Chapter 22: Information Exchange
"Have you heard of Adrian Cross?" Nemo rubbed the blood stains on his hair laboriously, and asked Oliver outside the bathroom. Oliver had washed himself first and was now already paralyzed on the bed.
It was midsummer, so the small inn didn’t bother to heat up the water. It only provided a few large buckets of cold water that was warmed by the sun. Nemo carefully poured water on his body, for fear that he would run out of water before he finished washing. The process of cleaning up all the blood stain and sludge was so boring that he couldn’t help but talk to someone. Right now, Oliver was the only one there.
"No…" Oliver’s voice came from outside the door. The voice was a little muffled. He seemed to have stuffed his face into the blanket or pillow.
Although the topic didn’t start, Nemo’s mind still stirred for a few seconds. With blankets and pillows to lie on, he couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful than this at the moment. Although they weren’t clean, and still had a subtle musty smell, it could only be said that people’s adaptability was truly amazing. Although Nemo’s life was poor before, he had lived cleanly. In just a few days, his requirements for quality of life had plummeted precipitously.
Nemo sadly pulled a small piece of demon’s flesh off his arm and sighed. He looked at his arms; his skin was pale and smooth, and there weren’t any traces of scaring. He twisted his arm hard, trying to find a place where it might be deformed, and found nothing. There were no strange bumps in his joints and there were no ulcers or parts that didn’t belong to humans.
He finished pouring the last bucketful of water, wrapped a bath towel around his waist, and pushed the door out.
Oliver was lying face down on the bed as like he had thought. He was wearing a new loose shirt and remained motionless, as if he had already fallen asleep. Nemo hesitated for a few seconds before stretching out his wet hands and patted Oliver on the neck. It made him bounced off the bed immediately, causing Nemo to almost slip when he took a step back in shock.
"Sorry, I thought…"
"No, no. It’s my fault. I should’ve said something first. Oliver, I want to ask you for a favor."
"You… Wait a minute first. I remember I put your clothes on the wooden rack in the bathroom. Did you—"
"I’ll wear it in a bit." Nemo sincerely interrupted Oliver. "If Bagelmaurus is truly a superior demon, I must have undergone some deformation somewhere. I tried to confirm it while I was washing, but I didn’t find anything unusual, except for my back. I can’t see back there."
It was originally a simple thing, but when Nemo was talking, there was a little bit of scaredness in his voice. Oliver swallowed his spit and rubbed his butt against the bed as he moved. It was one thing to face a weird-looking demon, but it’s another thing to have something strange growing out on his companion.
Nemo turned around with a solemn expression facing his back towards Oliver.
Oliver breathed a sigh of relief.
Nemo’s back was normal, and there was no faces or weird organs that shouldn’t be there. The curtains were drawn and the light in the room was a little dim. The pale back of the black-haired young man even gave the illusion that it was slightly glowing. Nemo lifted his dripping hair, revealing the entire back of his neck. The skin on his back was smooth and flawless, and although pale, it didn’t look sickly at all. The muscles weren’t as exaggerated as those of a warrior, but they were enough to be considered strong and attractive.
"It’s normal… there’s nothing special." Oliver rubbed his nose. There was a sudden subtle discomfort in his tone.
"It seems that the problem can only be internal. Perhaps like an enlarged heart or something." Nemo let go of his drenched hair and shook the water off his hand, looking relieved. "It’s good. At least it’s not easy to be discovered."
He then snuck back into the bathroom briskly, and quickly changed into his underwear and robe. The fabrics were ordinary, different from Oliver’s shirt, no doubt that they were clothes for a mage.
Before he had even had the chance to use his staff, he had lost it in the Frontier Forest. At the rate this is going, it was estimated that they will not be able to repay the money they owed Ann even after taking on a lifetime of tasks. Nemo wiped his hair vigorously with a bath towel, and his mood turned bitter again.
"You… come here." Oliver sat down by the bed and greeted with some hesitation.
"Lower your head slightly."
Nemo did so stiffly. Oliver stood up, stretched out his hands and pressed them on both sides of Nemo’s head, as if to cover his ears. Nemo felt the soft warmth coming from those hands like warm water was brushing through his hair. The moist water vapor was steaming, but he didn’t feel the slightest discomfort from the heat.
The tips of his dark hair became fluffy from moisture, but no water droplets slid down Nemo’s neck. Nemo raised his head and tied his hair skillfully with a hair tie, just in time to meet Oliver’s gaze. The two stood extremely close. When he raised his arm, he almost hit Oliver’s shoulder.
"Thank you," Nemo took half a step back, showing a big smile. "You’re more suitable to wear this than me. We should get two mage robes. Are you hungry? I remember Ann saying…"
Suddenly a bang sounded.
The two of them almost put on their fighting posture. Oliver was the first to discover the source of the sound. It was the gray parrot slamming its head into the glass window of the room and was slowly sliding down.
"Hey, it’s back." Nemo opened the window, while the gray parrot flapped its wings embarrassingly and flew into the room.
"…It doesn’t look good." Oliver stared at the parrot’s messy feathers.
Contrary to how it normally acted, the parrot shrank on Nemo’s shoulder and remained silent.
"Where have you been?" Nemo tried to talk to it, but the latter closed its mouth tightly and didn’t say a word. Even if it was a normal parrot, it would still learn and be able to say a few words.
"…Forget it. Let’s go find Ann first."
It was almost noon, and they hadn’t eaten anything in the past day, so they were starving. However, the hunger seemed to have been forgotten by them; at least Nemo didn’t feel hungry at all. His stomach seemed to disappear without a trace. He thought it was just going to be a simple lunch together, but as a result, when they got to the table, they could clearly see who was sitting there. Oliver coughed heavily, and Nemo turned pale and almost walked back out, but Ann grabbed him by his lapel just in time and pressed him to the nearest chair.
