough—it’s my area of expertise.”
Zich revealed his white teeth and laughed. However, Nedvill didn’t feel like laughing at all, and Zich had no intentions to consider Nedvill’s feelings either. Like this, the two mercenaries’ betrayal easily ended in vain.