Chapter 4 – Encounter (I)
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Map of West Thethan

Thetan. It was the name of the only continent that existed in the novel.

At its sheer west lies the Golian Kingdom, known for its diverse history and alpine forests and streams that feed on the mountainous lands.

The Durkton County, like other territories in the Golian Kingdom, would be familiar with the Glimp Forest - a lush woodland stretching vertically from north to south of the kingdom.

The Glimp Forest had two sections: the north, which belonged to the Durkton-Flint, and the south, which adjoins the Tares-Avastian to the Cradell, the kingdom's capital.

The North Glimp Forest is safe, to say at least.

Unlike its southern counterpart overran with low-grade monsters, the north had no dungeons, making the North Glimp Forest a relatively secure site for trade routes.

The Enn Village was on the western outskirts where the Flint territory meets this forest.

Whirlwinds brushed towards them as Horus' neck-long hair started fluttering along with the towering grasses and rustling branches of woods.

Horus and Vincent strolled on a dirt path that led to Enn Village.

The trail cuts through the dense, alpine forest unevenly surrounded by tufts of head-tall grass and shrubs.

Hints of fist-sized insects, unknown flora, and wildlife are frankly observable.

"So this is the North Glimp Forest."

Vincent focused on the source of that mumble: Horus, glancing cautiously under his sunglasses, hands in his pockets as he let the dense, damp odor of the alpines overwhelm his profound sense of smell.

'Something feels... different to him.'

With eyes latched on Horus' back, Vincent studied each movement the young man in front of him would take.

The Horus Durkton he knew had always hated walking on dirt - the type of guy that gets fussy whenever a pinch of dust would get stuck on his pants.

'I was only half-kidding, but I did not expect the young master to walk with me.'

"Are you unwell, young master?"

"Me?"

Horus replied without turning, waiting for Vincent to continue.

'Did he forget everything...? Or did he hit his head...? Maybe I should remind him...'

"Young master, you should have known I'm from the Enn Village."

Vincent takes a moment, lowering his head as he continues.

"If you hadn't dragged me out of that place, I may still be a slave till today."

'Horus saved this guy?'

"Y-young master, I'm not upset or anything. It's just that..., you should not forget things like that."

Pondering for a reply to the sudden tale, Horus abruptly halted as he heard something coming close.

Growl. It was a faint noise of uttered growling, almost whimpering.

'Wolf?'

Vincent notices Horus, looking confused with a hint of worry below his ruffled pale green hair.

"Young master, w-what is it?"

"Follow me."

Without explaining, Horus started making his way on a faint dirt pathway filled with shrubs on his right.

He was walking sneakily, carefully observing with his unexpectedly potent senses.

'It's close.'

The trees and shrubs were too dense and tall to see, but he knew it was nearby.

Despite the thrill, he wasn't frightened since he had a hunch that he knew who or what it might be.

Aside from the natural wildlife in this forest, he remembered that there should be no canines here, but there were lynxes, bears, and vultures twice the size they should be in his former world.

However, there might be a clan of tribespeople in the forest: the Poliyan Wolf Clan.

They are a group of tribespeople migrants from Poliya, the northern-most territory on the continent.

'It's about 10 o'clock in my direction.'

He shifted the direction of his slow, cautious velocity northwest.

Behind the large clumps of shrubs, there lies the source of the whimpering sound.

"Is it a wolf...? There must be a hunter here, young master. We should be careful. They ain't friendly."

Vincent whispered as the snarling noises coming in front of them started to get louder than the noises made by the forest.

Horus started gently descending on the clumps of tall shrubs.

He was profusely sweating, for he was nervous about what he might encounter.

"Ha, haha."

Vincent, who dove into the shrubs after checking their surroundings, started hearing sounds of familiar laughers.

The source of that slow, almost sarcastic laughs was Horus.

He was there, one of his legs kneeled on the flattened shrub while observing the wounded body of a growling large, red wolf, standing quadrupedal.

Despite its large size, this wolf is not an adult yet, perhaps about to become one.

The red wolf started to stand shakily, growling while showing his large fangs, barely standing.

'Well, well, well. What do we have here?'

Horus was both astounded outside and frightened inside as he found something unexpected.

'It's not just a wolf from the Poliyan Wolf Clan. This very wolf in front of me is Basil, the main character in the novel's third volume.'

