Stray Ch14

Author: 年终 / Nian Zhong

Translator: Kinky ||

Chapter 14: Gold Pendant

It wasn’t easy to run through the intertwining woods. Seemingly dense places could be full of rotting leaves and curly roots, not to mention the annoying vine-like cobwebs. Ann ran steadily ahead, while Oliver struggled to follow because his body hadn’t recovered. After Nemo tripped over a tree root for the fifth time, his enthusiasm for fleeing for his life was mostly gone. If it weren’t for his resilient body that was fused with demon flesh, he would have sprained his ankle ten times over by now.

Nemo deeply suspected that he was not of the same species as the other two. Those two were seemingly born with more than a pair of eyes, as they could see through the thick moss and dead leaves and avoid all the pitfalls.

Nemo gritted his teeth and tried to get up and continue running, but his ankles were tangled by a slender vine, and he couldn’t break free for a moment. He looked back subconsciously; the Seymour Worm was still frozen quietly in place, looking like a bulging black abscess from a distance.

“Hey, you two!” The staff was stained with worm mucus and was covered in dirt and grass clippings that were glued to it. He was currently using it as a walking stick. “Wait for me—”

Oliver stopped first. He held onto the trunk of a tree and panted for a while. His injured left leg wasn’t fully recovered, and the wound had started to slightly bleed. Due to his smooth movements these past few days, Nemo thought Ann had used some powerful healing technique.

“Did you fall?” Oliver had no intention of caring about his own legs. He gently stretched out his hand towards Nemo.

The corners of Nemo’s mouth twitched. He didn’t have any clean habit of hating touching other people, but at this moment, he had a weird feeling. Oliver was deliberately increasing the number of physical contact with him. The last time he felt this atmosphere was when he saw the little boys in the orphanage rushing to tease the neighbor’s guard dog.

But when his gaze glanced towards Oliver’s bleeding left leg to the gentle emerald eyes, Nemo couldn’t help but soften his heart and thought about what they’d been through these past few days. Besides, he wasn’t a noble lady, and between the two of them, there was no need to show off. He obediently stretched out his dirty hands, stood firm against Oliver, and then poked those annoying vines with his staff.

As soon as Nemo shook off the last piece of vine from his ankle, he looked up and saw Ann’s complex eyes.

Oh, how embarrassing. These days, he urgently needed the book titled “Three Hundred Ways to Resolve Embarrassment”. Why couldn’t he have bothered to open it because the cover of that book was too ugly?

“Miss Savage, we…” He subconsciously wanted to apologize to the oppressive feeling but swallowed his words. Although he didn’t know what he had done, the fact that they were still alive was a victory, so he had nothing to apologize for. He didn’t think Ann would really care about their lives. “We managed to escape with those who were supposed to be ‘dead’.”

Ann pursed her lips into a tight thin line, causing Nemo to shrink his head back for fear of a temporary breach of contract due to anger by the female warrior, who would suddenly decide to take the three thousand gold coins.

But she didn’t.

Ann took a deep breath and slowly spat out some words. The volume was so low that it seemed like an inaudible whisper.

“Thank you.” Although her voice was small, the tone was serious.

Nemo inserted a finger into his ear and dug into it, suspecting that something was wrong with his hearing. Oliver was one step faster.

“Why?” Oliver asked. The soft expression on his face was fading, apparently still concerned about Ann’s behavior.

“I don’t know why.” Ann raised her voice. Nemo felt there was a bit of carelessness as he detected traces of sadness on her face that she didn’t have time to cover up. “Well done, but I don’t think I’m wrong. Next, we have to go together. Someone has to say it, assuming you’re still willing to go with me.”

Does this mean she’s letting them go?

Oliver turned his head and cast an inquiring look, and Nemo nodded slightly.

“We survived, so the agreement is still valid.” Oliver smiled at Ann.

