Chapter 6 – Encounter (III)
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Noon had passed when they started heading south - towards the center of the North Glimp Forest - where the hunters' camp supposedly resides.

Rustle. Axel and Horus ran on the dirt trail.

'I am indeed fast, just as the novel had described Horus.'

Unexpectedly, Horus could match Axel's swiftness, panting but bearable.

Whirlwind would brush his hair as they zoom while occasionally passing upon chaises and wagons run by merchants and travelers.

The trail doesn't lead directly to their camp, but it's the most convenient path.

'There should be a faint trail nearby leading to their camp.'

They couldn't lay a camp for hundreds or so of hunters without leaving a trail on the vast forest. There had to be.

'Found it.'

Without words coming from either of them, Horus started pointing his fingers to his right, where a path of flattened shrubs led to some location inside the forest.

Unlike the other parts of the forest where the hunters laid traps, this path should be safe since this is their entry and exit point back to the main trail.

They started sneaking on the path.

The cautious, slow steps they took made a faint rustling noise.

"You want your Vitality Essense, no? Head forward. Hide somewhere nearby, and I'll send a signal for you to run wild."

Horus, who broke the silence, turned to the young man with a greatsword behind him.

"Tsk."

Axel clicks his tongue as he nods, leaping off the faint trail as he disappears into the woods.

Horus trusts he would do it since he should know how valuable the consumable cheat item - the Vitality Essense - is.

'How obedient.'

Carefully assessing the area, ensuring that there were no traps around, Horus noticed something on the dirt path.

'Blood.'

Around him were blood stains, tree scrapes, and crossbow bolts dug on branches all over the trail. It leads in the same direction where their camp supposedly is.

'What a sight.'

Horus sighed, sneakily finding his way. He was behind trees by trees beside the trail.

A glimpse of tents on a broad dirt area appeared in his sight. Instead of heading forward, he hid nearby the track, looking for a safe spot to hide as he could see a few hunters around.

Horus unsheathed the dagger while holding a rock in his other hand.

He leaned behind the tree and peeked at the back, seeing a few hunters behind his sunglasses, sitting and wandering around the extinguished campfire.

One tent nearby his spot took his attention, making him frown and grip the rock he held.

* "AAHHH!"

Lash. A naked young wolf - in his human form - screamed, unimaginable depth of anguish rushing in his cry.

Blood started to trickle off the line of gashes grazed on his back.

"You will die if you don't transform now."

A man, holding an iron-spiked whip, mumbles as he pulls the young wolf's canine ears in the air, raising the bloodied body from falling.

The other young wolves, gagged with ropes all over their limbs, wept the sight, watching their older brother in excruciating pain.

Soon, another ruthless lash came, causing the young wolf to wail in despair.

Restraining his sudden surge of emotions, Horus noticed blood dripping on his hand holding the rock - he gripped it too much.

Ignoring the scrape it left, he tossed the stone into the gap between two adjacent tents.

Thud. It bounced and landed on the open area of dirt where the hunters were around.

Some hunters noticed it, but soon, a sudden loud rustling echoed the area as a figure of a young man with a greatsword leaped off a tree.

Boom. Axel landed on the ground, slamming his greatsword on the dirt as it made a loud crashing noise.

The area was then filled with a cloud of dust, making Axel's figure fade inside it.

"What was that?!"

"An intruder?!"

"W-who is it?"

Various shouting men came after as Horus sneaked behind the tent where they were torturing the wolves.

He then moved his ear on the cloth that walls the tent.

"Tsk. What now?!"

The man inside the tent uttered an anxious, frustrated shout.

Thump. The man then drops the bloodied body of the panting, anguishing young wolf on the ground.

Horus could still hear the screaming wolf's violent breathing and the restrained cries of other wolf children.

A faint noise from rushed footsteps followed as the man inside opened the flap of the tent to exit.

"What is going on here?!"

As the man wearing a butcher uniform holding a bloodied metal whip shouted, a figure of a young man surrounded by a faint green aura emerged as the cloud of dust subsided.

Axel had a grim look on his face as he began swinging his greatsword, unleashing a green crescent projectile toward the hunters.

[ Aura Wave ]

It didn't hit them, as they were swift and alert.

Instead, it crashed on trees and landed with a loud, rustling noise.

