Beware of The Red Thread - Chapter 17
“Did you have a good night last night?”
I met Sleipnir during the awkward atmosphere between me and Abel as we walked around town. He radiated energy as he strolled about, approaching me warmly. As he looked at me and Abel, Sleipnir suddenly asked a question.
“Hmm? What happened to the Master?”
I was in denial. Sleipnir looked at me with a wide-eyed stare. The beast’s quick wit seemed to penetrate the awkward atmosphere.
What’s going on?
I felt embarrassed. My reply was nothing more than a slip of the tongue. Mumbling to myself in a daze, I hurried towards the pharmacy.
Trot. Trot. Trot.
The sound of his hooves stung my ears, but I decided not to look back. I entered the pharmacy and commissioned the pharmacist to decoct the herbs that were given to me by Verseppo so they could be turned into pills and potions. No matter how hurt I get, the red thread doesn’t form on me. It could be due to the fact I’m not from this world, but it also means that if I were to ever get hurt, I couldn’t heal myself.
Because of that, the nearby priests and monsters would periodically bring me various medicinal herbs found outside the village on the rugged mountains. I wasn’t sure if Verseppo’s hand would be fine. Even if I wanted to visit him, I couldn’t with Abel still chasing after him. Trying to visit Verseppo would be too burdensome right now.
I’m not trying to start a fire. There’s been a few sparks, but I’ve managed to douse them so far.
Regardless, I took out the sugar cubes I had and gave them to Sleipnir.
“Oh, thank you, Lian!”
Seeing the bright smile of a truly happy horse is surely a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Luce, where Saint Lucia and Assand will be, is very far. It’s not the kind of place anyone should enter. Specifically, Abel was the god of Death, and therefore exiled from Luce. I shouldn’t have even dreamed of taking him towards the center of light. In order to come into contact with Saint Lucia, we’d have no choice but to hang around the outskirts of Luce, pretending that our meeting was mere coincidence.
From what I could calculate, there were likely still a few months left until the beginning of the books would happen. That said, I’d had to wander around on my own to get information. I would also need to talk to priests about the nature of Abel’s curse. Of course, I’d still have to bring that hotheaded reaper with me to the outskirts. I stole a glance at his handsome face. He was leaning against the pharmacy, his arms crossed.
If only he could keep his mouth shut like this. That’d be quite the sight.
I turned away before he could notice.
By the way, how do you keep a heart safe?
Abel had entrusted his heart—my lifeline—to me.
He’s much stronger, though. It’d be safer for him to hold onto it.
I wasn’t sure why he decided to trust me with his life, especially when I was already too busy taking care of my own. I didn’t dare to ask. His unpredictable nature made it hard to discern what would set him off. I put the thought aside for the time being.
Our luggage was the next problem to consider.
Sleipnir was cheerfully chewing on the sugar cubes next to me. Even despite Sleipnir being the world’s best beast and ride, the baggage is still something I’d have to manage. The amount of drugs, medical texts, and emergency food I’d need to bring were considerably high.
Should I ask for a thick layer of leather? Maybe I could make a custom suitcase? Novel ideas weren’t coming to mind. I wandered around the front of the pharmacy lost in thought when several hands suddenly grabbed me by the shoulder. I let out a startled cry.
It was none other than the temple priest, Arachne. She was wearing thick purple makeup over her eight eyes.
“I heard you were back. I didn’t get to see you back then because I was on my monthly leave.”
Come to think of it, I didn’t remember seeing Arachne in all the commotion on that first day. How long has it been? Arachne pulled me closer towards her.
“I baked your favorite kakagu cake! Let’s go!”
Shaking off her six arms was difficult. Before I knew it, we were invited to her home. There was still some time to kill before the herbs were going to be ready, so it wasn’t all bad.
Fortunately, Arachne was the exact same as I last saw her. For reference, Arachne was a widow spider. She seemed to be taking good care of herself. I breathed a sigh of relief as she started digging around her house, her six arms swinging furiously.
“I heard that you were leaving to train far away from here?”
I nodded my head.
I couldn’t tell anyone that I was trying to find the female lead of this world’s story, so my official story was that I was going to study new medicines.
Suddenly, something flew at me. Picking it up, I noticed that it looked similar to a crossbody bag.
“This is a bag made of space-expanding spider webs made from the web of my family. It also has a weight loss spell, so it should be helpful to you. It’s our family’s heirloom. I know it’s a little dirty, but would you like to take it?”
“Thank you so much!” I cried out.
Despite being a monster, you’ve been incredibly helpful to me!
I hugged Arachne tightly. All villagers- No, not just villagers. All of the monsters are really great. I was so happy that I stuck around to finish the kakagu cake before leaving. Six arms gently touched me as I left.
“Please take care of Lian for me. She can be a clumsy girl, but she’s also a kind and gracious human. Please, Mr. Reaper?”
I was terrified of what repercussions Arachne would suffer for trying to give advice to Abel.
He had been incredibly quiet lately, so it was to my surprise that he didn’t lash out.
Instead, he obediently replied.
Huh?! I was confused. I heard a whistling noise and turned towards the source. Sleipnir looked at me with a smug expression as he followed along.
“You’re one hell of a human being.”
“Huh?” I replied, my confusion only worsening.
“Typically, monsters only think of humans as food. You’ve lived here for five years without getting eaten. I thought you were just brave, but it seems your reputation precedes you. Master could learn a thing or two.”
