Book Zero Chapter 0.8 – The Journey to the Misty Forest

“Zed… wheeze…how…far more?” asked Tooru. He was currently walking over a mountainous road with Lucy on his back. His breath were ragged as he had been walking like that since morning.

Seeing the tired Hero below her, Lucy could only apologize with a slightly teary eyes, “Uuuuu…..I’m sorry Tooru… I’m heavy aren’t I?”

wheeze…No…Lucy is really light…..wheeze….” said Tooru as he forced himself to make a smile. Sadly, Lucy wasn’t able to see the Hero’s dazzling smile, because she was on his back.

“You should stop talking Tooru. It will just make you feel more tired,” said Zedediah as he followed them from behind.

“B-but Zed-san, what are we doing this for?! Why should we walk to the Demon Continent? A-and even with me being piggybacked by Tooru!” shouted Lucy as she hurriedly turned his body to look at Zed.

But Zed just ignored her question and said, “You shouldn’t move too much, or you will make him fall. Just keep healing him like that…”

As she heard Zed’s cold answer, she suddenly felt that Tooru’s body was swaying to the left. “Kyaaa!” Lucy shrieked and hugged Tooru’s head tightly to stop him from losing his balance. Thanks to that, Tooru managed to stop himself from falling.

Lucy actually wanted to cast [Blessing] to relieve Tooru’s fatigue.“B-but my mana is already really low… I felt quite dizzy already…can’t we just take a break?” asked Lucy as she turned her head a bit to look back at Zed.

Zedediah just frowned as he saw that Lucy’s plump breasts were currently pushing the back of Tooru’s head. Seeing the squishy breasts pushing up and down like that, Zed felt quite envious. “Then just stay put and let your mana regenerate. If you want him to feel better, heal him,” he said coldly to them.

“B-but…”

Zedediah already felt really annoyed as he saw that Lucy’s breasts would not come off from the back of Tooru’s head. And now, hearing Lucy whining at him like that, Zed finally snapped and shouted at them to release his pent-up anger, “Come on!! You guys were the one who want to get stronger!! Why are you already whining after only one week?!”

“Sorry Zed…wheeze… please don’t be angry at Lucy…she is just worrying about me…wheeze…”said Tooru as he kept walking breathlessly.

Zed said nothing to him and just kept walking to follow the two of them.

But after they walked for another 10 minutes, Zed suddenly said, “Put her down. Magical Beast is going to come soon. Kill it and then we will cook it for lunch. Well, if it run away then no lunch for you.”

Hearing Zed’s words, Lucy hurriedly went down from Tooru’s back and chanted the [Blessing] spell to relieve Tooru’s fatigue. After she finished using the [Blessing] spell on Tooru, Lucy’s face went pale and sweaty as she felt her mana was almost empty.

Seeing Lucy’s condition got worse after healing his body, Tooru hurriedly lifted her and brought her away to a tree near them. After he put her down under the cool shade of the tree, Tooru smiled at her and said, “Thank you Lucy… Just rest for now, I will definitely bring us some food to eat!” Then he stood up and went back to where Zed was standing.

As Tooru walked to him, Zed looked carefully at Tooru’s condition. Even though [Blessing] can relieve a person’s fatigue, it won’t relieve it completely. It all depends on the caster mana and the person’s fatigue. After a careful look, Zed could determine that the Tooru right now was only around 40% of his normal strength.

“Zed, where is the enemy?” asked Tooru. He already changed the way he called Zed from ‘Zed-san’ to only ‘Zed’. At first Zed was irritated to hear that, but after a week, he discovered that Tooru was only trying to be friendly with him. But what Zed didn’t know, was that Tooru thought that Zed was only as old as him because his face looked really young.

“They will come in a few seconds,” said Zed shortly. He had used his [Mana Web] to provoke the surrounding Magical Beasts just like what his Master used to do to him, but unfortunately he still couldn’t do it as exquisitely as him.

He could only use the [Mana Web] to provoke ALL the surrounding Magical Beasts with grade medium or higher. As for his master, he could use his [Dragon Sense] to know the position of all Magical Beasts around them and then provoke only one of them to come.

