A month has already passed since we left the royal capital.
Minnalis and I have been walking along the highway at a leisurely pace.
We walk and walk. We simply walk on.
「Isn’t it really the best to slowly feed on something and then kill it?」(Minnalis)
「You really like that, don’t you, Minnalis? For me, thinking about how much the enemy is suffering is more important than the method of killing him. There are guys who won’t yield under physical pain or don’t even feel it in the first place, after all. There would be no point then. Given that, the number one thing you should never do is kill the enemy when he’s unconscious.」(Kaito)
「You’re right about that. We must have them suffer and regret as they die. They must die wearing twisted expressions…」(Minnalis)
The two of us walk the highway chatting about these kinds of things.
Incidentally, Minnalis isn’t hiding her beast-ears or tail right now, so her ears are bobbing up and down with every step she takes.
Of course, this is only the case because we have separated ourselves from the royal capital.
Citizens of the Aurelia kingdom have a tendency of disliking beast-people, but it’s not as if every single human in the nation is prejudiced against them. In fact, many beast-person adventurers and such regularly come and go in towns and villages near the national border, and they can obtain citizenships and live normal lives.
The only ones who truly hate the beast-people from the bottom of their hearts are the royal family and nobles who are part of the privileged class, and even the majority of them have never even seen a beast-person in person. They’ve simply decided that beast-people are inferior creatures to themselves and hate them for that reason alone.
That’s the reason beast-people are treated so badly in the royal capital, and because of this situation, beast-people are often bought and sold in secret around noblemen with certain tastes.
In that regard, you can say that Minnalis was extremely unlucky. The village she was born in had been very prejudiced even among other villages that happen to have many people who hated beast-men.
That’s why we only encountered a small number of beast-person adventurers as we traveled along the highway from the royal capital.
Furthermore, if you don’t have a personal dislike for beast-people, Minnalis is quite the beautiful woman.
Having come this far, there are almost no beast-person-haters here. There is now an established cycle where the men among the merchants and adventurers we encounter from time to time become fascinated by her, notice the slave-mark on her neck, glare at me enviously and then leave dejectedly as Minnalis gives them a glare of absolute zero temperature.
Those that had women accompanying them received absolute-zero glares from them as well. What masochistic behavior.
「At any rate, it seems that we’re starting to encounter lots of people, aren’t we?」(Minnalis)
「Yeah, because we’ll be arriving in Ermia soon. Its population is around the same size as the royal capital, and there are a lot of requests to gather monster materials to be used for research.」(Kaito)
「I see. That explains why there are so many people who appear to be adventurers.」(Minnalis)
We have traveled from the royal capital, stopping by at numerous cities along the way, and now our destination, the college town of『Ermia』, is just a little further.
If we keep walking along this road that is surrounded by forests on both sides, we’ll probably reach it in two or three more days.
Bright rays of sunlight pour onto the road, lending itself to the tranquil atmosphere of this place. I had no interest in these kinds of things in my original world, but I suppose a peaceful walk through the woods is something like this.
This thought wanders aimlessly through my mind as I walk along the road.
At night, after preparing a simple campground and feasting on the food that Minnalis made, we decided to rest early while taking turns to keep watch.
Lying next to the fire with a blanket over her, Minnalis turns over in her sleep.
It’s not like I’m not tired as well, but even though this is a highway, there’s no telling when a monster might come and attack us. And on top of that, we’re only traveling with the two of us. Since we don’t have large numbers of people, it’s even more likely that monsters will attack us.
When I was living a life on the run during my first time through this world, I would set up barriers before sleeping so there was no need for someone to keep watch even when sleeping outside, but right now my MP is too scarce and I’m not even capable of creating a barrier that will hold strong until morning anyway.
「Ugeh, it’s hot and bitter…」(Kaito)
I sip at a drink with medicinal plants dissolved in water that I’ve boiled with the fire.
As I keep myself awake with the drink, its intensely bitter flavor stimulates my tongue and its scalding-hot temperature almost burns my mouth. I can’t help but to grimace.
This medicinal herb known as Fuzzy grass is a strange fantasy plant that helps to alleviate fatigue and drowsiness when dissolved in hot water and consumed.
As it can be found growing in the wild in large quantities anywhere you go, it can be obtained in the cities for cheap and is a powerful ally for novice adventurers. But it has a bitter flavor that is as if all of the bitterness of coffee, green tea and 100% pure chocolate has been concentrated to create it, and it has no effect unless it is boiled and consumed immediately after the sun goes down.
On top of that, it doesn’t have any effect unless you drink it while the water is still quite hot. It’s like something you’d force someone to down in a punishment game.
Even so, without this, I would need a magical tool that is not only rare but also expensive to produce a barrier to ward off monsters, rely on a skilled intermediate-level mage or form a party with multiple people and rely entirely on the method of taking turns to keep watch in order to get enough sleep.
Minnalis was an unexpected find, but this is one of the reasons that I wanted to find a slave when I first found myself in the royal capital.
Simply enduring the bitter taste and intense heat of this drink allows people to travel in pairs and get enough sleep by taking turns to keep watch, so the demand for this medicinal herb is high.
