Chapter 8: Envy, Hatred, and Poverty II
Herscherik sat in front of Oran and gripped the saddle to keep from falling off the galloping horse.
Naturally, Oran supported Herscherik with one hand, but going at top speed on the horse was still torture for the boy.
When they finally reached the orphanage, his soul had half-left him.
He was helped down by Oran and took a deep breath.
“Let’s hurry, Prince.”
Oran was rushing. Even though he was riding at such a speed on an unfamiliar horse, he wasn’t the least out of breath. As expected of a former star student at the Academy, even if he barely graduated and was labeled as a failure at the end.
Hersche picked up his pace and followed his knight into the orphanage.
It was already past 10 PM and the children were most likely already in bed, so most of the lights were out.
(I have to secure some proof no matter what…)
They had already gotten ahold of the seller, Ignatz. If something were to happen to him, they would lose their only piece of proof and both the drug’s purification process and production equipment would remain hidden.
The plan was to restrain Ignatz at the social gathering and get to the bottom of everything, as well as gather the materials needed to create an effective antidote.
The documents on the human enhancement drug were no longer in the kingdom since they were moved to a repository that even Kuro would have difficulty breaking in. By the way, this information was uncovered when Marcus asked an acquaintance of his who worked at the Bureau of Research and Development.
That was why they needed that data no matter what. He didn’t know if what they were looking for was at the orphanage, but the possibility was not null.
When they entered the orphanage grounds, they saw Baron Armin. His face peered at them from the shadow of the building.
“And Ryouko as well. What is the matter?”
The man had on an amicable smile. Normally, Herscherik would have returned one, but right now, this man was one they had to look out for the most.
“Prince, stand back.”
Oran placed his hand on his sword and took a step forward.
“Baron, I have something to ask. And I’ll have to ask those three hiding in the building’s shadow to come out as well.”
The baron’s eyes opened wide in shock as Oran vigilantly drew his sword from the scabbard.
“…Baron, I want to ask you about the matter of the drug.”
As if responding to Oran’s question, something sparkled in the moonlight. Oran calmly smacked it down. When Herscherik checked to see what it was, he discovered that it was a small knife, a throwing knife.
“The baron really…”
Herscherik could hear Oran’s mortified and bitter voice from above his head. This man was someone his knight had trusted. Herscherik himself couldn’t bring himself to be wary of such an amicable person.
He stared at the baron. But the man had approached the knife thrower with a flustered reaction.
“Please don’t hurt them!”
“That’s not possible, Baron Armin. They know of our existence.”
The voice didn’t sound male or female. A large hood covered their eyes, and their clothes were so black that it looked like they would dissolve into the darkness. The two others who appeared were similar in appearance. The only difference was in their heights. Each held a knife, daggers, and throwing knives as they faced Herscherik and Oran.
“So, you’re saying that there’s boss behind you, right?”
Herscherik wanted to confirm. It appeared that things were more complicated than what he had initially believed.
“Oran, capture them alive.”
After his short reply, Oran closed the distance between him and the armed group of three in a single breath.
Oran’s sword was just a flash to these guys, who reacted late to the sudden motion. However, the biggest of them dual-wielded their daggers and caught the sword while the other two jumped in to close the distance between them and Oran.
Their quick response despite his surprise attack made Oran frown.
(These guys are well trained.)
Thinking so, Oran put some distance between him and the person who caught his sword. He had to fight under the condition that he couldn’t kill them and while also having to protect Herscherik.
It would’ve been easy if his opponents were amateurs, but they were quite the professionals.
(But, I won’t lose.)
Oran held his sword in his dominant hand and took the scabbard in his other hand.
Knights rarely dual-wielded since many used a shield whenever they fought with swords. But as all the members in the Ordis family loved fighting, they would do whatever they could to get stronger. As such, Oran learned all the fighting styles he was interested in.
In this fight, he had to both capture these enemies alive and protect the prince. His number one priority was the prince’s protection, but while it was possible, it would be no easy task to take down these professionals without killing them. However, he could defend and curb attacks with this sturdy scabbard and possibly use it as a blunt weapon. With this, it was possible to pin them down.
Oran’s heart was extremely still as he squared off against the enemy with his sword and scabbard in hand. His thoughts were clear despite the clearly disadvantageous situation he was in, being outnumbered 1 to 3 – a complete reversal from when he was in front of Ignatz.
He understood that one of the reasons for this clarity was Herscherik’s existence. The hate he directed at the royal family had disappeared before he knew it and it was replaced with a newly budding feeling.
Herscherik was entranced by Oran’s battle.
Even though he was outnumbered 1 to 3 and had the handicap of capturing them alive, Oran’s movements were truly something.
Despite squaring off against the one wielding dual daggers, he knocked down the knife thrower’s attacks, dodged the third person’s surprise attacks, coordinated his movements so they couldn’t get close to Herscherik, and used his scabbard to defend and aim for vital points to hit.
It may be simple to put into words, but this showed how much of a higher level Oran’s fighting capabilities were above these people.
The enemies began to show signs of frustration while Oran still had leeway. He appeared to be buying time as he carved away at his opponents’ concentration.