The usage of [Mana Web] Technique was really delicate and variant. It all depends on the strength and the speed of the mana that the user emits to his surrounding. For example, Sieghart could emit a really weak but astonishingly fast mana wave to his surrounding, and because it was really weak and fast, not a single Magical Beast could realize that they were actually being sensed by him. On the other hand, Zed was currently only capable of controlling the speed and the range of his [Mana Web], as for the strength that it emits, it could only drive the low grade Magical Beasts away and at the same time attract the medium and high grade Magical Beasts to come closer.

Hearing Zed’s words, Tooru was slightly surprised, “E-eh? They?”

“Yeah, this time there are three. Don’t worry, they are only medium grade. You can do it if you are careful.” Zed was actually pretty confident in Tooru’s power. Tooru had the Holy Sword and also tons of mana to use its skills. What Tooru really need were fighting experiences, so Zed would make him feel tired and then let him fight with multiple enemies everyday. And Tooru also had a healer behind him, so there was no need to worry about having small injuries.

“Okay! I can do it!” shouted Tooru as he pulled his Holy Sword out from its sheath. Zed was actually quite satisfied to see Tooru’s attitude towards the training that he had planned. Even though the training was ‘pretty’ harsh, Tooru never complained and would always try to stay positive.

Suddenly, a rustling sound was heard from the bushes near the tree where Lucy was currently lying down. Hearing that sound, Tooru got really surprised. As he hurriedly turned his head to look there, he saw a 10 meter long black snake crawling out in high speed to Lucy’s place.

Lucy was really shocked to see the black snake in front of her. Her face went pale because of shock and fear. She wanted to run but her body wouldn’t listen to her as she was really tired after draining her mana before. Her mouth gaped as she tried to scream for help, but no sound could come out because she was simply too afraid.

Seeing the scared Lucy, Tooru instantly dashed off to her side to protect her from that snake.

On the other hand, Zedediah didn’t react at all and just let Tooru deal with it by himself. He just stood there and began his lesson, “Next time, be careful about your surrounding. You never knew where the enemy would suddenly attack from, and also…. when…“ Suddenly, he tilted his head to the left and avoided a surprise attack from behind that was aimed to his head. Then, without panicking at all, Zedediah turned his body to see the culprit that attacked him.

Surprisingly, he could only see a 3 meter long tail that was sprouting out from the ground 2 meter away from him. It was actually a Giant Scorpion Beast that was hiding his whole body under the ground. Its tail moved again and tried to hit Zedediah, but Zedediah just jumped backwards to avoid it.

“Hmmm, an insect-type Magical Beast… we can’t eat this one, and it’s too soon for Tooru to fight a hiding type enemy as well. Let’s just kill it,” said Zedediah as he made a [Fireball] as big as a human body over his head. But he didn’t immediately throw it onto the ground, he compressed it into a pebble-sized [Fireball] first, then he threw it to the ground one meter away from the tail location. There, should be where the Magical Beast was hiding its body.

BOOOM

Together with the short explosion sound, the ground, where the [Fireball] flew into, was blasted open and became a quite huge crater. Around its surrounding, the remnants of the Magical Beast could be seen lying here and there, covered by some green colored fluids.Then Zedediah turned his body and started to observe Tooru’s fight again.

It was a pretty hard fight for Tooru. The Snake beast nimbly avoided most of his attacks and managed to hit him a couple of times with its tail. And Tooru couldn’t fight freely because he needed to protect Lucy who was now scaredly standing behind him.

But in the end, Tooru still managed to win after Lucy went back a few steps to give him some space, only then could he freely use the sword-skills from the Holy Sword.

However, as he was trying to catch his breath after that hard fight, a red colored Boar beast suddenly rammed him from behind the bushes.

When she saw that Tooru was blasted away and fainted after slamming the ground really hard, Lucy hurriedly ran to his side and started to cast [Heal] in panic.

Seeing her panic reaction, Zed could only sigh in disappointment. “ Lucy-san… you too…. should carefully look at your surrounding before doing anything. Did you already forget who did that to Tooru just now?” he said to her as he walked slowly to the two of them.

