[Phoenix’s territory, Desert zone]
“So, you are saying that you simply wanted to steal money from us because we appeared to be rich and you had no intention of harming us?”
Crouching down to face a lion-headed man that was bleeding, Sol asked calmly.
The man nodded hurriedly while doing his best to keep his mouth shut and not show his teeth.
Inwardly, he couldn’t help but curse his friend whose dead and mangled body could be seen from the corner of his eyes.
At first, everything went swimmingly well.
By pretending to be peddlers who needed help because of their broken caravans, they had managed to bring their two unsuspecting victims outside of the city.
It hadn’t been the first time they did something like this and the next step would have been to abduct their helpless targets.
As for the target being stronger than them? He had never entertained that notion.
He was already near the peak of the Count rank. Even though he had no way of entering the Duke rank, thanks to his innate strength, he always liked to brag that he was the strongest below Duke.
People at the Duke rank could already form their own organizations and most of them were related to Phoenixes. There was no way those two targets could pose problems to his teams.
How wrong has he been?
It had been a total massacre.
The moment they turned hostile, they were helpless to learn that the role of hunter had never been theirs.
Now, he was the sole survivor of his team and all he could do was beg and hope that they would spare him.
Ignoring the trembling man, Sol, whose cloak was still spotless, decided to get the opinion of his companion.
“Sheherazade, what do you think?”
Sol did not believe him at all. It would have been so much easier if he could access his dimension, but Gabriel had refused his demand and, after learning the reason, he couldn’t blame her.
From her own words, allowing him to use his dimension in her territory was like opening all the doors of a castle and breaking all the walls.
“… Sheherazade ? I am speaking to you.”
“Oh! You mean me? Sorry, sorry! I was just a little distracted.”
Sol gave her an incredulous look before shaking his head.
‘At least if you want to use a fake name, try to remember it…’
Sighing, he asked once again, “What do you think?”
“Hum… he’s from the Asad race. From what I know, those guys are ferocious and always advance in a band. Stragglers would also swear their loyalty to someone they judge worthy.”
‘Sheherazade’ leaned down and looked at the eyes of the Asad man before nodding,
“No doubt, he is lying.”
“What makes you so sure?”
Sol also believed they were lying, but he had no evidence to back him up.
“The eyes are the windows of the soul and souls don’t lie.”
She mumbled before nodding,
“Shall we kill him?”
Sol was a little startled at this question thrown in perfect innocence.
He then let out a rueful smile when he remembered that just because she looked and acted like a cute innocent young girl didn’t mean she didn’t hide a deep ruthlessness.
In fact, he was more surprised at his own actions.
He had never really been the bloodthirsty type. But it seemed that since coming here, he was restraining himself less and less.
What Sol misunderstood though was that Isis wasn’t particularly ruthless. In fact, she had never killed anyone in her life.
It was just that she had been surrounded by death for all her life and put a very low emphasis on life.
Death was nothing more than another state in the cycle of rebirth.
Closing his eyes in thoughts, he asked,
“Do you have some kind of interrogation skills that would allow you to understand what is happening?”
Isis, or as Sol knew her, Sheherazade, shuffled her feet a little before nodding.
“I do have such a skill.”
He could see that she seemed uncomfortable at the mention of the skill,
“I can step away if you wish.”
Sol did not miss the way the tension left her shoulders. Taking his cue, he turned around and began to walk away, only stopping when he was about 200 meters away.
Isis, now alone with the Asad, sighed before taking off the veil on her face,
His eyes widened at the face that greeted him. How could he not recognize her? After all, her face was plastered on the wall of all bandit organizations with a stern warning to never approach her.
Even though they were outlaws, they all knew that there was one rule they could never break and that was attacking a Phoenix, much less the daughter of the queen.
Regret immediately filled his heart before it was replaced by rage,
“If only you didn’t-”
His words were cut short as a hand was placed at the top of his head and his gaze interlocked with shining scarlet pupils.
Her voice seemed to come out of the depth of the greatest abyss and filled his spirit.
Memories of his life from the day he was born flashed through his mind.
His life as a child.
His life as a teen.
His first kill.
Everything about him was like an open book.
He let out a roar of pain, while his eyes began to convulse in their sockets, and tears of blood fell from his eyes.
In the deepest part of his mind, he could see the same black-haired woman sitting on a throne. On her side, a wolf-like monster the size of a house was crouching down and looking at him with hunger evident in its eyes.
Behind her, a black scale was floating steadily while measuring two objects. On one side was a golden feather, and on the other side was a heart that beat slowly.
“What is happening!?”
He screamed inwardly, but what answered was a cold emotionless voice.
[You are being judged.]
He tried to move, but was forced to kneel on the ground while his wrist and heels were chained strongly.
All he could do was watch the moments of his life flash in front of his eyes.
At first, during the moment of his childhood, the feather seemed heavier.
But, the more recent the events were, the heavier the heart became.
This wasn’t all. Each time a memory of him killing someone passed, a dark silhouette with similar features would emerge from his shadow in front of him, hatred and resentment surrounding it.
It didn’t take long for him to understand what was happening and he began shaking his head in despair.