<A proud son of the last Wolf King and the sole survivor of their clan. He is also the only wolf who possesses majestic, dark red fur.>

In the third volume - where Basil became the main character - the Poliyan Wolf Clan was already extinct.

Horus suspected the hunting situation today must be related to the history of the Poliyan wolves told in the novel.

The Kruman Empire attempted to conquer the northern lands of Poliya - a vast, mountainous land - the home of the wolf tribespeople.

However, the Empire ultimately failed, perhaps many times.

Wolf people are infrangible and feared due to their unique fur's ability to negate mana and aura.

That trait enabled them to fight head-on against civilized assailants who tried to conquer their lands in the north.

However, the Empire alchemists recently discovered a potent paralyzing toxin that can affect any vertebrates, like humans and wolf people.

From that point, the Empire had turned the tables, ostracizing the wolves from the north and causing the remaining survivors to migrate to the Golian Kingdom.

Basilio - or just Basil - was one of the survivors.

* "Move away!"

(From now on, * indicates dialogues spoken in a different language or dialect other than the Kruman language.)

The wolf roared, loud enough to make Horus cover his ears.

It sounded like a roar, but Horus, for some reason, understood it as if that roar was a language he had known ever since.

Vincent quickly moved in front of him while holding a dagger, cautiously looking at the wolf.

"Y-young master..., it's danger-"

"It's okay, Vincent."

Horus slowly walked past Vincent as he spoke without dusting the dried shrubs off his clothes.

* "You okay? You seem paralyzed."

Horus uttered that undistinguishable speech in an unknown language as it sounded to Vincent.

He was looking at the arrow impaled on the wolf's back. The long, sharp bolt, perhaps shot by a crossbow, had a trace of pale green liquid.

* "Y-ya... can speak my lingo?"

The wolf replied with a soft growl. Vincent, who was standing there petrified, was looking at them shakily.

* "Yes, it seems that I can."

* "W-who are ya?!"

The shaking, barely standing wolf growled a question as Horus spoke.

Horus, who stood still in front of the wolf, was sweating bullets since it was not a common sight to see a wolf larger than his height.

Despite the pressure, he manages to stand still, hands on his back as he replies:

* "That is not important for now. I knew you ran away here to stall the hunters."

Horus speculated that the Empire may have approved a hunting expedition after receiving a report of remaining wolves in the Golian Kingdom's Glimp Forest.

The Empire and the hunters all over the continent are hoarding the wolf people's fur, skinning them for military attires and research because of its ability to nullify mana and aura.

'Hell, I could not imagine how they do it.'

They force the tribespeople to transform into their wolf form to skin them.

Soon, the wolf people's fur became a luxury, auctioned for millions of colts in different parts of the continent.

Today's events would conclude being the remaining survivors abducted by the hunters, except Basil, who persisted.

Well, it is not surprising considering there are only about twenty wolves in this forest, and they are against hundreds of tribe hunters all over the continent.

However, Horus knew that it was not too late to do something.

In Basil's memories in the third volume, the surviving wolves once had a den in this forest.

The elders remained at their den to hinder the hunters as the young, inexperienced wolves would escape with Basil.

Basil also narrated that a group of hunters tailed them as they got away, forcing him to fight them head-on.

However, despite all his efforts, the youngsters got seized by more hunters, making Basil the sole survivor of the dreadful incident.

That event turned Basil twisted and made him lose sanity, only for it to play a role in the character development of the other main characters.

The most disturbing part is that Basil's life only lasted until the end of the third volume - with less than a hundred pages dedicated to him at that was grievous.

'Damn author.'

A faint, rustling noise of steps, perhaps from a group of men not far away, reached Horus' and Basil's ears.

* "No-"

In response, Basil growled as he quickly leaped off the bush and ran towards the group of hunters.

Some of the men were carrying sacks with someone, perhaps with a small body, inside them.

Rustle. The men holding crossbows started shooting bolts in adrenaline towards the direction where Basil leaped, making Vincent pull Horus to hide in a tree nearby.

"Fuck."

Horus swore in shock, peeking beside a branch to observe the red wolf who lunged off.

Vincent has an anxious expression as he whispers.

"Young master, Let's get away from-"

"Listen."

