64. Harrowed Vindicators
“Why didn’t you tell me you were attacked?”
“I, uh, didn’t have the time?”
“And by a powerful Demon too? What was he called— the Devil?”
“Yep. He had red skin, horse-like legs, a pair of horns, and used a pitchfork—”
“Wait, are you talking about S—”
“I said are you talking about S——n”
“I don’t understand you when you keep switching language mid sentence! Stick with one!”
Daniel sighed and shook his head.
“Nevermind. Probably not him. And we’ll deal with that tomorrow. I’m tired.”
And so, another week went by as Daniel, Rachel, and I stayed in the cave, continuing the same activities we did before, but a little more vigilant. I conducted another two summoning rituals— both were at a far smaller scale than the one with the head [Cultist].
The first attempt brought an [Imp]. She saw me and immediately fled, before I could even use [Title Skill: Zealous Call] on her. The second summoning went much better; I summoned a [Fiend] that I managed to apprehend before he could flee. However, not only was I unable to procure the summoning collar from him the entire time he was unconscious, he attacked me when he woke up, forcing me to kill him.
Then I tried and failed to take the summoning collar from his corpse.
His body vanished. And my last hopes of going back to the Netherworld disappeared with it. For now, I thought, sighing.
Honestly, after the revelation about Daniel the day before, I couldn’t help but be worried about leaving him here either. So many people to care about, so troublesome. Daniel and Haec. Both were my companions. And it was not like Edithe leaving— I knew she was fine.
The Netherworld however, was a dangerous place, even for Haec. And these Harrowed Vindicators were actively hunting Daniel down. For now, I did what I could and helped the one I could.
I met Daniel and Rachel outside; the two had already packed everything they had while I did a clean sweep of everything the [Cultists] hideout. I took everything I found important and left everything else in the cave. Then I sent a Fireball and collapsed it.
“When did you learn to do that?”
“Unlike you Humans who are always idle at night, I’ve been busy doing things whenever you sleep.”
“That’s because we need sleep.”
“Not my problem.”
I shrugged; I spent most nights reading through whatever books or grimoires I could outside of my Mortal Form. And because of that, I learned a Human spell that I could conjure without even using a Skill.
But while it was useful— the fact that it exploded would help with fighting swarm monsters— it was not very strong. I tested it out, and I was pretty sure it did only half as much damage as a [Scorching Wave].
And if I tried to pour more mana into the spell, it would either destabilize and blow up on me, or it would cause only a little bit larger of an explosion. The cost effectiveness of casting it just wasn’t there!
I grumbled nonverbally to myself as we started to make our way back to Warrington. Daniel glanced over at me, and Rachel peered over from beside him.
“Is something wrong, Salvos?”
The two went back to facing the front, walking hand in hand under the canopy of trees. Sunlight seeped through the cracks in the leaves— the intermingling foliage not thick enough to blot out the sun. It was a peaceful walk.
I heard the merry chirping of birds in the distance. Even the buzzing of the insects and flies were audible to my ears; I caught sight of a small, brown four legged animal with a single horn protruding from his head. But he quickly scampered off into a bush, rustling its branches as he made his escape from my prying gaze.
The light whistling of the wind brushed against my ears; I brought a hand up and brushed my hair back— my dangling bangs blown to tickle my fluttering eyelashes. I smiled, waving at an inquisitive squirrel sitting atop a tree as it snacked on a nut—
“Why are you with Daniel and not me, Rachel? I thought you were my subject!”
The Human man jumped but Rachel simply cocked her head.
“Because he’s so cool! He protected me from those scary bad guys! And he’s from another world too!”
Daniel blinked, glancing between us. Then he sighed as I emphatically pointed a finger at myself.
“I helped protect you from the Shadow Vindicators as well! And I’m also from another… uh, not from the Mortal Realm!”
“But he’s a [Hero]! You’re just a Princess—”
“She’s not actually a Princess. Or princess for that matter.”
Rachel ignored him, giving me a sorrowful look.
“There are very many princesses and queens. But there’s no other [Hero] but Daniel.”
I threw my hands up in the air.
“Then what if I told you I was a [Hero] too?”
“You’d be a liar.”
“Because you’re a Demon.”
The little girl shook her head, scoffing. She wagged a finger as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Everyone knows Demons can’t be [Heroes].”
“...that’s where you draw the line?”
Daniel gave her a blank look. She spun around to him and hugged his leg.
“That’s why I’ll be sad that Mr Daniel is leaving me. I could always summon another Demon…”
“No, don’t do that. You’ll go to jail.”
He sighed, rubbing at his temples. Slowly, he bent over until his gaze was level with Rachel.
“Rachel, you’ll be safe with these people. You can’t stay with us. It’s dangerous. But promise me when you leave us that you won’t tell anyone about me being a [Hero], alright? Or Salvos being a Demon for that matter.”
“But— if you tell everyone, they’ll surely like you! They’ll help you with those evil guys chasing after you! And Salvos—”
She glanced at me and I perked up.
“I’m sure she’ll be fine if I tell a few people that she's a Demon. She can run very fast after all.”
Daniel began to protest. But I grinned, raising my chin.
“Hehe. Of course! I can outrun anyone who chases after me.”
“I don’t think that’s what you should be focusing on here.”
The Human man smacked his forehead, however I was too focused on the praises she sung for me.
“Well, fine. I guess I can forgive your betrayal to Daniel’s side since you think so highly of me.”
“Even if you got mad at me, Mr Daniel will protect me.”
I stopped walking and turned to face him. Daniel paused mid step, hesitating. We stared at each other for a moment— the air was still. A silence hung over us as I crossed my arms.
He stepped back and shook his head.
“No way. I’ll die.”
“Aw, you gave up too easily!”