“Then follow me. It’s just afternoon, and we still have the night to pass.” Ann turned around decisively and didn’t continue the topic.

“Say, Sav… Ann.” Nemo hesitated for a moment, but still spoke up. “I don’t mean to blame you, but just now, you did make a mistake.”

Ann turned her head and stared sharply at him with those amber eyes. In the dim forest, her eyes looked close to golden, like the eyes of a beast.

“That… uh,” Nemo stumbled awkwardly and found that he didn’t know the name of the dead young man. This made his momentum wilt as soon as it rose. “If he hadn’t rushed out at that time, I… I might have escaped with you. I hope you know this.”

Nemo didn’t think he was a saint, let alone a hero. His life was so ordinary that almost all the blood he had seen came from books. He didn’t know why he was saying this, and he didn’t even think it was about righteousness, but the young man had died so easily; the people he was protecting were busy fleeing and didn’t even know what he had done. Even one of the witnesses commented that it was “meaningless”. This recognition made him a little sad.

It wasn’t out of pity or survivor’s guilt. He simply felt that he should tell her that the deceased young man was worthy.

“Meaningless things are meaningless,” Ann said quietly as she turned around and moved onwards. “I won’t change my point of view. What you think is your business.”

“I—” Nemo wanted to speak but was stopped by Oliver with one hand. He shook his head slightly at Nemo.

“How much do you know about the demon’s tavern in Noer?” Oliver followed Ann’s footsteps and returned to his usual tone.

“You’re talking about ‘Dawn’, right? There is such a place. Demon worshippers are generally not welcome in taverns—to be more precise, they’re not welcome anywhere.” Ann kicked away the withered grass in front of her. “The owner is quite interesting. Few people dare to declare their neutrality in front of the church these days. Over time, all demon worshippers have gathered there. We’ve been betting when it’ll end.”

“Then what?” Nemo couldn’t help but interject.

“Then, as you can see, it still remained booming for so many years. Perhaps the owner has some background.” Ann shrugged. “Why? Are you starting to be interested in your compatriots?”

Nemo imagined a tavern full of Judes and felt a bit sick from the bottom of his heart. “No. Just asking.” The word “compatriots” made him feel nauseous.

“I suspect that what the parrot said has some truth. It’s always good to be clear,” Oliver said slowly. “In case the Knights of Judgement come to our door one day, we can’t be unprepared.”

“How rare that you know of this.” Ann glanced at Oliver in surprise. “Speaking of which, where’s the parrot?”

Nemo hurriedly looked around. Not to mention the parrot, he didn’t even find ordinary bird hair. He was stunned for a moment and hesitated for a second about whether he should feel relieved or worried. Bagelmaurus had never been away for too long before, and he had grown accustomed to its sarcasm that would buzz around him from time to time.

“Don’t worry too much.” Ann smiled. “It knows where you are and will always find you.”

“But in case it’s killed…”

“Oh, that would be a problem, but I don’t think so.” Ann paused. “You have no idea what you did, right? Judging from your performance just now, there’s nothing in this forest that can hurt it.”

As she said this, she looked directly into the young man’s silver eyes, but she didn’t find anything other than surprise. There was no fear, no joy, not even cautious expectations. This made her unexpectedly anxious.

“Do you know how to control a Seymour Worm? If it’s mercenaries from Horizon, then at least three would be required. A mage to maintain the magic formation, while the other is responsible for long-range spells, and the warrior must be equipped with a blunt weapon with a first-level shock spell. It takes at least five hours to draw the restraint array, and at least two hundred kilograms of freshwater elephant meat must be prepared to lead it to the center. It should be noted that Horizon is currently the number one mercenary group.” There was a certain complex emotion in Ann’s tone. 

“Ramon’s abilities are still within my understanding. As for you… I didn’t notice any fluctuations in your abilities at that time. You didn’t cast any spells, and even if the parrot is a top intermediate demon, this is too exaggerated.”