10 meter Behind the sitting Lucy, the red Boar beast was already preparing himself to charge at her. But, before it could run and ram her, a [Fireball] had suddenly blasted his head apart.

“Well…snake for lunch then…..,” said Zed as he put down his hand after firing the [Fireball] to the Boar.

And just like that, Zed trained both Tooru and Lucy as they travelled through the Human Continent.

He trained Tooru about real fights against Magical Beasts and also about the Demon’s charateristic such as their elements, their weakness and their horns. And also, after that spartan way of physical training, Tooru’s body managed to gradually get stronger and sturdier. He was also being taught by Lucy about the common sense of this world, and Zed was also eavesdropping at her lesson because he was living inside the forest for 10 years and had missed a lot of things.

As for Lucy, Zed trained her about concentration and effectivity in using healing spells in fights. And he also trained her to always be aware about how much mana she currently had by having her constantly draining her mana and letting it slowly regenerate. After she was aware of it, she could finally use the Healing spells such as [Blessing], [Heal], [High Heal] and many other more effectively. And by draining her mana repeatedly like that, her mana regeneration was somehow getting faster and faster.

They didn’t travel by carriage or horse because Zed didn’t want to rush to go to the Demon Continent, as he thought that Tooru was still too weak to be able to defeat the Demon Emperor, and walking while carrying heavy things was also a good training for Tooru.

Well, their travel wasn’t all that interesting. They just constantly fought against Magical Beasts and would only sometimes resupply in a citiy or a village.

But after half a year of travelling like that, finally came a moment where things got more interesting.

“Lucy…where…exactly are we right now?” asked Zed as he stressfully looked at the misty road which forked in front of him.

“I don’t know. I only have the map of the Human Continent, and not the map of this forest…” Lucy too was already really tired. They have been walking for more than five hours inside this mist-covered forest and no matter which road they took, they would always come back to this intersection. And her compass wouldn’t work as well, the needle was spinning around like it was a living being.

“Isn’t there anything written on the map?” asked Zed again.

“Hmmm, no…,” said Lucy as she squinted her eyes to look at the map more carefully.

“Hahahaha, maybe there was nothing written there, because no one had managed to come out after they went inside…” laughed Tooru as he peeked at the map which was held by Lucy beside him. He didn’t piggyback her anymore because she was already too light for him.

“T-that could be possible…” said Lucy as she stared at the map again. Right now, they should be somewhere around the border between the former Knightley Empire and Orthos Kingdom, but nothing was actually drawn on the map that she brought. “Even thought this is the new map that was drawn after the Knightley Empire’s regions were taken over by the three kingdoms, why was nothing drawn here?”

After the annihilation of the Knightley Empire’s capital and the disappearance of the royal family, every single region, which had been governed by the Empire for countless years, went into a state of chaos. So, after a careful negotiation, the other three kingdoms decided to split these regions into four and shared it. Northern region for Orthos Kingdom, Eastern region for Holy Alliance, and Southern region for Nevs Kingdom, as for the Western region, it was decided to be evacuated because they didn’t know when the Demons will attack again. The three Kingdoms also built new forts across the border between the Western region, Northern region and Southern region to monitor the dangers that could come out at any moment.

Zedediah was also distressed because no matter how much he tried, he couldn’t sense anything with his [Mana Web]. The faint mist that surrounded this forest was somehow disrupting the mana that he emitted. “That’s it…I’m burning this forest down……”

“E-eh? Wh-what??” Lucy shouted as she saw that Zed was already lifting his hand upwards to make a [Fireball].

Luckily, Tooru suddenly blurted again before Zed managed to make a [Fireball], “Won’t that burn us as well?”

“Crap….you are right…,” Zedediah just cursed as he realized that Tooru was right, “what should we do then?”

“That’s….” Lucy had no idea as well.

And neither did Tooru, “A…..”

“””Ummmm….””” the three stooges just tilted their head and frowned as they tried to think up an idea.

KYAAAAAA!!