"Surround him!"

One of the hunters quickly yelled as they scattered around, pointing their spears towards Axel.

"An a-aura-user?"

The butcher stuttered the sight.

He then quickly but stealthily rushed to the largest, another tent beside.

Axel, who noticed the man, swung another projectile in its direction.

It didn't hit the rushing man, but it crashed on the tent the butcher was running to, almost destroying it as another cloud of dust emerged.

"Call the leader! Send the signal!"

The butcher shouted as he crawled on the planks of woods of the destroyed tent.

While all that ruckus happened, Horus made his way inside the tent.

Using the dagger, he made a hole in the fabric wall of the tent.

As he set foot inside, what appeared to him was a grievous sight of limping wolf children - all in their human form - tied up on the beams that support the tent with gags on their mouths.

'They all transformed to avoid being butchered.'

They were five children inside, all tremblingly naked, with their furs scattered all over the straws underneath them.

One of the bunch, perhaps the oldest, looked horrible, curled in the corner, trembling with his eyes shut with blood.

Its bare, skinny body is full of blood, slits, and abrasions made by a spiked, metal whip.

Using the edge of his dagger, he untied the wolf children and took the gag off their mouths.

They all observed the sunglassed young man, frightened with eyes shaking on their smeared faces.

'I guess they are all traumatized because of the torture.'

Horus frowned as he started to observe his surroundings.

There were pegboards with knives and gear for butchering and skinning animals and cloth mantles in shades of white and olive hanging from them.

'Are these clean? Ah, well, they should do for now.'

Horus grabbed the mantles hanging on the beams and gently tucked the limping wolf in the corner.

He also handed some to the shivering children.

Blood started to run on his hands as he laid the body down on the mantle.

The young wolf is trembling, breathing heavily, and isn't responsive.

'He is losing too much blood.'

Blasting clunks of clashing weapons from outside resonated in the area in loud bursts.

Expectedly, Axel is running wild, fighting the hunters guarding outside.

"Fuck."

He swore as he quickly pulled another set of mantles hanging.

He then tore it into vertical pieces in adrenaline and strapped them onto bleeding parts of the wolf's body, sweating as he did it, but the bleeding wouldn't stop.

'Damn it. I'm applying pressure, but it's useless.'

With a frown and sweats running on his temples, he raised his black sunglasses above his forehead as he turned on the young wolves observing him.

* "Anybody of you is a healer?"

They each flinched with different expressions on their faces looking at the young man with crimson eyes.

They were frantically whispering to one another until one of them - the only girl among the bunch, hair cut short - stood.

* "I can h-help."

She had the white mantle Horus provided covering her entire tiny body.

She kneeled beside the injured wolf and closed her eyes as she started breathing heavily.

'Ah... wolf healers use pheromones to heal their fellows. Pretty much like aromatherapy.'

A deep, ardent balsamic smell started to fill the space around them.

Aromatherapy; it's a broad field of medicinal study in this world.

Tribes lived independently from human civilization; to prosper independently, they developed ways to practice medicine based on what they observed and gathered through nature.

The body bruises on the injured wolf started to shrink - as if it was evaporating - but did not entirely disappear.

The wolf's breathing returned to normal as the blood spots began to fade.

Horus was amazed at the sight as he noticed the abrasion on his palm started to heal.

'Holy cow... not even a scar remained.'

He knew that something like this existed in this world, making him smile in awe that looked more like a smirk.

* "Hiiik!"

At that moment, he turned toward the wolf girl, who was sweating bullets as she started coughing drops of blood.

'I guess there is a drawback to amazing things.'

* "This is all I could do."

She was running out of breath as she halted. A slight tap of solace reached her shoulder after.

* "Good job. Don't overdo it next time, however."

Horus, who commented, handed her a piece of cloth as he began to untighten the bandages on the now less injured wolf.

Soon, the wolf regained consciousness, squinting as he trembled.

* "Brother Ota!"

The girl, wiping the stains of blood off her mouth, shouted in relief.

The other three wolf kids also rushed, some consciously covering their bodies with the mantle Horus handed while some wiggled their tails in relief.

* "S-sob. B-brother Ota! I was s-scared you were going to die."

* "You're o-okay now, brother."

