|Author: Kobayashi Homare||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 3422 characters|
|Translator: Nomad||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1526 words|
The distance between Barius and Versis felt quite short compared to the trip back from the Haunted Lands. But it was still not a distance that could be covered in two or three days, so we got a carriage and traveled with ease.
“It feels like it’s been such a long time since we could travel so easily.”
“Yeah. There was nothing to admire in the Haunted Lands’ scenery, and we rushed back on horseback.”
I listened to my sisters talk like that while I kept nodding off. The last few months I had done nothing but fight. I felt like I would fall fully asleep if I was careless. But I was not being careless now, I was still in a state where I could shake away the drowsiness and jump to action if the situation called for it. We crossed the city borders without issue, so I thought we could just pass through a few cities and arrive at the capital, but halfway there I noticed a strange poster in an inn we stopped at.
“Annero has been arrested, accused of treason…? What does this mean?”
“Look Bandit, they say there’s a new hero too. Sherpa… seems to be his name.”
Sherpa? I had never heard that name before. But I was more curious about Annero being arrested. We were together not too long ago, and I had heard nothing about trouble brewing in Versis. Just what could have happened in such a short time…
“What should we do?”
One of my sisters, Avenis, asked me with a puzzled look. Our main objective here was to enlist Annero’s help. If he was arrested, then we had the option of giving up and turning back, though…
“We’ll continue to the capital, obviously. I ain’t gonna rest ’till I know exactly what happened.”
“That’s what I like to hear.”
I would not abandon Annero, who had become one of my best friends. Determined to get to the bottom of this, we continued traveling to Versis’ capital.
§ § §
I wonder when the gap between me and Annero appeared? Both my Silver Scale and Annero’s Golden Scale Tribes stood and died by their martial arts, and both had supported the country for many generations. We were the same age, gender, and we always stood out in our tribes, their hopes and expectations always placed on us. I was always told, never lose to him specifically, losing to him will bring shame to our tribe. If you lose to him, you will be worthless. I was told that my entire life, but I never had a chance to really try beating him. Those feelings kept festering in me, until one day the perfect opportunity landed in front of me. The tournament to pick the hero.
I was pleasantly surprised. I could finally beat up Annero in front of everyone. I would be able to show the entire country just how strong I was. That was my plan, our personalities had always been like oil and water anyway. He was obsessed with becoming stronger, having no interest in riches or women. Leading a tribe also necessitated political strength, but he just swung his spear around like an idiot, as if making fun of me.
It was so annoying. I could not stand his attitude. He seemed to throw away and spit on anything I valued. So I wanted to show him… just how futile his efforts were. I was going to be the hero, not the idiot that only knew how to fight. But in the end, I lost.
Everyone was watching, the king was watching, and I was helpless against Annero. I had trained earnestly too, any time I was free I practiced, I was not just wasting time, I was even known as one of the masters of the country. But this was my reality. As I stared at the cold spear tip pointed at me, I heard someone laugh. The tournament hall was silent, so it stood out. I looked around, desperately searching for whoever was laughing, wanting to tear them to shreds, but what hurt me the most was how Annero looked at me.
He seemed to be taking pity on me, feeling bad knowing I was weak. After that, my life turned into a living hell. The people in my clan had no qualms at insulting me. Common people who had nothing to do with me would make fun of me. I hated him… if only Annero never existed, I never would have had to go through that. I would have met everyone’s expectations effortlessly, I would have become a hero. But then he..!
“Do you want power?”
A man I met as I tottered back home after drinking told me that, out of nowhere.
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It was a moonlit night, and I could not see the man’s face in his hood’s shadow. But I could still get a rough idea of how he looked under his robes. He had no tail, so he was not a reptid. He seemed to be around 180cm tall, had a toned body, and I could tell he made a living fighting. He did not seem to carry any weapons, but I kept my eyes glued at him. I had a strong feeling he was no regular person, I had never felt such an air around average humans.
(I’ll get killed if I lower my guard..!)
I instantly snapped out of my stupor, even though I had been drinking until just earlier, and readied my stance. I glared at him, resisting the urge to complain about having left my spear home. He seemed to notice my nervousness, raising his hands showing he was unarmed.
“Don’t get so twitchy now. I’m just a charity worker. I walk around the world, helping unlucky fellows like yourself and turning their lives around.”
“I’m not so stupid as to believe that.”
“Oh no, you’re plenty stupid, more than you realize. Seeing you can’t even tell when someone is stronger than you.”
I could not tell if he was talking about Annero, or himself. But hearing him insult me made my blood boil, so I leaped at him. Just one punch should be enough to kill any human. If he dodged, I could just sweep him away with my tail. He just sneered at me, stretching an arm forward.
“Like that lanky arm will do anything!”
I could easily shatter his arm and leave him vulnerable. But my punch never connected. Somehow he had stopped a punch with all my might, with just a single finger.
“As you can see, I’m far stronger than you are. If I wanted to, I could easily turn you into a paste. Do you understand who’s the stronger one now?”
I was shaking with indignation, but he spoke with kindness. His voice was the only kind part about him though. There was something dangerous about his entire body, and I felt afraid I would get killed the instant I picked a wrong choice.
“…What do you want?”
“Oh, you finally feel like talking? My goal is simple. As I mentioned, I just want to help people like yourself, who look for power. I wouldn’t say I do that with the most moral of methods though.”
Saying that he pulled his hood back. I was shocked at what I saw, illuminated by the light of the moon. Tan skin, cold eyes that did not look human… There was no mistaking it, he was humanity’ natural enemy, a demon.
“A demon…why is a demon…”
“You want power, don’t you? Power to, let’s say, defeat Annero perhaps?”
He laughed, seemingly entertained by my shocked reaction.
“If you accept my power, you’ll become strong, stronger than anyone else in this country. You’ll overpower anyone.”
“…Ridiculous. Something so convenient doesn’t-”
“You don’t want to make them pay? All of those who made fun of you. Everyone who turned around and looked down on you, or Annero who put you in that situation in the first place.”
The demon continued talking, seemingly ignoring anything I said. But he was reaching deep into my heart, whether I wanted it or not. I wanted power. If I was stronger, I would make everyone swallow their words. If I was stronger, I could take revenge on Annero too..!
“Just think about it. Imagine them writhing in pain at your feet. Don’t you want to beat Annero? He who took all the fame and glory meant for you?”
Oh… wouldn’t that feel amazing? Annero had taken everything from me. Putting him through the same… no, an even worse experience than me, that would be the best feeling in the world. Before I realized, I had already taken a few steps closer to the demon.
“…Can I…really get that strong?”
“Yes, obviously. Just take my hand and you’ll become strong. Let’s go on a rampage together, Sherpa.”
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Still a bit hesitant, I slowly reached out for the demon’s hand. He took hold of my hand, a wide and satisfied smile on his lips. A moment later, Versis’ strongest reptid was born.