Chapter 0 – Demondal
A refreshing breeze blew over the rolling grassy plains. The blue sky was covered with many fluffy clouds that lazed along. Some rough-looking horsemen stood out in contrast to this picturesque scenery. There were ten of them. The two in the lead were different from the other eight. They wore the same leather cloaks and rode what appeared to be the same breed of dark brown horses. One of them had a rather heavy looking bag fastened to his saddle, but the rest of their equipment was roughly the same. The remaining eight, on the other hand, looked terrible. They rode a variety of breeds of horses. Their equipment consisted of leather armor and worn out cloth; they were otherwise half-naked. Their weapons, too, were but simple bows or bone spears and if not, then rust-covered swords. Although their gear was poor and lacked cohesion, all eight shared a glint of desire in their eyes.
The distance between the two fleeing horsemen and the eight horsemen in pursuit grew closer by the moment.
“Don’t let them escape! After them!”
“Cut them off!”
The eight horsemen in pursuit raised their weapons and shouted vulgar slang with some jeers occasionally mixed in. Judging by their equipment and personalities, without a doubt the label “Highwaymen” or “Brigands” suited them. However, in contrast with their rough appearances, their coordination was magnificent. The two horsemen on the run seemed to be driven on as the other eight formed a fan shape. Each rider maintained a set distance from each other, and in the blink of an eye they were already half surrounded.
The man wearing leather armor in front of the group raised his spear and shouted. It appeared that he was the leader of the brigands. Following his orders, the pair of archers on each flank nocked arrows in their simple short bows.
On the right flank, a man with a tattooed face shouted, “Fuck you!!!”
Using that as their signal, the other three also drew their bowstrings taut and simultaneously loosed their arrows. The arrows whistled slightly in the air. Whether the two fleeing horsemen heard it, or looked back by chance, they immediately changed course, cleverly maneuvering their horses to dodge the arrows, one after another.
The abilities of the pursuers with the bow, and the abilities of the pursued with handling their horses. The difference in those abilities was clear. The two horsemen’s goal was to let them waste their arrows.
“…tch. Aim for the one on the right!”
The leader clicked his tongue and gave his orders. All at once they focused on the single rider on the right. From the start, the one on the right had the large leather bag attached to his saddle. His movements were slower than the one on the left. The horseman under the concentrated fire earnestly dodged the incoming arrows. However, the severity of the barrage only intensified, and then suddenly an arrow struck its mark.
The horse with the arrow stabbed in its rear end whinnied and wildly tumbled to the ground. The leather bag attached to the saddle spilled opened and bottles filled with a blue liquid scattered across the ground.
The rider seemed to have jumped off of his saddle just in time. He stretched out his legs, having learned how to properly fall, and was left almost completely unharmed.
“One of ‘em is down!”
“Hyahaa! Kill him!”
The brigands spurred their horses on to ferocious speeds.
A cruel smile crept over the brigand leader’s face as he stuck out his spear and charged straight at his scrambling prey. The sharp spearhead emitted a fiendish light.
In the face of the approaching spear, the unsaddled horseman jumped to his feet and threw his cloak into the air. He then turned his back on the brigands and started to run at full speed.
The brigand leader sneered, clearly thinking that he was an idiot. Even with his speed, he couldn’t outrun a horse.
The distance between them closed in the blink of an eye. The brigand leader mercilessly stabbed at the defenseless back of the escaping prey. The honed spearhead easily caught the cloak, piercing through it.
However, it was light. Too light. The cloak wrapped itself around the spear since it met no resistance. He realized all too late. At that moment, the horse the brigand leader was riding let out a whinny out of pain, before falling forward.
He was tumbling.
The brigand leader, unable to keep himself in his saddle, was flung forward and slammed into the ground on his back. “Gue-!” He let out a cry of pain due to the impact.
The spear fell from his hand, but he paid it no heed as he quickly stood up, unsheathing the sword at his waist.
The horse he had been riding but a moment ago was writhing in agony with its fore-left leg cut off.
In the very next moment, a black shadow fell upon him. The brigand leader, having seen the true form of his enemy, opened his eyes wide with fright.
He trembled as the black shadow silently ignored him, its saber at its side. The whole time, the shadow’s blue eyes were narrowed. The shadow was a young boy with blonde hair and blue eyes. He could probably be mistaken for a girl with his small stature. He had fearless, sharp blue eyes. He kept his long blonde hair in a ponytail on the back side of his head so as to keep it from getting in the way. Readied in his right hand was a plain and simple saber. Although, the words that would fit him best would be —
On his forehead was a black iron forehead protector, his face up to his nose was covered by a black scarf, he wore black leather gauntlets and black leather shin-guards. His body was wrapped entirely in black cloth. On his belt was a sheathed black dagger, and on his back was the black scabbard of his saber. That appearance was undoubtedly that of a —
“–『Ninja』!” groaned the brigand leader.
