I Became a Ruined Character in a Dark Fantasy

Chapter 66



Chapter 66

“Urgh,” Miguel let out a low groan.

"Miguel...? Miguel! Are you conscious?!" Lucy's shout followed.

Struggling, Miguel opened his eyes. A strange smile spread across his face as he looked at Lucy.

"So... this isn't the afterlife."

"No, it isn't," Ian said nonchalantly as he sat down beside him.

Miguel's smile deepened, even as his cracked lips began to bleed, "I saw you. Guess that wasn't a dream either."

"Stop talking nonsense. Why would I appear in your dream?" Ian, with a flick of his tongue, placed the back of his hand on Miguel's forehead.

Even in this situation, Miguel looked puzzled.

"You don't seem to have a fever."

"...That's a good thing, right?" Lucy asked.

Ian shrugged, "It means his wounds likely haven't gotten infected."

"Heh... if I were to die, I would have died long ago," said Miguel.

"Given you're still mouthing off, it seems you're alright."

"How long have I been like this?"

"A bit over half a day. You should be thankful to Lucy. She saved you." Ian stood up.

Miguel's gaze shifted to Lucy, "Thank you. For not running away."

"It was supposed to be Miguel running away, not me. Don't thank me. It's my fault this happened."

"What are you talking about? It was all to ease my conscience. But..."

Miguel licked his dry lips and continued, "Why have you tied me up?"

"It's to keep you from getting cold. I covered you up."

"This is almost like being bound."

Lucy let out a laugh. Miguel blinked in surprise at her change of expression, then smiled back.

"Keep the talisman I gave you. You never know when you might need it."

"No, this is for Miguel to..."

"Stop spouting nonsense and sit. We need to eat." Ian interrupted as he returned, holding a small pot.

It was a gift from the Riurel family's maid, however, it had never been used throughout the journey. A savory smell wafted from it.

"I'll feed him."

"Go ahead."

As Lucy took the pot, Miguel struggled to sit up. The burned clearing and the charred bodies scattered around came into his view.

"So... it wasn't all a dream," Miguel murmured.

As he lifted his left arm, it became apparent that it was missing from below the elbow.

"This isn't a dream either."

"Unfortunately," Ian said.

Miguel shrugged, "I'll tell you something interesting. Even though I clearly don't have a hand, it feels like it's still there. An invisible hand that aches."

He looked back at Ian calmly, "I don’t think I can use a bow anymore."

"...I'm sorry, Miguel." The response came from Lucy. Tears welled up in her eyes.

Miguel shook his head, bewildered, "It's not your fault. Hey, it's nothing. How many one-armed people are there in the world? I've just lost a hand, strictly speaking, I'm not even one-armed. Right, brother?"

"Yeah. Crying is fine, but cry while you feed him." Ian motioned with his chin.

Lucy, tears still streaming, spooned up some stew from the pot and brought it to Miguel's mouth. The situation, oddly comical, made both Miguel and Ian smirk. Eventually, Lucy also broke into laughter and diligently fed Miguel the stew. It was a heartwarming scene, if only they weren't in the middle of a cursed forest surrounded by burnt corpses.

"Tastes like art. Brother, did you know how to cook?"

"It's just throwing whatever's there into a pot and boiling it."

"I should have eaten like this earlier. Heh..."

Miguel chuckled as he slurped down the food, then added, "Thanks. For saving me."

Ian frowned and looked back at him, feeling the flattery was becoming too much.

"You're the one who healed me."

"Shut it. You need to recover quickly so we can leave. If we have to stay here for days, I'd rather kill you and bury you right here."

"I should be good as new by half a day. But..."

Miguel looked around at the almost skeletal remains of the carriage and added, "How will we move? It won't be easy on foot."

"Don't worry. We'll find a way."

It took about two hours before Miguel understood what Ian meant.

Clip-clop, clip-clop—

A black carriage approached from a distance.

"There are more pursuers...!"

"Calm down. That's our ride."

“...?!?!”

***

The black carriage stopped in front of the clearing.

Without a word, Charlotte moved to the back and started throwing things out of the carriage. It was all heads. The heads of the trading company guards and employees.

"Uh... Uh!"

Following that, she pushed a man, whose eyes and mouth were covered and limbs were bound, out of the carriage as if tossing him aside. Charlotte dragged him over to where Ian stood.

Noticing Miguel and Lucy eyeing her warily, full of suspicion, she spoke out, "As promised... I did it."

"A promise, huh."

Ian scoffed, "More like an order."

Charlotte glared at Ian. She seemed to have somewhat recovered from the shock of the previous night by killing the trading company folks. But her sharp gaze didn't last long. After exchanging looks with Ian for just a few seconds, Charlotte's gaze fell.