Horus interrupted, showing a dire, dead serious expression as Vincent turned himself to hear out Horus' words.

"You go to the Enn Village."

"But-"

"There's a pigsty at the western-most side of the village. Find a guy named Axellot Blancwit and lead him to this exact location. Use this if you think you can't persuade him."

He hurled his pouch of gold coins towards Vincent. Vincent, who quickly caught it, started to speak with a confused, anxious face.

"What if I still can't persuade him? And what about you?"

"Tell him these exact words: 'I know where the Vitality Essense is.' As for me, I'll hide here."

Horus beamed a composed, slightly smirking face.

"Ah, in any case, give me your dagger."

Vincent hesitatingly handed his sheath to Horus.

"Don't worry. Go."

After hearing that, Vincent started to run as fast as he could, reciting the name 'Axellot Blancwit' in his head as he headed to the Enn Village.

Horus, now alone, sneaked inside a tall shrub as he observed the fight between the red wolf and the hunters.

"Shoot! The bolts have a paralyzing toxin in them!"

He could see six hunters: others had crossbows with the rest had spears.

Based on their bright, lustrous armor and finely-smithed silver weapons, they look more like a knight than a hunter.

"Get him!"

The red wolf ran behind the pines, causing a loud rustling noise as sharp branches brushed his fur.

Bolts shoot into the woods without hitting the wolf as it is fast.

"Now!"

The hunters who had spears started rushing in adrenaline.

* "Damn bastards!"

Running trees by trees without falter, the red wolf roared as he lunged at one of the hunters with a spear.

Rustle. The hunter slides and stances to land a jab, but to no avail.

The wolf bit his spear's handle and swung it, launching the hunter into the air effortlessly.

"Ahhh!"

Crash! The hunter landed on a bank of mossy rocks, causing a critical injury - perhaps death if it wasn't for his armor.

"Jett! Fuck, hit your god damn bolts!"

The other man holding the spear grunted in frustration as they rushed to the sprinting wolf, panting.

"Huff... Shut up and stall him! We can't hit him if you don't find a way to make it stop moving."

One of the running men with crossbows yelled back.

'Expectedly, he's doing good despite being paralyzed.'

While observing Basil and the hunters clashing around the woods, Horus collected all the sharp stones he could find.

He was planning on throwing it to the men with crossbows, perhaps to stall them for a second while waiting for Axel, then run sneakily and move to a different location.

* "Sob. Release us!"

* "Brother Basil is around!"

Horus could hear the cry and mutterings of the four wolf children in sacks piled behind the hunters with crossbows.

'Ha... I can't believe I'm doing this.'

Holding a stone and was about to throw one, Horus felt someone descend off the tree behind him.

Thump. It was a quiet fall, as Horus could deduce that it might be an assassin.

Quickly, he clutched the dagger to his side, seemingly ready to unsheath it anytime.

"Young master, please retreat."

A man wearing a black robe with a katana on his side spoke.

A plain black mask covered the upper half of the man's face, but Horus, however, knew this man.

"Sir Greze?"

Greze. He was his brother's close confidant and one of Count Glen's close men that appeared in the fourth volume of the novel.

He was an aura-user assassin that Luther assigned to investigate the death of his brother when Horus was beaten to death by Axel.

"You know me?"

"Help the wolf."

Horus replied without addressing his question.

'Did the Count send him to tail me?'

Greze, in turn, sighed as he lowered himself to level his height on the shrubs surrounding them.

"Young master Hok, please retreat."

Greze sighed again, lowering his clean-shaved face.

Horus, however, had a trace of a smirk on his face.

"I'll tell father your scandal with the maid."

"Ha... Y-you..., w-where did you hear that?"

Shuddered as he sarcastically laughed, Greze held his mask, trying to realign it on his flabbergasted face.

'He admitted it easily.'

"Help the wolf, then."

Well, it leaves Greze no choice.

Greze's job would be at risk if the Count learned about it.

Horus knew that the maid, the head maid Merida, would lose her job too once he flapped his trap open.

"Fine, you punk. We'll have a serious talk soon."

Horus glanced at Greze, who took off his robe and hopped upward with ease without much of a noise.

The black robe fell on the ground as Greze ascended, staring at Horus with a grim, ominous expression befitting of an assassin.

'That vicious...'

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