Chapter 8 – Count Dermore (1)
ArthasApril 28, 2023
The Ruben Empire was located in the heart of the continent; the Empire was arguably the greatest power in the world, both in name and in reality, and wielded enormous power across the continent.
Even this empire had some outlying regions that remained beyond its control.
The vast deserts in the south, the jungles in the east, the snowy mountains and grasslands in the north – and the Village of Vagabonds established just below the snowy mountains, were among them.
It was a lawless region teeming with wanted criminals who had eluded the Empire.
Because the majority of them came from a criminal background, it was extremely rare for them to earn money by working properly and the majority of them made a living by robbing unsuspecting travellers or engaging in banditry outside of town – just like now.
“Did you see that pouch?”
“It looks like she has over a hundred silver coins in there.”
“Really? Hey, that's a lot.”
Inside the first floor of the unlit inn.
The men sat at their respective tables, sharpening their knives and chatting, until the man in the corner suddenly spoke up, “But they're not nobles, are they?”
“You stupid bastard.
What nobleman in the world only takes one mercenary with them?”
“They can't be nobles in the first place.”
“Because they came over the mountain.”
Came over the mountains.
At these words, everyone's eyes changed.
“You mean they're barbarians.”
The vast grasslands that exist beyond the snowy mountains; it was the realm of barbarians, far from civilization.
They had nothing to do with the Empire, which meant that if they disappeared without a sound in a village like this, no one would care.
“But isn’t the woman a little different?”
She doesn't look like a barbarian.”
“Hey, that's even better, we can play with her for a while and then sell her off for a lot of money.”
Some of the men chuckled, then they grabbed their knives.
Everyone's eyes turned menacing.
“Now, then, we're going to——.”
“If you're ready, let's go upstairs.”
It was time to get to work.
The men moved as if they were accustomed to it.
By the time they passed the creaky stairs and reached the second floor, someone called out to the man in the lead, “Hey, Joel.”
“Go for the barbarian first.
No matter how you look at it, he doesn't seem like an ordinary guy.”
It was a warning mixed with concern.
Joel laughed heartily, “It's not like I haven't done it before, so what are you so worried about? Don't worry, just watch.”
The bread they were going to eat was laced with drugs in the first place.
They should have already passed out by now.
As he walked, he felt confident but suddenly, Joel's eyebrows twitched.
‘What? Just now…..’
He thought he heard a voice.
He listened carefully, but there was silence beyond the doorway.
Did I hear it wrong? He thought to himself as he sheathed his knife.
The door then shattered, and a giant hand flew through the door.
He didn't have time to duck, and was grabbed by the hair, followed by a tremendous force.
Joel widened his eyes.
The moment his head was grabbed, he tried to swing his knife , but he couldn't do anything.
The force was too strong.
‘I, I can't breathe!’
All he could do was struggle in agony.
That was Joel's last thought.
It was the sound of something being crushed.
Joel's body sagged and fell down on the floor, limp.
“Shit, he noticed!”
“Charge all at once!”
The remaining men charged from beyond the stairs, each carrying a sharpened knife as Joel collapsed to the ground spewing foam from his mouth.
Normally, in a case like this, there are two choices – one is to run, and the other is to find something in the room that could be used as a weapon or shield.
However, Ulan chose neither.
Thump! Thump, thump, thump!
Instead of backing down, he charged backwards.
It was a move the men didn't expect.
It created panic, and panic created an opening, and Ulan seized it.
A fist to the face.
The nose bone was shattered in one blow.
Ulan twisted, elbowed him in the head, and then brought his knee up to crush his jaw.
In an instant, three men were down.
Ulan didn't stop there.
Using the stunned man as a shield, he charged toward the stairs.
It was a mindless lunge indeed.
Men fell like dominoes to the first floor.
The formations collapsed, their composure lost.
This was now Ulan's battlefield.
Puck! Thud, thud, thud!
Fists and arms, legs and knees.
He used his entire body to efficiently subdue the enemy.
Was it because of his immense strength? Not once did anyone who was hit by Ulan's attacks stood back up again.
Around the time he caught and subdued even the person who tried to flee the inn.
“Joel’s gang has been attacked!”
“Stop him! Don't let him get away!”
The villagers rushed over.
It seemed like they were all in cahoots.
The weapons in their hands and the unfriendly looks in their eyes were proof of that.
‘Then I'll just have to beat them all up.’
Ulan clenched his fists.
If he swung his axe, he wasn't sure he could subdue them without killing them.
But at that moment, something strange happened.
Crunch, crunch, crunch!
The ground churned like the surface of a lake, and soon the feet of the villagers were sucked under.
“The ground has turned into a swamp!”
“It's magic! He's using magic!”
The villagers shouted in panic at the sudden change.
Ulan, meanwhile, had a hunch about who it was.
‘Is it Noah?’
Ulan's guess was correct.
Noah came out and spread the amulets everywhere.
She asked as if she had just woken up from sleep, “No, what the hell is going on?”
“I don't know either,” Ulan shook his head, “Let's just subdue them for now.”
“Yeah, that's probably a good idea,” Noah agreed.
The moment they agreed, there was nothing to hesitate about.
The two dealt with dozens of people, and soon succeeded in subduing them all.
“Now then, shall we hear the reason for the attack?” Noah prodded.
The reason was obvious.
Because their purpose was silver coins and Noah.
After a while, Noah suddenly made an expression of realization.
'Oh, I see.
For some reason, from the first time I saw it, I thought it was a place I had seen somewhere…'
This was a place in Noah's memory.
To be exact, it was a place that appears in the character story of Noah Darshen.