Troy Fenrir raised his eyebrows.
"These are your new teammates?" he said, looking with interest at the gray parrot with a wooden expression that was sitting on Nemo’s shoulder.
"Yes. I may have owed them a treasury in my previous life," Ann said calmly, most likely holding back some true emotions for her reply. She had changed into a new leather armor. She sat down carelessly and poured herself a cupful of mead.
"This is… your friend?" Oliver asked cautiously, slowly covering the black badge pinned to his left chest with his right hand.
"I can’t talk about it. We occasionally do business, but it’s a bad relationship." Ann shrugged. "Troy Fenrir, the leader of the Steel Wolf Mercenary. I think you have already met," she added insincerely.
Fenrir’s hawk-like eyes swept towards the two of them. Oliver straightened his back subconsciously, while Nemo lowered his head and began to count the embroidery stitches on the edge of the tablecloth.
"They’re just two children. Don’t scare them." Ann jabbed the mercenary’s arm with her elbow, causing Fenrir to finally retract his gaze. "Speak quickly if you have something to say. The food will be coming soon and I’m so hungry that I can eat a bear. I may not have time to talk with my mouth later."
"How much do you know about Pandorater?" The mercenary turned his head sideways and stared straight into Ann’s amber eyes. "The group of refugees were all frightened and they didn’t know anything when we ask them. The wanted criminals ran away when they saw me but was full of bullshit when we caught them. You shouldn’t know nothing about it, Savage."
Nemo held his breath and counted the stitches more intently.
"I do know a little." Ann didn’t have a trace of nervousness on her face. "The old rules. The Pact of Truth. Exchange information for information."
"What do you want to know?"
"About Adrian Cross," the female warrior’s tone was steady. "I need some information beyond rumors."
Having said that, Fenrir took out a blank piece of parchment paper, and the two of them stretched out their thumbs and without hesitation bit it, then drew a complex array on it. After the array was completed, two thin lines of blood poked out from the heart of the formation and wrapped around the wrists of the two of them.
"Let’s get started," Ann said indifferently. "You go first."
Nemo finally stopped focusing on counting the stitches. He couldn’t help but raise his head and looked curiously at the floating blood in the air, as if they would break and disappear at any time.
"It’s the Pact of Truth," he whispered excitedly to Oliver. "This is the first time I have seen it."
"First question, how did you know that it was Pandorater?"
"I have read about it in books," Ann replied without hesitation. "Its characteristics are obvious."
"…There is not much information about superior demons in books. Where on earth did you get it from…?"
"That has nothing to do with what you want to ask," Ann responded calmly. "Are you planning to use the Pact of Truth to spy on a woman’s personal privacy?"
Fenrir gritted his teeth. There was nothing he could do. The blood line was not broken, which meant Ann did not lie.
"Okay, fine. Did you return after repelling the worm? Did you see anyone else approaching?"
"None of us did. Didn’t it get ripped apart by Pandorater?" Ann raised an eyebrow. "Could it be that something went wrong before that? Let me think… who seriously injured it? No, it seems that someone killed it." She widened her beautiful eyes and stared at Fenrir’s eyes.
"I’m the one asking the questions." The mercenary’s face darkened.
"Sorry, please continue."
"What did Pandorater do after she appeared? …Be detailed. Tell me everything until it disappeared." Fenrir stood up from his seat and propped his hand on the table, swaying the blood line dangerously.
"It spread out and slaughtered everything; its usual practice." The tone of the female warrior was colder this time. "Then it suddenly gathered, as if it was bound by something, and it didn’t take long…" she made a gesture of spreading out, "before it disappeared with a bang."
"Yes. Entangled by something black. Who knows what it was… at least I’ve never seen it before."
"Did anyone take the initiative to approach it?"
Oliver clenched his first, while Nemo tightened his hand that was clenching his robe under the table.
"I didn’t see anyone approaching it." The female warrior picked up her glass of mead with her other free hand and took a few sips from it. "Of course, I didn’t hear anyone say they’ll deal with it. It was fighting with that black thing, so it might have encountered some natural enemies."
"That’s a superior demon, not an ordinary monster. They don’t encounter natural enemies so easily on the surface. I haven’t heard of any Knights of Judgement passing by, unless there was also a demon warlock present…" The mercenary sat back in his chair. He took his gaze away from Ann and directed them sharply at Nemo again, causing the back of Nemo’s neck to become cold. "…Otherwise, nothing can stop it."
"I said I don’t know. When I came back, I didn’t find testers that were mixed with demon warlocks. That was originally your problem, no? If you’re interested in that black thing, I can draw you a picture of it… but I wasn’t close to it, so I may miss some details."
"…Good." Fenrir sighed. "What about this kid? What’s his identity?" Just when Nemo thought the inquiry was about to come to an end, the mercenary asked directly.
"Demon worshipper, as far as I know, that’s it," Ann snorted, answering without hesitation. "Look at him. Even if you stand still, he’ll probably can’t stab you with a knife. Do you think I would be stupid enough to bring someone like that to see you?"
Ann raised her head, with face full of confidence. Fenrir squinted at the blood line on her wrist. The thin red line had not disconnected.
"Give me the drawing in a while. I have nothing else to ask for the time being. Now it’s your turn, Savage."
The smile on Ann’s face faded and she thought for a moment.
"Adrian Cross, the ‘Shining Morning Star’… I only know that he has indeed been stripped of the title of a Knight of Judgement. Troy, tell me, is he really an apostate?"