~ Chapter 65: The battle in the forest (Part 1) ~
[Zoreya’s point of view]
After I left Prince Reginald’s room, I took a deep breath and let out a sigh.
Melkuth’s light guided me through thick and thin whenever I found myself at a crossroads in my life. My prayers as his Apostle were always heard and replied with his Divine Voice. At heart, I felt free and unburdened by a mortal’s man daily worries.
As long as I carried Melkuth’s Holy Shield and remained as his pure, untouched Apostle, I would retain my youth and strength. Death was of no matter to me. As one who served her god, I knew I would fall when Melkuth asked me to. Until then, not even the wrath of other Gods or Apostles would put me down. This, however, didn’t stop people from thinking that I was ready to lay down my sword, after all, I was 98 years old, and for a human… that was a very long life.
The reason I requested to part ways with the prince was also as a result of Melkuth’s desire. If it was up to me, even if I found out about the existence of the Godlike Dungeon who killed my brother, Dankyun, I wouldn’t abandon my post and give chase after him. My loyalty with the Order was flawless. Unless they told me to, I wouldn’t dare to move.
Even so, at heart… I felt conflicted, so before coming to visit Prince Reginald, I went to Melkuth’s Temple and prayed. There, he answered me and told me that my time in this country was over. I had the choice of either returning to the Order or following the Dungeon Lord.
I chose the latter, but I was thankful Prince Reginald thought the same. This way, I wasn’t forced to use my authority to part ways with him. As a leader, he had much to learn. As a human, his life was still at the beginning. I taught him and helped him as much as I could. Babysitting him any longer would have had a detrimental effect on his growth as a strong and charismatic individual.
Thus, I was relieved to know I could end this chapter of my life without feeling a bitter taste in my mouth.
“I should make haste.” I said and went to my room to pack my things.
A Storage Crystal was all I needed for all of my baggage. Spell Crystals were stored in another one. When dealing with other Supremes, Apostles, or Dungeon Lords, I had to always be sure to have an extra Spell Crystal on me to both heal my wounds and restore my gear. Even so, they were for emergency use only.
Two hours later, I left the capital and traveled North, following the words of a traveler who claimed to have been saved by a Demoness and a draconian with red hair and golden scales. Those two were part of the Dungeon Lord’s group. Where they were, Illsyore was as well.
The following day, I arrived at a small village located not that far away from a newly discovered Dungeon. The guards told me it appeared overnight, but so far the Adventurers Guild issued no quests for it. Considering its possible age, I wouldn’t be surprised since it would yield no profit in terms of drops. At most, they would send either a subjugation party for the first few floors or a small scout group to gather information about it.
Inside the village, I stumbled upon an elderly woman who told me about Illsyore’s deeds. She was sitting down in front of the inn and petting a Merion. The furry thing was probably her pet.
“There was a bandit attack the very first day he arrived.” she said with a nod.
“Any chance he was the cause of the attack?” I questioned.
“No, my dear. Those scumbags were well known around the area, but you see… we are too poor to pay for a subjugation quest, and they didn’t do enough damage to warrant the attention of the kingdom.” she shook her head and let out a sad sigh.
The Merion opened an eye, looked up at me and then went back to sleep.
“Then… you’ve just been enduring it?” I asked furrowing my brow.
If they are still a problem, Melkuth would want me to take care of them… I thought.
“Yes. Every month, we paid a protection fee. Every year, we gave them a part of our harvest. Our lads were taken to be recruited by them, while the women were used as they pleased. Not even I escaped them.” she said with a sad smile.
She’s over 60… They even touched an old granny? I blinked surprised, but then again, what was more surprising was the fact that the kingdom didn’t act already against them.
If they were simply robbing a few travelers and spending the gold at the inn, I could understand, but they were literally raiding the village. Acts such as these couldn’t go unnoticed by the kingdom for too long even if they bribed an official or two.
“When that man heard about this, he gave an order to one of his wives to go and taunt them. She was a very beautiful el’doraw with silver hair and good manners too.” she nodded in agreement.
“Wives?” I asked squinting my eyes.
“He had three and a slave. A beautiful blond woman with blue eyes, who could crush a boulder with a punch. A tall, redhead draconian who carried a two-handed swords in one hand. The el’doraw I mentioned, and the slave was a cute nekatar who loved fish and milk.” she giggled and looked up at the sky “I have to say, but if she didn’t confess to be a slave and show me her collar, I would have thought she was lying.” the old lady looked back at me and showed me a kind smile “The girl was full of energy and always smiling. Her master didn’t even act like a master at all, more like a big brother or father of sorts.”
