Translator and Editor: SaltyTank
After staying for so long outside her village, Jade felt rather uneasy. The pitch-black forest along with occasional howls from beasts added to her anxiousness, not to mention her peculiar travelling companions. Andre, in particular, was a major source of her worries.
‘Eat up alright? Ya can’t walk with ya belly empty!’ Hilde passed a bowl of unknown broth to Jade.
Due to massive differences in their survival environment, humans of this era had drastically different food production methods and eating habits than their ancestors. Living underground their whole lives had limited their knowledge on wildlife and vegetation to a very low degree.
Jade basically had no idea what she was eating. Regardless, she ate without any hesitation; anything was fine as long as it could quell her hunger.
Slowly sipping on her broth, Jade stole glances at Andre, who was cleaning his weapons. Although they had not encountered any gods during their two days of travelling, wild beasts would sometimes attack them out of the blue. Having seen him defeat even a god, Jade had not thought in the slightest that mere beasts could hurt, let alone defeat, him.
The fabric of his armour was tattered and needed some sewing, but that wasn’t what caught Jade’s attention. It was surprising that Andre actually checked on the sword covered in crimson blood stains every day and maintained the weapon carefully. In fact, he actually spent the most time checking that particular sword during every equipment maintenance session.
‘Didcha know? “They” don’t actually bleed,’ Hilde, noticing Jade’s suspicious and serious look, said as she chuckled.
‘Eh? Them, you mean… the gods?’ Jade suddenly realised that it was indeed the case.
Back when the pair was fighting the god, they slashed and severed its limbs, but all that could be seen were clean cuts. There was no blood, no organs, just lumps of flesh.
‘Their body structure’s really weird and they recover hella fast. Normal weapons can’t even put a scratch on ‘em, but there’s this thing which is deadly poison for ‘em.’
‘Right, but mankind’s blood only.’
Just when Jade was startled by the revelation, Andre was coincidentally pulling out a small vial filled with red fluid from a wooden box and poured its contents onto his sword.
‘That… That is—!’
‘Chill, we’re no murderers aight? The blood, we borrow ‘em—you’ll get it once we get to the base tomorrow.’
‘So it was really just a rumour…’
‘The god slaying sword?’ Hilde tilted her head to the side and thought briefly before answering with a sad smile. ‘It’d be great if that thing’s real.’
‘Still, Miss Hilde’s really amazing to be able to fight the gods.’
‘Nah not really, I’m just keeping Andre company. Nothin’ amazing at all.’
‘Keeping him company?’
‘Ya, he has sworn to kill all those so-called gods.’
‘That’s… a bit scary.’ Jade shuddered involuntarily, recalling his terrifying expression back then. Hilde soothed her by patting her on the back.
‘Haha! Didn’t I say, he’s just looks a bit gloomy~’
‘…Who’s gloomy?’ Andre said as he sheathed his sword.
‘Hey, how disrespectful! Eavesdroppin’ on our ladies’ chat!’
‘If you’re not so loud in the first place… Nevermind, doesn’t matter to me.’ He stood up and left for the forest again.
‘Ah… Is he mad?’
‘No way, he’s just a bit shy on the inside. Maybe he’s off to set some traps nearby? It’d keep the critters away at night.’
‘Is that so…’
‘Being proactive’s not a bad method to get close to him, okay? Like creeping into his blanket at night.’
‘Eh eh eh eh eh!’ Jade almost jumped up from her seat. ‘Hold up! It’s not like this! Andre saved me and I’m grateful, but… No, it’s not like this! Stop teasing me!’
‘I’m not teasing you, heh. Who knows what might happen tomorrow? Might as well enjoy yourself when the chance’s still there~’ Hilde cuddled and rubbed herself against Jade with a smirk.
Despite having a petite height, Hilde’s curves were much more ‘mature’ than Jade’s; it was evident from the clothes lent to Jade. They felt a bit tight overall, with the only exception being the loose fabric at chest level. It left her with some rather conflicting feelings, truth be told.
‘Hilde… Stop teasing me please!’
Her protests were futile; Hilde continued her ‘harassment’ as she pleased.
Hilde was no less brutal than Andre when it came to combat, but her energetic and playful personality after dropping her swords made it easy for people to bond with her. Jade even secretly thought to herself that Hilde ‘was a cat that likes to stick around humans’. After all, the gods only attacked humans; Jade had always wanted to live freely like a cat.
After playing around for a while, Jade finally managed to push Hilde away. Who knows if Hilde would go one step further and do something unsightly to her.
Anyways, they filled their bellies and prepared the place for passing the night. It was then Andre finally returned.
‘Nice work,’ Hilde greeted him and helped him take off his armour and equipment. The two were really on the same wavelength, so much to the point that Jade felt curious about their relationship, but was too shy to ask.
Andre rarely spoke, even to Hilde whom he was close with. However, he didn’t seem to mind any of Hilde’s antics and simply allowed her to do as she liked to him, never showing any signs of irritation. Perhaps this was what Hilde had meant by being proactive? Perhaps if she tried, she could also become friends with Andre. It was just that Jade couldn’t think of things to talk with him, nor could she bring herself to doing something clingy like Hilde.
‘Sigh…’ Jade kept her sigh silent to avoid being heard by the two.
She despised herself.
Just two days ago, she was right at the doorsteps of hell. Fellow villagers, her family, her friends; all of them had died by the hands of the gods. Yet here she was, worrying about such pointless things. She despised herself for being so selfish.
The hellish tragedy which she should have been a part of almost seemed unreal, as though it was simply a nightmare. Her brain was stuck with all sorts of emotions, all sorts of thought. She couldn’t sleep well at all, turning and rolling around in an attempt to find a relaxing position. The never-ending squeals and buzzes of insects, as though they were screaming right into her ears, only added to her misery. Insomnia really was pure torture.
After who knew how long, Jade could her footsteps approaching her in her hazy state. She knew it was Andre for some reason; perhaps it was his atmosphere, or maybe it was his heavy steps compared to Hilde’s.
She didn’t know what Andre approached her for and was a bit tense, yet she didn’t dare to open her eyes and peek. It didn’t take long for him to arrive besides her, and she could feel his touch on her blanket—Jade held her breath. All he did, though, was pull the blanket up to her chest level, probably afraid she might catch a cold.
Hearing his light thuds fade away, Jade finally opened her eyes and took a peek, only to see Andre standing in a clearing not too far away. He was looking up at the sky; the night slightly breezy, the usually dense smog was somewhat thinner. The moon was hanging high up in the misty night sky.
The moon was further eroded by its dark side compared to when she had just left her village, but that was not what caught Jade’s attention. Sparkling stars scattered across the dark template, shining with more radiance and elegance than the glittering smog. She never had the chance to properly admire the scenery above ground—had the outside world always been such a wonderful place?
Unsure why, Jade felt tears filling the brim of her eyes. The world was so cruel, yet it was also so alluring and spectacular at the same time.
Why, just why?
Andre, who was staring at the night sky, suddenly reached out his arm towards the unreachable heights, as though wanting to grasp the stars. Yet, all he could grasp was the smog-filled air. His fist slowly tightened; it felt like he was declaring war against the sky, no, the world itself.
Jade shifted her gaze to where Andre was holding his fist, and she finally saw “them”. In the night sky shrouded in a layer of greyness, many shadows were blinking in and out of existence.
Having no clue what they were, the teenage girl shut her eyes tight and kept them out of her mind until she fell asleep.