Although, he wasn’t a true Japanese “Ninja.” He was more of a foreigner’s embellished idea of a 『Ninja』.
“Ninja! Andrei the Ninja!?”
“Holy shit!! He’s the real one!?”
“In just that moment he switched himself for his cloak…!”
The rest of the brigands began to tremble as well.
Andrei the Ninja.
Within this world he was among the most prominent, and his skills and appearance lived up to his reputation.
In the face of the powerful Andrei, his underlings shook in fear, but the brigand leader ignored them. The waves of shock subsided and were slowly replaced by the feeling of his blood boiling. It was his fighting spirit. He wanted to trade blows with someone strong. He wanted to test his power. It was a pure desire.
“…I’ve wanted to try ya once ya know…!”
His frightened expression was replaced by a ferocious smile. He readied his longsword, aiming the tip at Andrei’s head. At the same time, Andrei became a black blur. Then came a flash of silver and the sound of the air being cut. He knew he’d been cut. The brigand leader tried to let out a dumbfounded “Wha-?” Then he realized something.
He couldn’t speak. In his peripheral vision he could see the red blood spraying from his own neck. His vocal chords had most likely been destroyed. His carotid had also been cut to pieces. The attack was a quick and clean one shot, one kill.
The still-dumbfounded brigand leader simply mouthed his surprise. He received a 『Bleed Out Death』message and fell to the ground like a doll. Just like that, he wordlessly became a 『Corpse』.
“You asshole, you dare-?!”
Two of the brigands flew into a rage rather than freezing in fear. They leaned into their horses and charged at Andrei. The two brigands specialized in long handled weapons such as spears and clubs. They charged at full speed and tried to surround him.
Andrei readied his saber in his left hand, and pulled out his black dagger with the other.
Both of the underlings raised their weapons as they charged forward. At first glance, Andrei was in a dire situation. However, he himself was calm. He knew he wasn’t alone.
Crack! The sound of what sounded like a branch snapping echoed through the air.
“What was that?” said the scraggly bearded, spear wielding brigand. With a puzzled expression he turned to look behind him.
Something was whistling through the air. In the next moment, the scraggly bearded brigand’s head was sent flying. Like a fountain, blood spurted out from his neck. It was undoubtedly 『Instant Death』. He lost all strength and became a 『Corpse』, slowly slumping forward until he tumbled from his horse.
Only someone with strengthened kinetic vision would have been able to witness it. From far behind an arrow came flying and pierced the brigand’s neck, ripping it to shreds.
The other brigand, galloping at Andrei with his club raised, couldn’t help but stop his horse after witnessing his partner’s death. He looked behind him, trying to figure out what happened. A cloak fluttered and one cavalryman could be seen. It was the horseman that had been fleeing with Andrei.
He wore subtly ornamented leather armor with a decorative feather on his helmet. The lower half of his face was hidden by a cloth. The brigand was only barely able to make out the young boy’s black eyes. At his waist was a single saber, but what stood out was the vermillion colored bow in his left hand.
The compound bow was slightly larger than what would normally be used on horseback, and it also gave off a strange presence.
The vermillion color stood out against the green grass-covered plain and the sunlight glinted attractively off of the bow’s elegant curve.
One of the brigands shouted, “—Kill him!” and the rest of the dumbfounded brigands quickly regained their senses.
However, it was all too late. The black-eyed boy had already nocked another arrow. In one breath, he drew his bow and loosed the arrow from atop his galloping horse. Crack! The arrow shot like a silver beam straight for the brigand as he groaned.
The deep sound of hitting flesh resounded as if it were coming from within his core.
The club wielding brigand who’d been facing off against Andrei was blown off his horse as if he’d been shoved. Sticking out of the left side of his chest was a white feathered arrow. The club wielding brigand fell to the ground with a thud. It had accurately struck his heart with a critical hit. The club wielding brigand could only drop his gaze, dumbfounded by the arrow that pierced his leather armor with ease.
Muttered the brigand before the last of his HP ran out and he became a 『Corpse』.
“You bastard, what tremendous skill!”
“It’s not just his skill, that bow is dangerous!”
Among the restless brigands, one with heavy metal plated leather armor shouted with vigor, “Okay, leave it to me!” as he put up his wooden buckler. Then as he charged in he yelled, “Bring it, you fucking archer–!!”
He repeatedly smacked his buckler with his mace as if to say, ‘Just try it!’
The black-eyed boy slightly narrowed his eyes and drew his bow as far as it could go.
