Unravelling a Piece of the Conspiracy
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
I returned to the inn soon after extracting all the information I needed. There, I found the old governor, with whom I discussed my findings. It turned out that the “merchant” was in fact a secret agent sent by some noble fuckwad that wanted to see the hero’s seat vacant.
He admitted to being responsible for luring the horde and timing the attack such that it would land immediately following our arrival. His method was to smear himself in a putrid substance, enter their homes, and wreak all sorts of havoc. Once he was sure he had their attention, he took a straight line back to town to ensure that they would remain on his trail.
His plan was one that was meant to produce a large number of casualties, casualties he could leverage to accuse her of worthlessness. He intended to argue that her presence had little to no impact on the number of soldiers that fell in battle. But, much to his dismay, none of her allies had even been scratched. She had, to his knowledge, single handedly overwhelmed the incoming force and coerced the horde into a retreat. His plans went to shit. The miscalculation drove the entire scheme off course. He had no choice but to drop his meticulously crafted scheme and make up a much flimsier argument on the spot. Serves you right, asshole.
The name of the noble behind the plot was apparently Argus Ladorio. His intention was to degrade Nell’s reputation even further in order to ensure she would be dismissed. The agent had not been made privy to the remainder of the plan’s details, but they likely entailed putting a minion on the hero’s pedestal, as doing so would provide Argus a yes-man in a position of power, which would in turn deepen his influence over both the church and the central government.
That’s some sketchy shit right there. Alright, total side note, man, I knew coming along was a good idea. Who knows what would’ve happened if Nell was here all by herself. They coulda started pulling all sorts of shit. Not that they haven’t already.
Their first attempt at striking her down had failed. But that did not, by any means, guarantee that they were going to stop harassing her. If anything, they were only going to ramp up their efforts.
Nell was my polar opposite. While I would only get involved in events that served my own interests, she would act on behalf of countless people whose names and faces remained unknown to her. She was a sweet girl with a good heart. And she deserved much better than to be treated like a tool and used for political gain. And yet, many of the men who ran this country failed to see her as anything beyond a “hero.” They were incapable of recognizing her as the girl who continued to stand firm and do her best at fulfilling her duty despite a severe lack of confidence. They were too blind to understand how desperately she was trying to play the part of her people’s protector. And that angered me. It angered me to the point of bloodlust. You motherfuckers have got balls. I’ll give you that much. But that’ll change. I’ll make sure of it.
I had already decided that any who wished to see her crushed for their own convenience would feel my wrath. I would do unto them as they attempted unto her and use everything at my disposal to grind them to bone dust. I’ve already fucked up once back in the demon realm. And I’ve learned from it. This time, I’ll be much more thorough.
“Hmmmm…” The old governor raised a hand to his chin as he pondered the information I’d divulged. “And what has become of the agent?”
Oh. Right. Almost forgot I was talking to him. The question pulled my head back down from the clouds and refocused me on the conversation at hand.
“Honestly? Dunno. He might live if he’s lucky, but I wouldn’t count on it,” I said with a shrug. I mean, I didn’t do toooooo much to him. Just, you know, chopped off all four of his limbs and dumped him in a group of ogres. They might not have eaten him. Might.
“I… won’t ask.” Raylow paused for a moment to allow his expression to switch from an off put grimace to a stern frown. “I highly doubt Argus to be the sole conspirator. I’m almost certain that he is working under a greater power.”
“Really? Why’s that?”
“Rumours of Argus’ nefarious deeds are practically unending. He is widely known as a proficient schemer, but he isn’t anywhere near influential enough to place a mole within an organisation as stable and far reaching as the church.”
“So, logically, that means he’s gotta be working for someone that influential?”
“The way I see it, he most likely is,” said the governor with a nod. “I’ll have someone look into him as soon as we reach the capital. I’m sure we’ll at least be able to find ourselves a fair set of clues. Naturally, I’ll have anything I uncover relayed to you immediately.”
“Great. Thanks, and sorry for all the trouble.”
“No problem,” said Raylow. “Any nasty plot that endangers the hero is one that endangers the rest of humanity. Working with you to resolve it is only natural.” He paused for a moment to clasp his hands in what almost seemed like nervousness. “But there is one thing I must ask you. What are you planning to do once you reach the capital?”
That’s a pretty damn good question. My original plan was just to grab Nell’s boss and the king for a quick conversation about her future. I hadn’t originally planned to do much else. Now that I knew about Argus and his friends, however, that had all changed. The first thing on my list was now to uncover and eliminate all hostiles. Talking to people is going to have to wait. Errr… wait a second. I’m stupid. There’s literally nothing stopping me from doing both kinda at the same time, so I guess I might as well do that. Hell, that could work even better.
News of Nell’s engagement was sure to serve as high quality bait. I had no doubts that the mastermind would attempt to take advantage of it and use it as an excuse to try to harm her. Hanging around the capital’s probably going to be more than enough to lure our enemies into the open, especially if I start killing my way up the chain of command.