Ota, the injured wolf, shakily lifted his body as he gazed at the crimson eyes of the young man in front of him.

* "T-thank you."

* "I barely did anything."

Horus quickly replied as he sighed.

He stood while brushing the straws off his now shabby clothes full of dirt while turning to the other children observing him.

* "Listen, up. The world is not forgiving, so stick close and be each other's back. Survive and make Artemis smile upon you."

Silence filled the space after Horus' casual advice as he rummaged on the things he might need inside the tent, looting stuff, of course.

Most of his foundings were trivial things like butchery tools and gears, but his eyes had set upon the small yet fancy-looking box hidden inside the pit between the pegboards.

He could not open it for some reason, but he took it for now, afterward turned towards the four children observing; no, waiting for him to say something.

* "Ah, your big brother Basil and the others are fine. I'm not sure about your elders, however."

The four started to smile, some looking down.

At that moment, the tent unfurled, and a figure of a young man with brown hair and green eyes appeared.

That figure, undoubtedly, was Axel, who had a greatsword resting on his back.

"Young... master, they are gone."

'Gone? You mean dead?'

"I injured most of them, but they all escaped quickly."

'They escaped...? Did they inform their superiors?'

Horus, who wanted to ask more questions, frowned as he noticed the stains of blood on the greatsword on Axel's back.

'V-vicious...'

He ignores his thoughts and mumbles instead.

"Let's move away here for now. I don't feel safe here."

He started to lead the way outside the now ruined camp.

Most of the tents around them are barely standing, with planks and shattered trunks all over the dirt.

* "Follow me."

The wolves hesitatingly followed, some of them supporting Ota.

Axel soon followed on his back, furrowing his brows.

"Why are you helping them?"

He asked, crossing his arms, eyes squinted as he moved close to Horus, who was leading their way.

'For raising my chance of survival, maybe?'

Those are the words Horus wanted to spit out, but he knew he had more reason why is he going so far.

On the first day he transmigrated, he settled himself to live a trouble-free life.

He would enjoy his new aristocratic life, avoid the main characters at all costs, possibly discover things in the academy, and find a means to survive the oncoming war without pain.

He lived as a coward, and he doesn't find it wrong to live his life here as one.

'I had to help establish the next Wolf King, and it's not like I'm doing something like this again.'

He composed himself, closed his eyes, and gave a short answer.

"I'm doing things that will help me live a relaxing life in the future."

Thinking of living with a heck ton of money already gives him a burst of dopamine, making him unconsciously let off a wide grin as Axel scanned him in confusion.

"I don't get you at all."

They finally reached the western gate of Franz City, orange light of daybreak covered the land.

The guards, Zeke and Brant, let them in free with a smile carved on their grinning faces.

Horus had made Axel head to the wolf den to aid Greze and mentioned he would be staying by the cafe in the city with the children.

The children were silent but wary as they obediently followed Horus with mantles covering their bodies from head to toe.

Their fuzzy tails would bulge on their back, making their figures look odd as they walked.

People would stare at them occasionally, but they ignored it since the sunglassed young man leading them looked unbothered, strolling sleeveless with hands in his pockets.

After passing street by street, Horus found Dale leaning on his back outside the about-to-close Silver Canary Cafe.

Dale noticed them and ran, observing the wolf children behind his young master.

"Y-young master...?"

"Ah."

"Young master, who are they? And your clothes..."

He asked warily, eyeing each one of them as he noticed Horus' shabby appearance with a baffled look.

Some wolf children grabbed onto Horus' pants, hiding their faces under the white and olive mantles.

"Young master Horus!"

As Horus was about to reply, a loud, lively shout rushed on his back.

It came from Vincent, rushing towards them as he caught his breath as if he had just run a marathon.

"Vincent."

"Haaa..., I had prepared a lodging for you and the children nearby."

'How neat.'

Horus was quite satisfied with Vincent's recent work.

"Let's head there first. I look and smell funny."

He was itching to take a warm bath. His bones were also tired from running around the north of the Glimp Forest.

Remembering all things he needed to do, he sighed.

First, he needed to find a way to shelter Basil and the young wolves for now while waiting for Axel and Greze's report on the situation in the wolf's den.

He also remembered that he needed to head to the academy soon.

'Ha. My poor life.'

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