Suddenly, a loud scream was heard from the forest’s direction

“””!!!””” The three of them hurriedly looked at each other. The scream, that they just heard, sounded just like a woman’s scream.

Tooru was thinking that maybe a girl was being attacked by a Magical Beast. And Zed was thinking that maybe a beautiful woman was currently being assaulted by a pervert. But only Lucy was scaredly trembling because she thought that it was a cry of a vengeful ghost that haunted the forest. Really, a priest that was afraid of a ghost…

“Let’s go!” shouted Tooru as he sprinted into the forest.

Zed just nodded and started to run behind him.

Seeing the two boys were running and leaving her behind, Lucy was confused. She was reluctant to follow them because of the ghost, but she was also scared to be left alone inside this ghastly forest. As she imagined that ‘something’ would slowly creep from the bushes behind her, Lucy ran to chase after them with a pair of teary eyes.

“Is anyone here?!” shouted Tooru as he looked around the place where the scream should come from. He carefully looked around him. The he could see on the ground near him, a bow, a knife and some arrows were scattered around.

“Up here!!” shouted a girly voice from above him.

Zed, who arrived there just now, hurriedly looked upwards to see the source of that sound. There, he saw a girl was hanging upside-down 5 meters above him and Tooru. That girl looked just like a small girl around 12-13 years old. She had a light brown long hair and wore a green leather clothes that was the same color as her big round eyes. Zed estimated that the girl was younger than Lucy, because that girl seemed shorter than her and her breasts were also still ‘flat’. When Zed continued to carefully ‘observe’ the girl, he saw that her right leg was currently trapped by a rope which was hanged to a tall tree above her.

“Who did this to you?” asked Tooru as he vigilantly looked around him for an enemy.

“Ah Umm… if it’s not bothering you, then could you please cut the rope behind this-KYAAAA” The girl screamed again when she suddenly fell down without any notice.

Seeing the girl was falling, Tooru spontaneously jumped up and caught her in a princess carry.

As they fell to the ground together, their eyes incidentally locked into each other’s. The girl felt her heart jumped for a bit after seeing his gaze from up close like that.

Zed, who cut that rope a moment ago, was pissed off when he saw that a romantic aura was flying around Tooru and the girl on his arms. Even though the girl was not her type, he still felt quite envious. But then, he suddenly shuddered as he felt a chill came from behind him.

“Tooru….who…is that girl?” asked Lucy with a ‘smile’ on her face. She already felt irritated after she was left behind by the two boys inside the scary forest. And when she finally started to feel relieved because she found them, she had heard a scream again and then suddenly saw that Tooru was already ‘embracing’ an unknown girl.

Zed who saw that smile, instinctively shivered and hid himself behind a tree. He didn’t know why, but he felt that the Lucy right now was even more dangerous than his Master.

But, when he saw that smile, strangely Tooru didn’t sense anything. He just turned his head to the girl on his arms, then moved his face closer and asked her the question that Lucy gave to him, “Who are you then?”

Seeing that Tooru’s face suddenly got even closer to her’s, the girl was surprised, then jumped down from his arms. She sat down nervously on the ground and looked around her. There was a white armored, black haired man in front of her, a silver masked tall man behind a tree, and a eerily-smiling blonde girl near him. “Ah..um…”

“Oh, right! I should introduce myself, before asking other’s! I am Tooru, the Hero and the two of them are my ‘friend’, Lucy and Zed,” said Tooru as he looked at Zed and Lucy.

“Nice…to…meet…you….,” Lucy said slowly to the girl while still smiling scarily. She felt somehow more irritated when Tooru introduced her only as a ‘friend’.

Zed didn’t say anything and just silently observed Lucy from behind the tree. He was afraid that Lucy will explode anytime soon. He knew that Lucy was actually developing some feeling for Tooru after they were fighting in countless life-and-death situations together. But Zed also realized that surprisingly Tooru was a very, super, ultra, highly, extremely, uncommonly dense guy.

“So…what’s your name?” asked Tooru again.

Without even paying attention to Tooru’s question, the green clothed girl suddenly stood up and opened her eyes really wide. “Y-you are the Hero?!” asked the girl.