(I’ll see what I can do.)
Herscherik looked at Baron Armin. He was in a state of utter confusion at the fight scene unfolding in front of him.
Herscherik called out to him. When the baron turned to face him, he continued.
“Why did you do stuff like selling drugs! And you even used the orphans … Why!”
“…I had to.”
Baron Armin refuted. While it was very feeble, his voice reached Herscherik, sewn within the sounds of the weapon clashes.
“Money. I needed the money. For the orphanage and all its children, I needed that money no matter what!”
That was a cry from his heart.
When he lost his wife, operations began to decline and the orphanage’s management was in danger.
Even though he petitioned for subsidiary aid from the kingdom, what he received was only a drop in the bucket. Just when the orphanage was about to close, he received a proposal to become an intermediary dealer for the drug.
“There was no other option left for me!”
If he declined, the children would lose their home and starve. He wanted to avoid at least that. Which was why he became their accomplice.
“The kingdom’s aristocrats and royal family won’t ever look at those suffering under them, let alone try to help! They lived in their riches for so long. It’s now time for them to get their retribution!”
Just as Armin said, the aristocrats, the royal family, and even Herscherik never experienced the hardships the orphans faced nor did they know. After all, they had lived their daily lives in the castles where their meals would always be prepared for them, and they would always have a bed to sleep on and clothes to wear for the next day. This was most certainly a lifestyle that those who struggled through life would envy.
“…But those people were also someone’s child or parent! You can’t just deprive others of their lives!”
This and that were two different issues. The deceased had people they cared about, and likewise, there were those who thought of the deceased.
The parents who lost their children in these incidents will despair over the futures their children would have once had. And the children who lost their parents may become orphans like the ones Armin was protecting. But these orphans may have it even worse.
Even if this was supposed to be retribution, death was impartial in how it thrusts everything around it into tragedy.
And even if they do die, it wasn’t like everything would change for the better.
Herscherik understood the current state of the aristocracy in the kingdom. That was why he spent every day trying to do something.
“You can’t live in this world with just ideals and empty words!”
Baron Armin’s grief echoed in his voice. You cannot live in this world with just empty words. Herscherik knew that painfully well.
He instinctively gripped the pocket watch in his pocket.
(I feel the same. But…)
Since the day he had lost the Count, this was carved into Herscherik’s heart.
‘Just because they’re called weak, the righteous people and the honest people are wronged in this world that sees them as foolish.’
A world where kindness is repaid. A world where evil is made right. A world where everyone shares their happiness with each other.
“If you don’t stand by your ideals, the world won’t change.”
Herscherik quietly yet forcefully stated.
By no means did he see himself as right.
There will be times when you must compromise and times when you need to get dirty.
You cannot live in the world with just empty words.
Baron Armin was in a hopeless situation.
That was why he committed the crime even though he knew it was wrong.
Even if this man knew he was in the wrong, he believed he needed to do this after being pushed this far.
Herscherik needed to change this world that looks down on the serious and the sincere.
He had to end this world where the gentle people suffer.
Herscherik understood that this was highly optimistic and could be reduced to mere lip service.
It is hard to change people, the kingdom, and the world.
But even if it was a thousand-mile journey or a never-ending path… Despite that, Herscherik couldn’t help but pursue it. That kind of idealistic world.
“No matter what anyone says, you have to raise your ideals on a flag and demand them… Unless you stand by them, nothing can start!”
Not only was he saying it to Baron Armin, but he was also saying it for himself to hear.
Herscherik noticed that he was contradicting himself.
You cannot choose the means to obtain your ideal kingdom and world. But if he needed to invert his ideals in order to obtain that world… His future self might be like Baron Armin.
He looked at Oran who was still fighting. He was certain now.
(I need Oran.)
Baron Armin crumbled to the ground.
“Then, what should I have done…”
He only wanted to save the children. To the baron, these children weren’t just some orphans. They were his family.
“Baron, you cannot change the past.”
You cannot change what had already happened. You cannot reverse time.
“But, you can change the future.”
At those words, the baron raised his face. At that moment, the faint sound of the door opening echoed.
When Herscherik quickly turned in that direction, he saw the face of the girl, Colette, peek out from the door.
Colette’s confused whisper echoed in the tense atmosphere.
“Colette, don’t come out!”
Baron Armin raised his voice. But, one among the three, the first one who spoke, had already faced her.
Herscherik ran. Compared to the others, he was closer to her.
He stood between them and the girl.
“I slipped up.”
Seeing the person slowly approach her, Herscherik bit his lip.
Herscherik knew that if he moved from his spot, Oran wouldn’t be able to protect him anymore. But if he didn’t move, Colette would definitely be used as a hostage.
(If it comes down to it, I’ll aim for the crotch!)
Herscherik braced himself. While he didn’t know if his opponent was a man or woman, it would still be effective regardless. Why? Because of his past life’s experience.
Oran rushed to protect Herscherik, but the dagger user cut off his path.
Herscherik was ready to square off against the clutches of evil that slowly and brazenly approached him.