Chapter 155.1 : Aftermath of The Battle
Looking up at the sky, Rio heaved a forlorn sigh and turned around, only to blink in surprise when he noticed people nearby. He forgot all about them. From the first prince of Paladia’s Kingdom, Duran, who stood together with the knights that were knocked off by Rio, to the village chief, Will and Donner who stood slightly away from the prince’s group. All of it, including the scene of the scarred land where the violent battle took place just minutes ago, had been discarded from his mind.
…………… What should I do now.
Rio mused to himself, feeling that the situation was becoming more awkward as time passed by. Leaving the place immediately seemed to be the best option right now, yet, it was questionable whether Duran would allow him to do that as he pleased. Whilst he was pondering over that thought, he noticed something off when he scanned his surroundings.
He caught sight of Flora lying on the ground and was speechless. It was not that long ago that he had met with Flora during an evening party. Furthermore, he had also travelled with her big sister, Christina, just a few days ago. Therefore, Flora’s well-ordered look was something he easily recalled. But seeing her figure in those tattered clothes――,
Wait, no, she shouldn’t be in this place…right? Is she a…village girl who happen to look similar to her? But…why was she lying down there?
He reconsidered his suspicion, but doubt still consumed his mind. After all, no matter how much he tried to justify it, the girl lying on the ground was simply too similar to the royal princess he knew, Flora Bertram. As such, he wanted to confirm her identity, but he was suddenly interrupted before he could do so.
「I presume your name is Rio」
It was Duran’s voice calling out to Rio.
Rio’s reply was short, and he did not hide the vigilance he had in his voice.
「……… Do you want to work for m-, no, I mean for the Paladia kingdom? 」
Duran suddenly asked.
「……….. Hah? 」
The sudden offer astounded Rio who never expected that to happen, especially not after killing someone under his protection.
「I’m making you a proposal to work for me. I can give you many things, money, status, or perhaps woman? Whichever it is, I can offer you the best of the best! 」
Duran said with a serious expression, wasting no time to scout Rio. However, he was fated to be disappointed, for Rio immediately rejected the offer.
There’s no hesitation in Rio’s curt voice when he said so.
「Keh…………..before you reject, listen to me first. You might think it came out of nowhere, but I’m serious about recruiting you. I have absolutely no intention to be hostile with you. ABSOLUTELY NONE!」
Duran did not stop speaking, trying to appeal to Rio’s peaceful intentions.
Rio only kept silent, simply looking at Duran with an inscrutable gaze. It was unknown whether it was due to him being troubled by how to answer, or simply from vigilance. In any case, he did not reply, and kept looking silently at Duran.
「So, what do you think? You did not strike me as an insensible person who’d attack people far weaker than yourself. And, you should already understand the difference between our forces……or rather, our war potential. My knights and I are not foolish. We’d not charge recklessly at someone as powerful as you due to a false sense of justice. Even if I wished to do that, these knights would not necessarily follow me in the first place. After all, they’re not dutiful to the point of willingly throwing their life away for me.」
Ignoring Rio’s silence, Duran frankly spoke.
「………. I can’t read your ulterior motive though.」
Rio heaved a sigh as he replied, wishing to just get this conversation over with.
「Then, let me ask you a question. Don’t you think that you’ve wronged and even disregarded me when you killed Lucius? Our relationship was not merely that of a prince and his hired mercenary, you know. 」
Noticing Rio’s lack of expression, Duran tried another route.
「We got along well with one another, as such, we kept in touch even after the end of our contract. Part of the reason was because of his great strength.」
Even by hinting at how their future partnership could flourish, Rio still didn’t give Duran any answer, but he still did not give up.
「While I do know that he was the kind of person who’d make enemies left and right, usually his victims were nothing but weaklings. So, how did someone like you end up becoming his enemy? That’s what I’m most curious about.」
Duran decided to explain everything and be upfront with his position in this matter so Rio would ease his caution towards him.
This man……….. Is a prince?
Rio disregarded everything else Duran said and focused on Duran’s identity. Before, whilst he was facing Lucius, Rio vaguely remembered Lucius saying ‘your highness’, but he thought that it was merely Lucius’s bluff. Therefore, Rio was taken by surprise when he found out Duran’s status.
「I should also add that I cut off our contract with his mercenary group after the first commission was finished. 」
He curtly added.
「What? Do you think I’m the same kind of man as that bastard? Well, sorry to say, but you’re mistaken in that regard. We only share some of our values with each other, for example, our view on power, and robbing when there’s a need for it. Aside from those two views we shared, I’m someone who follows military rules strictly. While I admit that I’m used to being a tyrant, I’m at least not evil enough to have the same kind of hobbies as him.」
Duran continued to speak, not minding Rio’s silent gaze, and put on a bright smile on his face.