“To have three wives… shameless.” I expressed my disapproval.
“For us it’s not normal, true…” she nodded “But from where he comes from, maybe it’s not such an unreasonable thing? Either way, they all loved him, and I know a woman in love when I see one!” she winked at me.
“There is no way a man can love three wives at the same time! Shameless… Illsyore must certainly be a shameless and perverted man!” I squinted my eyes. He must have tricked them somehow… Forced them maybe? He’s certainly the enemy of all women! I thought.
[Somewhere far away from the village. Nanya’s point of view]
“ACHOOO!” Illsyore sneezed and scared the magic out of all of us.
“Nya?! That scared me!” Tamara said as she trembled a bit.
“Hiii! Tamara, please get off… your claws! Your claws!” Ayuseya cried.
The nekatar jumped right on top of her chest, hanging for dear life.
“Ah! Nyu… Sowwy!” she let go and looked back at her with upturned eyes.
“It’s alright…” Ayuseya said as she pressed a hand over her chest and patted the nekatar’s furry head with the other.
“I didn’t know Dungeon Lords caught colds.” I raised an eyebrow at him.
“Neither did I…” he said rubbing his nose.
[Back to Zoreya’s point of view]
“So what happened to the bandits? And there’s one thing I don’t understand, did he witness an attack first or did you tell him about the attacks?” I asked.
“Oh? I didn’t say?” she looked at me surprised, and the Merion in her lap yawned, opening it’s four jaws.
“No.” I shook my head.
“Sorry, my dear, my memory is a little rusty at my age.” she laughed “He wanted to spend the night at the inn, but one of the bandits was there. The man tried to get his hands on his draconian wife, but Illsyore didn’t let him and punched him through the roof, literally.” she shook her head.
“What happened then?”
“The man landed outside of the village more dead than alive.” she shrugged “We then began to panic. After we calmed down, I was the one who told him about who that man was and his friends waiting in the forest. I told him all that I told you, my dear.” she smiled.
“So then he sent his wife out.” I said.
“Yes.” she nodded “They came… all of them. The bandits were very very furious! That wife of him practically destroyed most of their base on her own is what I heard. Even so, they were a stupid bunch. Illsyore destroyed them before they even entered the village. I have no idea how he did it, but all of us could hear the screams and cries of the poor fellows as they were hunted down one after another.” she nodded.
“What happened to those kidnapped from the village?”
“Only three boys were returned, the others came to love the bandit life too much and refused to surrender. Illsyore gave them a chance, they refused, and they were beaten half to death as a result.” she laughed.
“He didn’t kill them?” I asked furrowing my brow.
For a Dungeon Lord not to kill his prey was both curious and unheard of.
“Only the very dangerous ones. The leader and the most vicious criminals among them. We knew very well who they were, and we told him how to spot them.” she told me and then let out another sigh “He’s a good lad. He helped us poor villagers when there was no need to. He could have left, he could have ignored us, but he didn’t…” she showed me a smile.
“I see… What of those captured?” I asked.
“Locked away in a prison he built overnight. He said it was a special skill of his. It’s over there.” she pointed out.
Looking in that direction, I spotted a small stone building where two men were placed as guards.
He built it? Why would a Dungeon Lord go through all of this trouble? I wondered.
“Do you happen to know where he was headed after he did all of this?” I asked the old lady.
“Yes, North of here. I think he mentioned something about a desert?” she scratched her head trying to remember.
“Thank you for your help. May Melkuth be with you!” I smiled and then left.
“We follow the teachings of Sertan the God of Harvest here, but likewise, may the gods show you favor, young traveler!”
The following days, I continued to travel on the same path as this Dungeon Lord and heard of many of his exploits. Wherever he arrived, he didn’t mind helping those around him if he deemed it necessary. Those who attacked him were defeated without a problem, but he rarely killed, and I was starting to believe he was actually avoiding spilling any unnecessary blood.
Illsyore’s behavior made no sense. He was a Dungeon Lord, but he was saving and helping people left and right. On another hand, I began to suspect he was the one behind the sudden apparition of dungeons near human settlements. Although they were weak and small, they appeared only AFTER he spent a night or two there.
Thus, one week later, I finally managed to catch up to him. When I first saw him, he was walking ahead of me together with his wives. The nekatar was playing around, chasing a moving red dot on the ground, while the Dungeon Lord was laughing. The draconian and el’doraw talked with each other about something, while the blond human woman looked terribly bored.
For the time being, I decided to keep my distance from them and merely observe their actions.
Melkuth was with me, and his light guided my path. There was no need to act rashly.
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