Sleipnir spoke what was on his mind. I smiled cheerfully as I walked on. Normally, Abel would follow in a fit of anger and kick Sleipnir in the back. Instead, he was being uncharacteristically quiet again. It was strange, so I looked up at him, immediately regretting my choice.
I wasn’t entirely sure that his expression was accurate. Abel spoke bluntly, quickly returning to his arrogant self. I knew what I saw though. He had been looking at me with a pleased look in his eyes.
We headed towards the Temple of Lemda in the afternoon. We now had a solution for our luggage problem, so I was thinking of leaving sooner than planned.
Of course, Abel followed me, causing the priests an endless amount of grief. Abel ignored the ghost priests’ woes as he wandered around the temple. His thoughts were occupied by how narrow the halls were, or how I had managed to work here. I followed him around, taking care of any messes he made.
“He won’t bite, he’s not dangerous.”
I reassured them seemingly a hundred times before they started to loosen up, much like a pet owner loosening the leash.
“How’ve you been?”
I had a short consultation over tea with the Cherkopian priest. I was concerned about the red thread attached to him, which had thickened considerably since the last time I saw it. It wasn’t attached to anything outside so it couldn’t have been an injury or illness. I couldn’t understand why the death flag was so thick.
“Are you alright? Your eyes are quite red. Have you been having trouble sleeping lately?” I inquired.
“The truth is… my son who ran away from home recently keeps appearing in my dreams.”
In response to my question, he hesitantly confessed the issue plaguing him. His son was on his mind a lot lately. When I first fell here, the first monster I saved was the Cherkopian priest. The name of his originally incurable disease was called Somatization Disorder.
Ten years ago, his only son suddenly declared that couldn’t continue living in a rural village any longer. He claimed that he didn’t want to become a priest; instead opting to become a great person, before running away.
While waiting for him to return, the priest became angry and consequently turned ill. Although he considered his son to be a wretched child, the priest still cared for his son enough that he was still holding onto a photo.
“I have a foolish request, If I may ask. While you’re traveling through any villages, could you please keep a look out for a man who looks like me? If you can, could you please let me know if he’s dead or alive?”
He pulled out the pendant he was always wearing. Encased inside was the picture of a seven year old boy with long purple hair and a beaming smile. At first glance, he looked like a human, but the half-moon shaped eye on his forehead and stitches on the back of his hands made it abundantly clear he was a monster. Probably a spider monster like his father.
It’s not that he was asking me to find his son, but instead to inform him of his son’s current situation. It wasn’t a difficult request, so I readily accepted it and the pendant without much thought.
I froze in place. The red thread was actually connected to the picture in the pendant. It had suddenly attached itself to me, piercing my heart. I was perplexed by this unexpected situation. The fact that the red thread attached itself to the heart means that the life of the target belongs to the owner of the heart. In other words, his life now depends on me. If I were to die, he would die too.
No. There was no way this was real. It had to be a lie. My eyes must be deceiving me. I tried to brush it away but I didn’t even move it. I was experiencing déjà vu. I hadn’t felt this horrified since my first meeting with Abel. Trying to suppress my trembling voice, I asked for the son’s name.
“His name is Hermann Hesse Widoo Cherkopia II.”
It wasn’t a name I was familiar with. In fact, it was a name that hadn’t ever appeared in the book.
Shit. Why? Why?
I managed to get a grip on my senses and return to normal. It wasn’t like this was going to ruin my life, but I was reluctant to risk someone else’s. I decided I could only wait and see what would happen.
“Do you have any idea where he could have gone?” I asked.
“Well, it has been 10 years since he left…” His gloomy voice trailed off.
I shouldn’t have listened or tried to give advice like I was a salesperson. A wave of regret crashed over me like a tsunami. It clung to me like the red thread.
The Cherkopian priest spoke to me, his eyes trembling.
“You’ve been like this ever since you first arrived. Listen, Lian. You’re no ordinary human. Wasn’t it thanks to you that this feeble ghost town was revitalized? Weren’t you also the one who told us that humans are an equal race? You have the power to change things.”
I didn’t completely understand what he was talking about, but it seemed like praise so I replied eagerly. The inside of my head was pure chaos though.
Two red threads. Not just one, but two now. Haha. Great. IT
“I’m not sure what you believe in, but try not to rely exclusively on your judgement. Fate can change anytime, anywhere. That’s why there are three goddesses of fate. It’s not a power only one can decide.”
“…If I meet the goddess of fate, I’ll have to wring her neck.”
“Nothing. I should get going.”
“Yeah, I should probably get going too. The reaper looks like he’s going to blow me up with his eyes.”
The eight eyes of the Cherkopian priest trembled like an earthquake. When I turned around, Abel was sitting on a chair behind the altar, his arms crossed. His gruff appearance reminded me of a debt collector looking to collect on a loan.
“What did he say to make your face look like that?” he asked.
“What is that?”
Abel had a good eye. He glanced at the pendant hanging from my neck. I almost told him it was a picture of the Cherkopian priest’s son, but I managed to swallow my words. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how he’d react, especially after the Vert-Camembert and Verseppo incidents. Sometimes, it’s better to lie.
“It’s an amulet. He was wishing me all the best for the future.”
My answer was twisted and I couldn’t take it back now. As I internally cried to myself, I notified Abel and Sleipnir, who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere after I exited the temple, of our plans.
“We’re leaving tomorrow.”
If I stayed any longer, my life, the problems with the red thread, and any chance of coming back to a happy home life were only going to get worse.