“I’m going to end up doing whatever I feel like doing,” I answered, honestly. “And since they’ve already made their first move, I’mma say that means I’m probably going to end up making mine.”
“…Could you please refrain from harming the citizens, if possible?”
“Wasn’t planning to. Having her man going around randomly killing people is only going to hurt Nell’s reputation. I’ll make sure I act with prudence.”
The answer led the governor to exhale with visible relief. …So why exactly does he take me for some sort of bloodthirsty maniac? I swear I’m not.
“Thank you,” he said. “Pardon the concern, it comes from knowing the extent of your power. It terrifies me to think that we would never be able to stop you should you decide to bring about the tides of the apocalypse and paint Alshir’s streets with its people’s blood.”
“Oh, come on. You’re over exaggerating. There are plenty of things capable of stopping me in my tracks.”
If there was one thing I wasn’t, it would be almighty. I was trying my best to ensure that I would eventually grow enough to stand by Lefi’s side, but I wasn’t anywhere near close. Unlike her, I had to practice everyday because I wasn’t exactly what I called capable of wielding a sword. Moreover, my fighting style was roundabout and almost gamey in the sense that it revolved around targeting down my enemies’ weaknesses. I made liberal use of gimmicks and traps in order to catch my foes off guard. Poisonous bogs, stone spike pits, magical bombs, landmines, iron maidens, and many, many other niche items had all become a part of my dungeon master’s tool kit.
At first, I had purchased every trap I used, but I eventually learned to make them with magic instead. Though the crafted varieties were much more cost efficient, they weren’t anywhere near as potent. That said, I knew that I could eventually master them so long as I kept at it, as that was exactly what had happened with my water dragon spell. I was sure to one day grow proficient enough to plop down a whole slew of deadly traps right by my target’s feet without breaking a sweat.
Even with all the tools at my disposal, I found myself unable to confront all of the Wicked Forest’s beasts. Many were simply too far beyond me. When my pets and I encountered something we couldn’t handle, we would always nope the fuck out and run for our lives. Not even the monsters we thought we were capable of taking down would always behave as expected. The occasional specimen would manage to slip out of our grasps. And that’s exactly why no one’s ever really bothered claiming the place, I guess. It’s just too fucking hostile.
Though my pets and I often chose to flee, it wasn’t as if we never pushed ourselves to fight more powerful foes. The safety net provided by our ability to return to the dungeon at a moment’s notice had provided us plenty of opportunities to push our limits as opposed to just safely grinding it out.
“I highly doubt that to be the case anywhere outside of the abnormally dangerous woodland you’ve made your home…” said the governor with a sigh.
“Yeah, maybe, but the point is that the world’s a pretty big place. I’m not unstoppable, by any means, and I’m sure there are plenty of people and monsters out there far stronger than me,” I said. “Oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to ask, does this incident change our plans at all? ‘Cause I kinda doubt we’re still going to be able to leave today.”
“It does,” replied the balding feudal lord. “The men need half a day to get everything back in order. It is possible for us to leave in the afternoon, but I’ve postponed our departure to tomorrow morning instead. There’s no sense in arriving in Alshir in the dead of the night. I know that the sun is already out, and that it may be rather hard to sleep in the middle of the day, but I suggest you take this as an opportunity to rest. Powerful as you are, I’m sure that even you likely find yourself exhausted after such a long day.”
“Yeah, good idea. Some shuteye is sounding pretty good right about now.” I glanced around the inn’s lobby as I spoke. “Oh yeah, where’s Nell? Is she already back in the room?”
It was still extremely early in the morning, but last night’s incident had left basically everyone awake. All sorts of people were up and about, but Nell didn’t quite seem to be one of them. Many of the governor’s soldiers were present, but the hero herself was nowhere to be seen.
“She left to help the city’s guards clean up after the battle. They called it a day once they made a fair bit of progress and dragged her off to a bar. It seemed she wanted to wait for you to finish your investigations before joining them, but was unable to turn down their fervent requests.”
“Yeah, she’s always been the type to cave in under pressure,” I said.
I smiled a bit as I imagined her getting dragged off.
“I had some of my men go with her to ensure that nothing inappropriate would occur,” said the governor remorsefully. “But I do apologize for not putting a stop to the event altogether. Allowing a group of men to take a woman soon to be wed to a place where she would be put under the influence of alcohol was not my wisest decision.”
“I mean, sure, Nell’s not great when people are being pushy, but she’s not dumb, or the type to fool around. She’s able to say no when it counts. Don’t worry about it,” I chuckled. “So where is this bar anyway?”
“It’ll be the bar near the ramparts. The party that ensued was… wild to say the least, so you should be able to find it without much difficulty. I believe that all you’ll need to do is look for a large group of men passed out in the streets.”
“Alright, thanks. I’mma go pick her up.”
I gave the governor a casual wave and walked out the door.