“But Mr Daniel—”
“But Mr Daniel, you’re a [Hero]!”
“And what’s that supposed to mean? I’m not immune to death just because I’m a [Hero]. I mean, maybe if I had [Plot Armor] as a Skill…”
“[Heroes] are supposed to kill Demons… right?”
“Why are you asking me, I don’t know it works.”
“Don’t look at me either—”
A muffled voice spoke softly. The hooded figure turned to his companions— all of four of them dressed in the same shadowy cloak he was wearing. They all bore masks, and while you could see their levels, that was the point. It was intimidation.
The hooded figure shook his head.
“To think that Ashul fell to those three idiots. It seems she was far weaker than even I thought.”
One of the cloaked figures— one of the ones standing furthest away from him— spoke up.
“But Ven, perhaps we shouldn’t underestimate our opponents. One is a [Hero] after all—”
Ven locked his gaze back onto his quarry, eyeing them from this distance through the thicket of trees. The [Hero], Daniel. That was who they were hired to kill. It was an open order, so anyone could take it. However, any and every information about him had to be reported back to the rest of the Harrowed Vindicators.
The three figures walked behind some trees for a moment. And it was then, Ven decided it was time to make their move.
“Target the girls. Force the [Hero] to intercede on their behalf. Then when he’s distracted, we kill him.”
His five companions nodded, drawing their weapons and spells, preparing for this ambush. They just had to wait for the three targets to walk through the small grove, then they would strike—
“I don’t think I’m the one that needs protecting.”
Ven turned around and screamed. A burning clawed hand raked through his chest, sending him back towards a tree. He caught himself from crashing through the thick wooden trunk, but his attacker— a feral four legged monster— bounded onto him a moment later.
Its body was lit ablaze, and the attack tore through the last of his magical protections. A Skill— how? He pushed himself off the monster, landing a few dozen feet away from it while bloodied and bleeding. The monster halted in its tracks as his companions surrounded it.
It glanced around at the five members of the Harrowed Vindicators. One of the assassins launched a blast of ice at it, and another loosed multiple Nadren Zudo bolts at it.
The monster suddenly blurred, escaping the incoming projectiles and bounding back into the trees. Ven whirled around, searching for where the monster went, before his eyes widened.
Slowly, his world began to split in half. His vision darkened and severed. Nothing but a grunt left his lips as he fell, dead.
“Alright. Leader down.”
Daniel hefted his sword back and up as Salvos landed next to him.
“Just five more lackies to go.”
“Aw, you stole my kill!”
“This is not a video game, Salvos. There’s no such thing as stealing someone else's kill.”
“I don’t know what that is.”
“Is Rachel safe?”
“Hopefully. But after we deal with them she will definitely be.”
That man— whoever he was— had been Level 65. He was quite high leveled, however he had been a [Rogue]. So he wasn’t really the most durable individual. Coupled that with the fact that I had hurt him quite badly through a surprise attack, it was no wonder Daniel’s Skill could finish him off.
I raised a clawed hand menacingly at the remaining Harrowed Vindicators, letting out a small growl.
“You— you scared all the animals away.”
“I think we should be more concerned with them trying to kill me than how they disturbed the natural habitat of a crown horned squirrel rat or whatever.”
“That’s a thing?”
“No. It’s a joke.”
“Huh. Well, I like animals a lot, ok?”
Daniel sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. He gestured vaguely at the assassins before us.
“Can we not do this? Not in front of them.”
I glanced over at the five cloaked figures standing there and staring at us. I waved a hand dismissively.
“You don’t actually think they’ll take this moment to attack us—”
One of the cloaked figures stepped forward and whipped out a pair of chains with spike metal balls on their ends. He tossed one of them straight at me and I ducked out of the way. I grabbed the chain and yanked it, pulling him towards me.
As the [Warrior] came flying, the [Mage] and [Archer] stepped into action, both preparing a glowing attack. Daniel deflected the attacks while I struck the [Warrior] with a clawed [Fire Strike] to the face. His mask broke but I found myself hitting rock-hard skin.
He spun his chains around me, however I hopped out of the way and landed a quick kick on him before flipping next to Daniel. I glanced up at Daniel who was now being targeted by both long ranged assassins, and the two [Rogues].
I yelled and sent a [Scorching Wave] at the [Rogues]. They stepped back while the fire splashed above my companion. I ran past him, speaking quickly as I activated [Self Haste].
Daniel ran at the [Warrior] while I charged the two [Rogues]. I created a pair of fire daggers and flung them at the first, while rushing at the next. I bounded on him, tearing into his body before the expected spells and arrows came.
I leapt out of the way just in time for attacks to kill the assassin. They really don’t care about their companions at all, do they?
I spun past a throwing dagger flicked at me by the [Rogue] as he turned and ran at Daniel. He can handle two. I’ll take care of the [Mage] and [Archer].
A [Charge of Embers] sent me straight between the two assassins. The [Mage] was lower leveled, and I bit into his face. The [Archer] loosed arrow after arrow at me— some nicked me. A few even rocked me back. But I picked up the limply fighting back [Mage] and used him as a shield.
The arrows pierced his body and he stopped moving. Then it was just the [Archer] and I. I swiped a claw at her and she leapt back. It was like the wind itself swept her off her feet and landed her a dozen paces away from me. I growled, about to charge at her, when I heard Daniel scream.
I glanced over at the Human man. What? Does he really need help—
Then I spotted the injured [Warrior] holding Daniel back with his chains. And as that happened, the [Rogue] was off running the distance. Running towards—
“Rachel! They’re going to use her as a hostage!”
My eyes widened. And I was distracted for a moment. An arrow struck me on my shoulder, causing me to stumble back. I glared back at the [Archer], then turned to the [Rogue].
I bounded after him as the [Archer] loosed more arrows at me.