It was the village where, eight years ago, a young Noah was captured and sold to a slave trader.
‘——The village of Vagabonds’.
Noah's eyes glazed over.
The men who Ulan had subdued, on the other hand, began shouting loudly and obnoxiously.
“Ooh, we are the Empire people!”
“If you touch us, you won't be safe either!”
“The army will come to exterminate the barbarians!”
“You don't want to turn the Empire against us, do you?!”
It was a moment of non-threatening ranting.
“Don't lie to me.”
“This is a village of vagabonds, a den of criminals who committed crimes and fled from the empire.
The Empire is not idle enough to send an army just because a few criminals have disappeared.”
When she finished, the villagers' faces turned pale, as if the truth had been struck.
“I suppose it's true.”
Ulan muttered in disbelief.
“But how do you know that? Didn't you say you were here for the first time?”
Noah's eyes widened for a moment.
It was a look of regret.
“Uh, Master told me about it!”
Noah blurted out.
Ulan stared at her intently.
Noah reflexively averted his gaze.
The more you know about her, the more she hides.
“For now, let’s say that.”
Later, when he has a chance, he'll ask her all at once.
He’s going to find out what the hell she's hiding in that little body of hers.
And with that thought, Ulan grabbed the axe that was rolling around on the floor, strode over, and smashed it straight into the neck of the nearest man.
As the man's head was severed, the gruesome sound of blades slicing through skin resounded, and blood spurted from the man's mouth.
In response to the somewhat surreal scene, Noah briefly froze.
The same could be said for the other wanted men.
For a moment, it felt like time had frozen.
The only thing moving here was Ulan and the axe in his hand.
The second wanted man's head flew off.
The third, the fourth, the fifth, and just before the head of the sixth was severed, Noah squeezed her eyes shut and cried out, “Ooh, Ulan! What are you doing…….”
“Cleaning up,” Ulan replied grimly.
To wield a sword means, on the other hand, that you are prepared to be stabbed.
These guys were out to kill for money, after all.
There was no reason to keep them alive.
Did they sense their impending doom? The wanted men screamed and begged for mercy.
Of course, none of this mattered to Ulan.
He was about to swing his axe again…
…when Noah urged Ulan back.
Her eyes were still tightly closed.
“There's a much better way than just killing him, and it's to our advantage!”
“A better way?”
It is something that would satisfy you.”
A better solution than splitting his head open? Ulan’s curiosity was piqued and he wordlessly sheathed his axe.
Some time later.
After tying up the thirty wanted men with ropes, they spent the night in the village of tramps.
The following morning.
As soon as the sun came up, Ulan and Noah left the village.
They traveled diligently for three days, until they reached the Empire.
Kabian – it was a small town on the fringes.
The place the two were headed wasn’t lodging but the city guard.
It was to turn in the wanted men they'd captured in a village of tramps.
And the end result.
“We thank you both for your cooperation.”
“Here is your promised reward.”
They were rewarded with substantial rewards—a hundred and eighty-six pieces of silver.
It was equivalent to earning twice as much as the original travel expenses.
They were then given a special reward.
「Grade 3 Pass.」
Although its use was limited in many ways, it could still get you where you needed to go.
“I didn't think you'd hand it over to the guards.”
“It'd be easier to just kill them, but we'd get nothing in return, so it's better to turn them over to the guards and collect the bounty,” Noah shrugged.
Actually, there were other reasons, too.
'It's been 8 years since I entered the game.' She had adapted to this world quite well, but seeing people die right in front of her was something she could never get used to.
As a result, Noah decided to hand over the wanted men to the City Guard.
She recalled a similar occurrence in the game.
'Anyway, thanks to that, I made money.'
That should satisfy Ulan.
With an infectious smile on her face, she patted her bulging pockets.
Ulan spoke again, “I'm guessing you had other tricks besides that?”
On the way here, Noah had been performing tricks on the wanted men at night, putting amulets on their bodies, painting their foreheads.
Each time, the wanted men screamed in agony, as if they were being tortured.
“Uh-huh, that's right, I put a curse on them.”
“Curse? What kind of curse?”
“The Curse of the Firebrand and the Curse of the Harvest.”
The Curse of Firebrand is a curse that causes a massive headache to the target if they hold a grudge or intend to kill, while also draining the target's life force.
“As for the Curse of Harvest, when the target dies, their soul is transferred to me, which I can use to enhance my spells or increase my magic.”
Noah finished her answer when Ulan asked in surprise, “I thought you didn't like seeing people die?”
“Yes, but only if I'm 'watching' it.”
No matter how many times she saw it, she could never get used to seeing people die in front of her.
But only if she was ‘seeing’ it.
“I'd rather they die out of my sight, even if it's from a curse I cast on them.”
So she took it easy on them.
She was unlikely to see them again, and this was the only thing that could make Noah Darshen feel better.
It doesn't matter to her if they die.
Noah smiled brightly.
Ulan stared at her wordlessly.
The first time he'd seen her, he'd thought she was just a small, timid child, like a rabbit, but seeing it again, it wasn't like that.
It was a strange feeling.
He wasn't sure because they'd only been together for a short time, but he'll know how he feels after they spend more time together.
'For the time being, let's just keep an eye on her.'
Ulan's eyes drooped.
He then heard Noah murmur, “We were already on a tight budget, so this is what we got.
For the time being, we'll have two rooms and plenty of good food!”
Noah laughed excitedly.
With her childlike, excited smile at the end, Ulan and Noah moved on again.
Two months later, near the end of winter, they finally reached their destination.
The final gateway to the Arsene Academy, the home of Count Dermore, and the busiest city on the continent.
It served as the Empire's capital.
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