I keep watch from when the sun sets until about halfway through the night, and then Minnalis takes over until a little after sunrise. The hourglass that I use to keep track of when we switch over still has a large amount of sand remaining in it. Judging from the amount of sand, I still have plenty of time.
「Fuuh, so bitter, ueeegh…」(Kaito)
The fire is crackling loudly nearby. I can’t help but to let out a complaint to myself, though I keep my voice quiet so as to not wake Minnalis up.
I throw one of the dead branches we collected into the fire to keep it going, then set down the wooden cup that contains the bitter drink and gaze into the wavering fire. This is a convenient situation to think about various things.
The first thing that comes to mind is what happened at the outer wall of the royal capital.
I won’t go out of my way to kill people whose deaths have no effect on my vengeance.
If I don’t draw that line, the outline of my revenge will become too blurry. I won’t be able to continue believing in my own vengeance.
The line between killing for vengeance and killing to vent my anger.
One day, that line would have slowly created uncertainty within me that would accumulate like a poison. If I kept ignoring that uncertainty, I would become nothing more than a true monster who doesn’t care about who he kills.
Vengeance is an emotion.
I have to take vengeance in a way that doesn’t allow the fire within me to break me any further.
If I lose my ability to reason and become a monster that moves entirely on instinct, I’m sure the fire within me would continue blazing even after I slay all of my enemies.
I would never be able to return to being a human. In the end, I would be broken. There would be no difference between that and being dead.
That’s why I have no intention of distorting this line and am content with that. I have no intention of ceasing to be me.
The ones that will get involved in my vengeance are the ones who should be.
With that said, though I don’t intend to go with any plans that kills everyone indiscriminately, not dragging any innocent people into it would be impossible.
At the very least, if there are people who aren’t related to my revenge but killing them would contribute to it, I have no intention of hesitating to do that. I’m sure there will be some innocent people who will get involved.
Even if there aren’t people like that, I will kill people whose faces I don’t even know if I need to do it to survive.
I already possess a mind that won’t hesitate to do that. If I didn’t, I would have died at some point during my journey long before I was betrayed.
In short, I have to find a balance. If I drag too many people into my revenge and I can’t process that in my own mind, I’ll become a monster. But if I hesitate to get innocent people involved too much, my revenge will never be achieved.
And I’ve decided that I won’t make any mistakes this time.
「The one I want to take vengeance upon isn’t this world. There’s no point in inflicting suffering on people I don’t even care about.」(Kaito)
By saying it out loud, I carve that thought into my mind so that I don’t forget it.
That’s right, the one I want to take vengeance upon isn’t this world.
It’s those who betrayed me, the ones I once thought of as companions. I can’t mistake who I need to take vengeance upon like I mistook who I needed to save in my first journey through this world.
「Ah, if only I really resented the entire world, how easy my vengeance would be then…」(Kaito)
I imagine a much easier road of revenge as I let out these words of self-derision. If every single person was an enemy, I could simply go on a rampage until this world is destroyed. I could have just become a monster who kills everyone without having to worry about choosing who needs to be killed.
If I had never met Leticia and my first journey through this world came to an end through betrayal while I was single-mindedly fixated on returning to my own world, I’m sure that’s how things would have turned out.
When I first came to this world, I could only think of this world as something artificial.
The people appearing on a painted background, asking me to defeat the Demon Lord. Stats and levels, magic and skills, strange-looking monsters, experience points that could be gained from defeating them and the superhuman powers that I gained as I did so.
Even if I was wounded, I could use powerful healing magic and expensive potions to quickly remove the pain and even heal my injured body parts.
It was like I had been trapped in the world inside a video game. A game that I could clear if I just defeated the Demon Lord.
There was no way that I could feel the sense that this was reality. If I had gone through this world only for that world to betray me, the people living in it would have simply appeared as nothing more than tools to me.
It’s easy to imagine such a completely hopeless, broken version of me.
A version of me that is simply a monster that goes around killing everyone in the world without enjoying it or being happy about it, continuing until I die.
I’m sure that would be a very easy road to walk.
However, I wouldn’t even be able to obtain the dark joy of revenge; I wouldn’t feel any satisfaction. It wouldn’t dispel any of my emotions; it would simply be a suicidal act of self-destruction.
「Oops, this is bad, this is bad.」(Kaito)
With a particularly loud crackle, the fire crumbles.
It seems that I became too absorbed in my thoughts; the fire has grown considerably weaker. I hastily find some branches among the wood we gathered that looks easiest to burn and throw it into the fire.
「… So bitter, so hot.」(Kaito)
The Fuzzy-grass tea still fills the wooden cup to the brim.
I take out some of the dried vegetables that were being sold as preserved food at a store in the royal capital so I can get rid of the bitter taste that has stained the inside of my mouth.
I find a branch of suitable length, pour magical energy into the【Water Fairy’s Droplet Blade】to produce a chisel-sized blade, cut off the unnecessary parts and carve the tip of the branch into a sharp point.
I pierce the dried vegetables on the end and scorch it lightly on the fire in front of me, apply some seasoning that I bought in the royal capital and begin chewing on them.
Morning is still far away and the night is still long.