༺ The Lord Is With Us (26) ༻
The woods isolating the orphanage from the rest of the world was quiet at night.
Herbalists from nearby villages occasionally came by to forage in the forest, but there weren’t any villagers who were brave enough to wander around the forest at night due to the monsters living in the forest. Even just venturing into the forest during the daytime was a gamble, but it was even more dangerous at night. Nighttime was when the Evil God Omeros’ influence won over the grace of Arus, increasing the activities of the monsters.
In other words, it meant that the chances of encountering a monster greatly increased at night.
The only reason someone would enter the forest at night was because they had some extraordinary purpose in doing so.
For example, me.
I wasn’t entering to hunt or gather food. Rather, it was to face beasts.
I just wanted one thing tonight.
Revenge––to give back as much as I suffered to the beast who pierced a new hole in me.
Mr. Gilford had said the beast only appeared at the orphanage, at most, once a month, and that he had never even encountered the beast within the forest.
That being said, I was aware that the chance of finding that particular beast was fairly low.
But a trait of demonification was that creatures of the same species mutated into demonic beasts all at once.
If the demonic beasts in the forest were originally monkeys, it meant that they had some kind of relation to the big demonic monkey that seemed to be the leader.
By investigating the forest, I thought I would eventually be able to find clues on its whereabouts and track down the big demonic monkey that attacked us.
I had a clear goal in mind when entering the forest, but the search was progressing at a sluggish pace.
The fault laid with my unmotivated companion. However, it was somewhat understandable as I’d practically dragged her out to come with me.
Glancing back, the sight of her golden hair shining under the moonlight filled my eyes.
Her sharp nose, slim jawline, and pale skin came together to form a painting of a Northern beauty by the world’s greatest artist. Her crimson eyes shone like rubies.
It was Senior Delphine, the heiress of the Yurdina—one of the five noblest families of the Empire that was in charge of protecting the North. She was also the head of the fourth-year Knight Faculty.
Whether it be strength, political authority, or wealth, she didn’t lack anything.
Technically speaking, this mission, which entailed doing chores at an orphanage and hunting demonic beasts in the forest, wasn’t suitable for someone of her caliber.
Maybe that was why she seemed particularly unmotivated. Even while walking through the forest, she just kept glancing at me instead of being wary of our surroundings.
And for some reason, she seemed weirdly tense.
Eventually, I heaved a sigh and stopped walking. In response, Senior Delphine flinched. As I turned to face her, her crimson eyes began to dart around before quickly looking down at the ground
Then, her stuttering voice broke the silence within the forest.
“W-w-why… did you want to come with j-just the two of us… sir?”
The way she politely referred to me at the end didn’t match the proud demeanor she kept up in front of everyone else. As I wordlessly stared at her for a few seconds, her shoulders began to faintly tremble.
It was clear that her fear of me lingered. I didn’t know how much she suffered under future ‘Ian’, but the fact that the usually dignified senior was reacting like this said a lot.
I wondered if her shoulders were hacked by the hatchet a few times. A moderate amount of fear helped to control someone as headstrong as she was, but it would kick up a whole different set of problems if her fear was too severe.
Trying to reassure her, I spoke with a very lighthearted tone.
“To catch a demonic beast.”
But despite my clear response, she continued to look at me dubiously.
I felt like I could read what she thinking from her fear-ridden eyes. It was probably along the lines of ‘The beast he’s talking about shouldn’t me, right…?’
I shook my head at the absurd accusation.
“…….No, really. Or what? Did you seriously think I would take my hatchet out against you? It’s not like I’m some ‘Hatchet Murderer’ or anything.”
All of a sudden, her face turned deathly pale.
Her skin was already pale as it was, but when the blood rushed out of her face, it became even more pallid as her eyes began trembling more intensely.
It seemed that I had hit the nail on the head. From her reaction, I came to understand how she thought of me.
Although I did break her shoulders back during the Hunting Festival, it was after she had ambushed us. It honestly felt a little unfair.
Other than that, I didn’t know what scared her so much. Whatever it was, it was the future ‘me’ who did it, not the actual ‘me’, so why did I have to be the one cleaning up after the mess?
I lamented the unfairness of our situation, but there was nothing I could do. The only consolation I had was the fact that I was able to attain the powerful force known as Delphine Yurdina.
After calming down, I realized that no matter what I said, it would only agitate her fear of me. I clicked my tongue and tried to turn around away from her—a completely normal action without any hints of hostility.
And yet, it prompted her to collapse onto the floor while screaming.
“Kyaaaaaa! I-I’m sorry! P-please! Just not… minced meat…!”
All I did was turn around, so I couldn’t help but be startled by her abnormal reaction. She was crouching down on the ground while tensely clenching her hair—almost as if she thought she was going get hit with my hatchet.
But when she didn’t feel any pain for a while, she quietly raised her head and met my gaze.
“…….What are you doing?”
When I asked, flabbergasted by her sudden reaction, her eyes turned blank.
Her face seemed to ask why I was just standing there without doing anything, but I was so dumbfounded that I ended up smiling mockingly at the ridiculousness of the situation.
“Are you perhaps trying to lure the beasts?”
“……..Uh, yeah! T-that’s right. That’s exactly what I was doing. Yeah.”
Unable to admit that she was intimidated by her junior, she picked herself up while making an awkward excuse.