As she was talking, she fumbled with her waist bag for a while before something metallic flashed between the cracks of her clenched fist. Ann threw the thing in her hands at Nemo, who subconsciously caught it with both hands and lowered his head to look…

A familiar pendant was shining with the unique luster of gold in his palm.

“I bought it from Oni. This thing is very important to you, right? After all, it’s a rare style that’s only available in the capital of Alban. Generally, I don’t investigate the origins of my teammates. I know it’s not polite.” Ann stretched out her hand and rubbed her forehead. “But now I have to. I’m using this to buy a question from you. How much do you know about your life?”

Nemo didn’t say much. He carefully pulled out the picture hidden on his body, gently embedded it back into the picture frame of the pendant, and then showed it generously.

“That’s all I know,” he said.

Ann approached closer to look while Oliver struggled for a few seconds, but he was unable to restrain his curiosity and eventually leaned in.

It was a portrait of a girl painted with delicate brushstrokes. Unfortunately, whether it was because the picture was too old or poorly kept, the pigment had faded. The young girl in the painting wouldn’t be considered a top beauty, but she was still considered beautiful and lovely. She didn’t pose in the popular demure that’s common when posing for pictures, but instead made a funny face. Her hair looked like silk, was slightly curled, and the color of her eyes was indistinguishable from cyan or green.

“I don’t know if this is my mother, grandmother, or some other female relative,” Nemo said. “This was the only thing on my body when I was discovered.”

“Why don’t I remember this?” Oliver stared at it in surprise.

“Because Patrick had a hard time pulling it out of my throat,” Nemo replied bitterly.

Ann studied the small picture for a while but found no clues.

“I’ve never seen such a person,” she said, somewhat frustrated. “Have you tried to find her?”

“No,” Nemo replied decisively. “I said I don’t remember what happened before. If I’m lucky, perhaps one day I will be able to meet her naturally. It’s fine if we don’t meet either. I still have my relatives. Yes, I do cherish it, because… it proves that I may not have been abandoned.”

No one would put such a valuable thing on an abandoned child. It proved that, at least at a certain moment, he was loved by his true family; at least he believed so.

Ann picked up the pendant and flipped it over and found a line of small print on the inside of the case.

“The flame will never die.” She struggled to recognize the handwriting. “The signature… No, the signature is too worn out.”

“I couldn’t find the source of that sentence,” Nemo said. “Look, that’s all I know. The amount of information was a bit small… Did you want some change? It’s fine to count it as arrears in addition to the staff.” He stared at the pendant eagerly.

Ann shook her head with a smile and returned the pendant. “Forget it,” she said. “Put it away.”

“Don’t you want to ask anything else?” Nemo didn’t want to feel like he owed her too much. He could still talk about his experience in recent years.

“No, since you—”

Before she could finish, a black light suddenly appeared. Ann fiercely blocked them from it.

The gray parrot was flying towards them happily, with spells and incantations everywhere, fluttering as if it had drunk too much wine. It approached Nemo. He thought it was going to stop on his shoulder again, so he didn’t move. Unexpectedly, the bird stretched out its claws and scratched his shoulder, causing a gaping hole to open up. It used its hard beak to stab into the flesh as blood overflowed.

Nemo was more experienced this time. He directly grabbed the gray parrot’s body and threw it hard. The parrot slammed into the ground with an unnaturally long purplish-black tongue still sticking out of its mouth.

“It’s still not working.” It lay on the ground and spoke aggrievedly before slowly retracting its tongue. “I still can’t get it back… I’m obviously full! Do I have to eat a superior—”

Nemo put his pendant away carefully, leaving the wound alone. It quickly healed under the watchful eyes of Oliver and Ann, leaving behind only bloodstains that had penetrated his clothes.

“Now I’m positive.” Ann sighed fiercely. “I’m afraid an ordinary demon worshiper won’t suffice… You need an expert.”

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