"Damn it... Yes... as ordered."

Ian looked down at her tail. It was barely half its original length, with bandages tightly wound around the end. Then, Ian's gaze shifted to the middle-aged man on the ground. A small stature with signs of rough treatment all over his body. Ian removed the cloth that was blinding the man and gagged his mouth. The man shouted upon seeing Charlotte.

"Cha, Charlotte...! Why did you betray me? Why?"

Oh, to start with that. Ian raised an eyebrow and naturally looked at Charlotte.

"Were you two, by any chance, lovers?"

"What nonsense...! Absolutely not." Charlotte, almost reflexively blurting out her words, then flinched and added more. She looked down at the middle-aged man with a gaze filled with contempt.

"I have no interest in such a weak and sneaky human. In fact, I despise him."

The man looked shocked. Charlotte coldly added, "I've known how you saw me, Javier. It's pitiful. That I couldn't kill you with my own hands."

"Cha... Charlotte...." Javier sighed.

Ian grabbed his hair, "This isn't the time for a lovers' quarrel, Javier."

"Ian...! Ian Hope...!"

Finally, Javier looked up at Ian, "Spare me! If you let me go, I'll no longer interfere with your affairs! No, I'll even pay you a reward in the name of the company!"

"Now that's a more sensible offer. But you don't actually believe I'd trust you, do you?"

"I, I mean it...!"

"So, how much have you told the company about what happened here?"

"That, that's......!"

Conflict flashed in Javier's eyes as he tried to gauge what answer would spare his life. Unfortunately for him, Ian had no intention of letting him live, regardless of his response.

"He didn't reveal your name. He thought another sly fellow might try to snatch away the credit." Charlotte intercepted, answering on his behalf. Visjt n𝒐velbin(.)c𝒐m for new updates

A fresh wave of betrayal washed over Javier's face.

"Ah, good. Then there's no need for further discussion,” said Ian.

“...”

"In reality, even if someone found out, they wouldn't believe it. How could a mere kidnapper kill all of the elite members of the Libra Trading Company?"

"I, I have a lot of money stored in an iron vault! It's my personal money, unrelated to the company! I'll give you all of it if you spare my life! There are more than a thousand gold coins in storage!"

"That's a tempting offer." Ian's gaze shifted to Javier's bound hands. He forcibly removed a thick ring from Javier's middle finger.

"Is this the key?"

"...!" Javier's eyes widened, shocked that such a country bumpkin knew of it.

Ian smiled, "This money will come in handy when I eventually make my way to the Empire."

"But, without me going there personally—"

"They will still willingly give it up. However, they would take a thirty percent fee. Am I wrong?"

Javier stiffened.

Ian, flaunting the ring, turned to Charlotte, "You deal with him."

“...!”

"Do it out of sight, since there's a child here."

Charlotte's lips curled up slightly as she looked down at Javier, who swallowed nervously.

"Cha, Charlotte. Just wait, listen to me—"

She grabbed Javier's face and dragged him away, revealing a simple-minded side. Ian turned away, relieved. With this, all pursuers had been dealt with. No one would chase them any longer.

I also managed to secure... a kind of bonus for my efforts.

Ian stored the ring in a pocket dimension. Over a thousand gold coins was a substantial amount, even after deducting fees.

I'll be sitting on a gold mine once we reach the city.

Returning to the campfire, Ian narrowed his eyes at Miguel and Lucy's stares.

"What."

"That beastfolk, what happened? Wasn't she trying to kill you?"

"That's right. And I won."

Despite spending significant stat points in the progress.

In the process, he used an enormous amount of additional ability points. Ian clicked his tongue briefly. He didn't regret his decision, but it meant he had taken a few more steps down the path of becoming what many would call a failed character.

Now, he was likely stronger than most knights. There was a chance that, if this continued, his next highest attribute might not be Intelligence but Physical Strength instead. Not to mention, his Agility wasn't too far behind in terms of being impressive either.

"If winning a fight means they follow orders, brother, you should have a legion by now...."

"It's because I cut off her tail."

"Her... tail?" Lucy asked, confused.

Ian nodded, "Yes. Beastfolks are compelled to obey the one who cuts their tail. An indelible fear is etched into their soul."

"So, she's going to keep traveling with us?" Lucy asked, narrowing her eyes.

Ian glanced at Miguel, who looked uncomfortable.

"Would you prefer I killed her?"

"Uh...?"

"I spared her because I thought living would bring her more pain. Plus, it eliminates any future trouble. Now that it's over, I'm asking."