His breathing doesn’t seems to be disturbed.
Thinking that, Rio decided to sheathe his sword and focus on the ongoing conversation for the time being.
「Lucius was a bastard indeed. However, it’s strange that you decided to recruit me, a stranger who came out of nowhere and killed your acquaintance, without hesitation. 」
Annoyed, Rio scratched his head and asked, finding the prince to be a strange person in that sense.
「You jest, even if I choose to go against the military rules, I’m doing so with an open mind. Moreover, I want to gather strong people under my wings. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I hate weak man. It’s just, gathering strong people is more prudent at this time.」
「………….. Why do you want to gather strong people? 」
「For war, of course.」
Duran replied to Rio’s question curtly.
「Yes, we’re but a small country. That’s why we must gather more power so other countries would not suppress us. After all, although I am capable of matching thousands of soldiers, I’m nothing special since such people also exists in other countries and they also have an overwhelming material advantage.」
Duran emphasized his point of view.
Hearing that, Rio merely nodded curtly, neither agreeing or disagreeing.
「That’s my reason. I need you, the hazardous war potential that can overturn the battlefield by himself. That’s why, will you work for me to add to my military might and rule over all? With you, even a small country like mine can overcome those big countries, who had always fuss over traditions and formalities, using force.」
Duran didn’t seem to mind Rio’s attitude and kept talking.
「Unfortunately, I have no interest in that so called military rule of yours.」
Rio’s answer remained unchanged since he had no interest in war at all.
「……With your power, you could enforce a just rule for the peasants, you know? 」
Duran asked again, trying to ascertain Rio’s intentions.
「I have no interest in such things.」
「What, don’t tell me that you’ve zero interest in worldly afairs? Are you planning to become a hermit? 」
「That sounds interesting.」
Smiling wryly, Rio walked towards Flora, who was lying on the ground, preventing further conversation.
「……fumu. Is this because you feel your inner demons had disappeared when you accomplished your revenge?」
Squinting his eyes, Duran looked at Rio.
「 I was this kind of person from the very beginning.」
Still keeping the wry smile on his face, Rio replied to Duran as he arrived in front of Flora. Standing right beside her were the villager trio of Will, the Village Chief, and Donner
They seemed to be scared of Rio.
Yup….She really is way too similar to princess Flora. In fact, this is Princess Flora, right?
Ignoring their frightened gaze, Rio squatted down to take a better look at the girl’s face and then he finally realized that it really was Flora.
「About this girl…why is she in this village? 」
He asked the villager’s group.
「Eh, ah, that is………..」
The villager trio was at a loss for words due to the tension.
「Do you know this girl’s lineage? 」
…I see. So, she’s the reason this prince came to this kind of place…actually, what exactly happened for her to end up here?
After hearing Duran’s question, Rio grasped the general situation.
「…Unfortunately, I’m familiar with her. 」
He replied after a brief pause.
「Hou…………. Come to think of it, Lucius was originally from Bertram. Which means that you… are connected to Bertram too?」
When Duran heard Rio’s reply, he tried to probe for his origin.
「Are you sure? Want to bet on that? 」
Rio responded stoically, no emotion could be discerned from his face at Duran’s probing.
What a terrifying fever. There’s a bruise on the nape of her neck. What is this? An illness? No…it’s not illness…this is…
Holding her body, he started to check on Flora’s condition and was startled with what he found.
「Princess Flora. Are you conscious? 」
Her breathing was disordered and there was no reply from her. Though the fact that she managed to stay conscious in her current condition was already strange.
Did she see my battle with Lucius? She might have even heard my name, but…
Rio pondered for a while. While, it would have been troublesome if she recognized him, leaving her behind in this place wouldn’t bring anything good as well.
「It seems she was poisoned by a certain spider that lives in this forest. However, the antidote has vanished since it was with Lucius who you have just killed, leaving until not even his corpse behind.」
Seemingly in a pleasant mood, Duran told him the origin of Flora’s fever.
「If it’s the antidote, I have it too.」
Rio replied, unable to stop himself from heaving another sigh.
「Hou, what a convenient fellow. Does that mean you’re going to save her? Then, what are you going to do next? 」
Duran asked with an even happier tone.
「…Bring her back to her country.」
「Hu~hm, at first I did all I could to come to this place to find her but……………… Oh whatever. Take her back. Consider it my thanks for showing me something really interesting. I won’t stop you from leaving.」
Contrary to his expectation, Duran let him go even when Rio gave him a response that was sure to create a troublesome situation on his end.