A silver light glinted off the arrow as it flew true with tremendous speed towards the brigand with the shield. Even though the arrow was too quick to be seen, the brigand knew it was there because it was coming straight at him. He smiled viciously as he was already prepared to take the shot with his shield.
The arrow smashed the shield to pieces, and without losing any force it pierced through to the other side. His metal plated leather armor was stabbed through as if it were made of paper.
The combined force of the arrow and the charging brigand caused him to be launched like a billiard ball. As his blood sprayed in a wonderful arc through the air, he struck the ground. Without as much as a twitch, it was an 『Instant Death』.
The now rider-less horse continued to gallop on. Its hooves echoed as it continued to gallop past the black-eyed boy.
“…They got James–!”
“Shit, that archer is too much!”
“This isn’t good, let’s run–!”
Between the limitless power of the bow and its somewhat inhuman wielder, the brigands completely lost their will to fight. They leaned into their horses and began running away at full speed.
The black-eyed boy brought his horse to a gallop and began to leisurely attack. The brigands ran in random zig-zig patterns in order to avoid being targeted.
But, it was all in vain.
A twang rang out two, three times. The silver of the arrows flashed, and one after another the brigands were shot down. Just like that, three of the brigands were shot to death. However, the last one was a little luckier. Even though he took a direct hit, because it hit his shoulder it wasn’t an instant kill. His figure gradually disappeared as he ran on toward the hills.
The boy stopped his horse on a small hill, not wanting to chase the brigand too far. With an arrow still nocked, he looked around at his surroundings.
To the east lay green, rolling hills as far as the eye could see. Occasionally the sound of the wind rustling the leaves carried over.
To the west was an impressive mountain range so tall that it looked slightly hazy. A forest spread across the base of the mountain. Just in front the forest, the small figure of the brigand who’d been shot in the shoulder could be seen desperately running away. He continued to get smaller in the keen eyes of the boy as he ran on and on.
The boy remained on guard for another ten seconds or so. After determining that there were no more enemies and no one lying in ambush, he returned to where Andrei waited.
Andrei knelt beside his dark brown horse, and hung his head. The horse was in pain from the arrow in its rear end.
“…Are you okay?” the boy asked in perfect, fluent English. He laid his bow across his legs and returned the arrow to his quiver.
Andrei snapped his head up and bitterly shouted, “Like hell I’m alright!!” He also spoke English, but his Russian accent slipped in as he had some difficulty pronouncing the ‘R’ sound. “Look! Just look at this! It’s terrible!” He stood up angrily and made exaggerated gestures toward all the scattered bottles.
The bottles were scattered about the soft grass, and, perhaps due to the impact, most of them were broken. Hardly any whole bottles could be seen. Most of the blue liquid they once held had since leaked out.
“The 『High Potions』went to waste! Almost… almost all of them, you know! Even though I got them so cheap! ‘Urvan’ isn’t even all that far away! Terrible, this is just terrible! Now… now I’m way in the red aren’t I…”
As he spoke, Andrei gradually lost steam until he broke down sobbing and fell back down onto his knees.
“… I even told you not to get greedy. Things turned out this way because you were greedy and tried to bring the whole lot all at once.”
“At the very least, if you hadn’t overloaded your horse, we could’ve gotten away. Am I wrong?”
Andrei had no comeback for any of the facts the boy listed. The one who’d refused to acknowledge the boy’s warning and forced him to load on all those potions was none other than himself.
“…. Rather, if you had just used your bow from the start, they might’ve retreated! Why didn’t you attack any sooner?!”
Andrei stood up. Knowing he was in a bad situation he made exaggerated gestures and tried to change the point of interest.
“Hey, hey, who’s the one being paid to be a bodyguard?”
“Think about it, have you ever heard of the client protecting the bodyguard?”
“You should be grateful that I didn’t just leave you behind in the first place. If I had, I would have easily gotten away without any risk.”
After receiving such a counter Andrei groaned with a vexed expression.
He opened his mouth as if to respond, but as he was in no position to argue, he just sank to his knees.
“Seriously, saying that I’m the one that requested a bodyguard. But just how many times have I thought of leaving you? I’m carrying valuables as it is…”
The black-eyed boy muttered to himself while patting the bow on his lap.
“Kuh… shit, Kei, this is your fault! All because you had to request a bodyguard! I thought it was a rare opportunity, but I was wrong to accept it! If I had refused then I could’ve gone on without ever touching these potions! Damn it! Damn it…”
Andrei seemed to spit out the words with resignation as he once again calmed down. His strength seemed to have given out and he fell down with a thud. Then he started quietly playing with the ground with his finger.
He was just throwing a fit. The black-eyed boy named Kei sighed.
While looking far behind them, toward the grand mountain range view, Kei muttered in Japanese, “Not like I care…”