Confronted with Ian's composed gaze, Miguel was the one who ended up being flustered, realizing that Ian was asking in earnest. After all, he had lost his hand to the trackers of the Libra Trading Company. If he said the word, Ian would not hesitate for a moment to willingly kill this beastfolk for him. Eventually, Miguel let out a small, wry laugh.

Miguel chuckled, "My revenge has already been carried out by Lucy here. Besides, all the others are dead, aren't they? If she obeys your orders, well. My only concern is..."

He shrugged and added, "If she fears you, couldn't she just run away? If she avoids you for the rest of her life, that's the end of it, right?"

"That's impossible," Charlotte responded, appearing from behind the wagon and joining them at the campfire. Fresh blood dripped from her facial fur.

“Leaving behind a severed tail and fleeing is considered the greatest disgrace among the beastfolk. Such individuals can hardly be called beastfolk anymore. It would be better for them to die."

She declared this, standing beside the campfire, looking toward Ian, "A beastfolk who has lost their tail has only two options: to retrieve their tail or to serve the one who severed it. ...Not many humans know this secret anymore."

It seemed she was curious about how he knew. Ian simply nodded in acknowledgment.

"I didn't know that much. Thanks to you, now I do."

"What...?"

Shock spread across Charlotte's face, "You mean you didn't know and cut off my tail?"

"I only knew it was the worst punishment for a beastfolk. Thanks to you, the value of your tail just increased."

"How could you...."

"In that sense, don't even dream of messing with these two. The moment you do, your tail will be gone from this world forever." Ian locked eyes with Charlotte, who looked utterly lost.

"Besides, you won't be able to run away from me," said Ian.

"Damn it....” Charlotte growled under her breath.

Miguel, observing them alternately, eventually let out a hollow laugh, "How interesting, now we're accompanied by a prospective demon as well."

"Don't call me that! I serve Lu Solar...!" Charlotte snarled back.

Charlotte growled. The label of a prospective demon was a common stereotype against beastfolk, stemming from their worship of a deity that human gods had exiled to the fringes of the void.

This deity was considered cruel and barbaric, a common accusation against races that fell in opposition to humans. Unlike other races that worshiped the same gods as humans, rumors were widespread that beastfolk still worshiped their god trapped in the void.

However, Ian knew that these rumors weren't entirely unfounded.

"Where do you think you're showing your teeth? Want all of them pulled out?"

The tension quickly dissolved with Ian's remark. Charlotte sat down behind Ian, and Miguel, exchanging glances with Lucy, shrugged nonchalantly, seemingly already adapted to their unusual situation.

"Well... we should get ready to leave soon," Miguel added after a moment.

Ian gestured toward him, "Whenever you're ready."

"Yes, so let's go."

"Already?"

"My arm was cut off, not my leg. It hurts a bit, but it's not like I can't move."

Miguel groaned as he stood up and added, "It should be enough. I can drive the carriage with one hand, so let's go. We can't spend another night here."

"Let's rest for one more day. No one is following us anymore. If the wound gets worse, that'll be a bigger problem," Lucy objected.

Ian nodded in agreement, "That's a reasonable point. We can't afford to carry a corpse along."

"I said I'm fine...."

"Then, you sit at the back and guide."

"Eh? Then who will drive the carriage?"

Ian looked toward Charlotte instead of answering. Charlotte's eyes widened in surprise, and her tail shivered.

"Are you asking me to be the coachman?" Charlotte asked.

"You got it exactly. Miguel will be the guide, so just drive the carriage wherever he says."

Charlotte's gaze shifted toward Miguel.

Miguel grinned, showing his yellow teeth, "Let's do our best. Your name was Charlotte, right?"

"This is... damn it...."

Charlotte, her ears twitching, soon stood up and headed toward the carriage. From being a direct subordinate of the Empire's merchant company to a coachman was a natural reaction, yet none of their companions seemed to mind.

"This carriage is quite something. Even the carriage is better in the Empire. Isn't that astonishing?" Migue chuckled, comfortably leaning back on blankets spread over the blood-stained floor of the carriage’s cargo area, with a robe and cloak thrown over them.

Ian, leaning casually against the seat where Javier had once sat, shrugged his shoulders, "Indeed, it's comfortable."

Miguel exchanged a glance with Ian, smiling as he saw Lucy leaning on his shoulder.

"Seems like we're ready to set off? Let's head back to the main road. Turn the horses around, Charlotte."

Instead of responding, Charlotte, growling slowly, snapped the reins. The carriage made its way through the ash-gray forest. No further significant conflicts arose.

The group, having traversed the abandoned lands, safely entered the northern outskirts.


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