However, she still sent me wary glances as if in disbelief that I really had no intentions of hurting her—even though anyone would be hard-pressed to find a noble who disliked violence as much as I did. She really didn’t possess a keen eye for people
My heavy footsteps resumed, and after some hesitation, Senior Delphine began following behind me.
“Around where did you encounter the demonic monkey?”
“I-it’s a little further down this way…….”
Senior Delphine’s voice trailed off before picking up a more anxious tone.
“…….Did you really come here just to catch the beast?”
“Yes, I told you already.”
“But why just the two of us?”
“Celine and Seria would probably throw a fit telling me to rest longer, while Leto is of no help in battle. Even the Saintess would scold me again for trying to go back into battle again so early after my last injury… So who else would I go with other than you?”
She seemed to finally believe me after listening to my elaborate answer. In a way, I guess I could say that it was very much like her to be wary until the end.
“…….Why not Elsie?”
“Because I knew you wouldn’t like having her around.”
She shut her mouth, indicating that there was nothing more she had to say.
Silence pervaded the forest. The moonlit forest was so eerily quiet that I couldn’t even hear the crickets chirping. In the past, this uncanny silence was unsettling, but now I knew better.
This silence likely meant that a demonic beast was nearby. My hand inched closer to my waist, knowing what was coming.
I glanced back to look at Senior Delphine. Complex emotions flashed past her crimson eyes that looked clouded by various thoughts.
I broke the silence with a nonchalant question.
“Why do you hate Senior Elsie so much? There doesn’t seem to be any particular reason either.”
Senior Delphine scoffed with a snort. She finally regained her usual haughtiness.
“……Elsie Rinella? Ha. Who in the world would like a bad-tempered brat like her?”
‘You’re no different.’
I wanted to tell her the brutal truth but I held my tongue.
“There’s no reason why I should like someone who tries to get me riled up like she does. I hate people with a strong competitive spirit. People who try everything they can to beat me……”
Senior Delphine, who was happily bad-mouthing Senior Elsie, stopped mid-sentence.
Her blood-red eyes sank, and I quietly grasped the handle of my sword as she did the same.
“How many are there?”
I was the first to notice their presence, but Senior Delphine was superior when it came to analyzing the details. When I closed my eyes and focused on my senses, I confirmed that she was correct.
One by one, shadows started climbing onto the trees without a single sound as blue, glowing eyes stared at us from the branches.
Their presence was very faint. It was to the point that if I didn’t know in advance, I wouldn’t have been able to notice the demonic monkeys. It was the same characteristic that their leader showed when it attacked us at the orphanage.
It further cemented the possibility that the demonic monkeys in the forest and the big one from back then were related. I asked Senior Delphine for the last time.
“Is this the place where you encountered them last time?”
“……Now that you mention it, I think it is.”
The monkeys just sat there staring at the two of us. Normally, demonic beasts were unable to hold back their killing intent and attacked humans on sight, so it was a rare sight to see them so calm.
After pondering the reason behind their abnormal behavior, I took another step to test a hypothesis.
Right as I stepped forward, two figures immediately launched themselves onto me like two rays of light.
They were the demonic monkeys that were hiding nearby. Their sharp nails glistened in the moonlight.
It was as if they were testing the limits of reaction speed. They utilized the elasticity of their muscles to their fullest potential to instantaneously assault us.
Their speed was comparable to a few high-rank beasts. It would have been dangerous if it were the past me, but it was a completely different case for the current me.
After consuming ‘Dragon’s Blood’, my mana increased beyond comparison.
My sword cut through the air like lightning.
A silver line collided with the rays of light before immediately cutting through the demonic monkey that came from the front. Time began to slow.
There was still another demonic monkey diving in from the side. I tried to continue pushing through with the swing, but it was met with a surprisingly strong resistance.
It was the first demonic monkey that was cut through by my sword.
Blood poured out from its mouth as its lips twisted into a ghastly smile. It was firmly holding onto the sword despite it already being cut in half.
It was unnatural and bizarre—something that no living creature was capable of. However, there was no time for me to ponder on it.
The demonic monkey at my side was now close in range. It flashed a devilish grin as if it thought it had grasped an opening.
But in the next moment, the sound of bones breaking resounded through the air as blood and brain matter splattered in all directions.
The monkey’s eyes widened before going dull. It died without even realizing what had crushed its head.
My hand was firmly grasping my hatchet. The moment I realized my sword was being restricted, I threw it away without a second glance and switched to my hatchet instead.
A thrill crawled up my spine and my lips unconsciously lifted into a smile as I felt its skull shattering beneath my hatchet.
As if my words were a signal, eleven shadows rose into the air. Their sole target was the culprit who took the lives of their friends. In short, me.
Even for me, eleven was too much for me to handle simultaneously. I didn’t need to worry though, since I had a strong swordsman beside me.
I expectantly turned to look at Senior Delphine.
“Kyaaaaa! S, stop! I-I’m sorry… P-please spare me…. I-I don’t want to lose my sword… I, I won’t ever rebel again! I’ll kneel if you tell me to kneel and I’ll kiss your feet if you want me to……!”
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
She was groveling face down on the ground, trembling intensely while babbling nonsense.
It was obvious that she wasn’t in a condition to fight.
Profanities inadvertently left my mouth.
“…….Oh, fuck me.”
I immediately threw my body to the ground to pick up my sword as a sharp killing intent brushed over my skin. It was wedged in a gap gouged out by the monkey’s sharp claws.
‘I’m definitely going to punish her after this.’
I ground my teeth as I resolved to give her a piece of my mind.
As always, my battles were never easy
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