“…No…no…no…This wasn’t my fault! I didn’t want to do any of this!”
He pleaded, groveling on the ground.
“Please! I beg you! Please spare me!”
All he received was a mocking feral grin from the beast.
At the same time that he begged, his memory went through the moment when his own victims were begging for their life.
At long last, the film of memories stopped and the result was clear for him to see — The heart was far heavier than the feather.
Meanwhile, behind him, hundreds of souls watched him with a ravenous expression.
Immediately, the same emotionless voice sounded again,
[You have been judged.]
He threw a feeble complaint.
[You are a great sinner.]
He begged as he kneeled in front of the black-haired woman.
[Your punishment is…Death]
Unfortunately, all glimmers of hope vanished the moment those words were uttered.
The last thing he saw was his heart being devoured by the hungry monster.
The last thing he felt was his body being torn apart by hundreds of resentful souls.
On the outside world, all Sol heard was the blood-freezing scream of pain of the man, before everything stopped.
When he turned around, even though he was quite far, he could see tears of blood streaming from the face of the Lion while his tongue was sticking out.
Aside from this, there were absolutely no wounds to the body of the man, but no life could be felt in him.
Walking toward ‘Sheherazade’, he could feel the heavy air around her, as if she was waiting for him to react negatively. But all he did was let out a joke.
“Remind me to never piss you off.”
‘Sheherazade’ seemed startled before letting out a smiling,
“Hmph! Now you finally understand my greatness.”
“Of course, of course. So, what kind of information did you get?”
The smile on ‘Sheherazade’s’ face became cold as she covered her face with her veil.
“We need to move fast.”
The glaring suns were shining brightly on the endless desert. The yellow sand was heated to a temperature unbearable for the human body.
A group of twenty was trudging through the desert.
Fifteen of them were clad in torn and tattered gray robes. Their robes had not been cleaned for goddesses knew how long; They were drenched in sweat, releasing a disgusting stench, and their clothes were stuck to their wet bodies. Their lips were cracking, and their eyes draped down.
Their fatigue was evident from the look on their faces. They were moving shakily, it was as though they were going to collapse at any moment. The horses that they brought along also looked sick and skinny.
Leading them was a man with the head of an ox, a Taurus, as well as four others of the same race protecting the group from the side.
As befitting of their race, the five of them were hulking men of nearly 2 meters with bulging muscles.
Despite the heat brought by the suns, they walked steadily with their torso naked without any problems.
“Advance faster! Those who cause the caravan to slow down will be punished.”
His imposing voice made the fifteen people clad in rags shiver as they forced their tired bodies to advance.
“Leader, where do you think Aslong and the other three are? We were supposed to meet at the supply point after the main city.”
One of the Taurus, holding a large axe in his muscular hands asked. Clearly, he wasn’t particularly interested in the topic but simply asked out of boredom.
The leader scratched his dark red horns before grunting,
“That bastard Aslong is a greedy asshole. Most likely he found some sucker that could be used as a Vira production supply or something of the like.”
“The boss is so smart!”
The grunts immediately began to suck up to him by showering him in praises.
Puffing hot air from his large nose, their red-horned Taurus accepted the praise with a smug expression.
“Anyway, the matriarch will give us the best reward. We always find the highest number of products.”
At the mention of the matriarch, the five of them showed an expression of total devotion.
The matriarch was a beautiful and powerful woman from the spirit race.
Even though she looked more like a human, the Taurus saw no problem in this. To begin with, they were a lustful race and could find beauty in any female, no matter what the race was.
“Yes! I am sure that the boss will catch the eyes of the matriarch.”
The others were about to follow another round of praise when they felt all the hair of their bodies stand.
Raising their heads, they could see a shadow in the sky falling in their direction at an incredibly high speed.
The moment that unidentified objects fell in front of them, a huge explosion followed.
“*Cough* *Cough* Bastard! Is this how you treat a lady!?”
“You should first act like a lady if you wish to be treated like one.”
When the dust and the sand dissipated, the Taurus were greeted to the sight of two people cloaked from head to toe. One in white and the other, obviously a woman, in black.
Even though the two of them seemed so frail and small compared to their hulking bodies, none of the Taurus dared to move.
In fact, even if they wished, they were unable to do so with how much their bodies were shivering.
When the two cloaked people stopped bickering, the one in white asked,
“So, are they the ones?”
“Indeed, I can recognize them from the memory of that Asad.”
The Taurus immediately understood what was happening.
Immediately kneeling, the leader pleaded,
“Please! Esteemed sirs! Do not dirty your hands by dealing with us, we are just workers. We do not make the decisions.”
The silence that befell the zone was so heavy that it was difficult to breathe. Be it the Tauruses or the refugees, none of them dared to make the slightest sound.
Raising his head in joy, the leader of the Taurus was about to thank them for sparing them, but his joy was short-lived.
“Let’s kill the other four first. We only need one of them anyway.”
(AN: The first part of this little arc is close to an end. Nothing better than some killing to make people grow closer. Lol. Also, I made a mistake last chapter. The currency isn’t Vira, but Vira. It took me more than a month and the reminding of a friend to realize that mistake.)