Hearing her question, Tooru just stood up and then lifted his Holy Sword to the air with his right hand. He looked at the girl with his bright eyes and smiled widely as he proudly shouted, “I am the Holy Sword Hero! Ahahahaha”

Well, it was not that he was a narcissist or something, but rather, he was simply proud at the fact that he is a Hero.

Zed only sighed as he had seen Tooru’s heroic pose countless time. He even saw him trained it.

The girl suddenly jumped and hugged Tooru. “Hero!!! A Hero has come to save Ririiii!!! RirI is saveeeed!!!!!” the girl cried histerically.

When she saw the girl, that just called herself ‘Riri’, was hugging Tooru tightly like that, Lucy finally lost her mind and started to run at Tooru while growling and lifting her hand over her head.

Zed hurriedly opened his mask and rubbed his eyes because he could somehow, for a short moment, see an image of a bear behind Lucy.

Lucy ran to the girl and tried to pell her off of Tooru. But the girl just wouldn’t come off and kept sticking happily to Tooru like an abalone.

Zed could only shake his head as he saw this ridiculous spectacle. An absentminded laughing boy who was hugged by a super excited lolI that was currently being peeled off by a bear-like girl.

After sighing for a while, Zed slowly walked to the three of them. He gazed at the three stupid kids in front of him then started to hit their head one by one. Except for Tooru, he didn’t hit his head, he smacked his face.

“E-eh? Zed? Why did you hit me that hard??” asked Tooru as he lay on the ground rubbing his cheek.

The girls squatted down on his side while rubbing their head with both of their hands. It was too painful for them to speak.

However, Zed just ignored Tooru’s question and asked the girl, “You! What was your name again? Riri!?”

When the green-clothed girl looked up, she saw that a brown robed man was standing there and staring at her with a pair of menacing eyes. His eyes were really thin and sharp. But it wasn’t that scary because that man’s face was completely normal and so were his clothes.

However, from him, she could somehow feel an incredibly powerful aura. Because she came from an adventurer family, she knew that this aura usually comes from a really strong Magical Beast, or….from a person that had killed countless enemies, just like her father.

Seeing a scary guy like that was staring down at her, she felt scared from the bottom of her heart.

“Hmm? Am I not clear enough?” asked Zed while smiling at her. He didn’t want to scare the little girl, but his cold words and aura were already scary enough, and now, he smiled and glared at the girl from above, so the girl was naturally getting even more scared at him.

“Ri-ri-riria Lionheart….” The girl could only answer Zed’s question nervously as she was currently feeling really scared at him.

Hearing her name, Zed suddenly frowned in confusion and asked her again, “Ri….ririririria Lionheart…what are you doing here?”

“M-my name is Riria….and I am here because of a mission from the Adventurer guild….”

“Oh?! So you are an adventurer! Good! Good!” Zedediah was happy because he finally found a hope for getting out of this place.

Then Tooru suddenly cutted in and asked Riria a question, “Are you really and adventurer Riria-chan? You looked really young…”

Hearing the word ‘young’, the little girl suddenly get mad and forgot her fear completely. “RirI is already 17 years old!! RirI is an adult already!!” said Riria as she stood up and folded her hand in front of her ‘chest’.

“”Eh?! 17?!”” Zed and Lucy were really surprised to find out that the young girl in front of them were actually older than Lucy. Well, Zed was actually 20 years old, so he was just curious if Riria was also a Dragon Blood drinker just like him.

Only Tooru was still laughing and thinking that the little girl was just playing with them.“Ahahaha, Riria-chan… I myself am only 15 years old this year. I am still young too, so you don’t need to pretend to be that old in front of us, you know…”

“RirI really is a 17 years old adventurer!! Here! Look!!” she said to them while lifting her Adventurer card.

As the three closely looked at the black card in front of them, they could clearly see that ’17’ was written on the ‘age’ column over the card.

“See!! RirI told you already!” said Riria proudly as she waited to see the three stranger’s reactions.

But, before Tooru and Lucy could ask Riria something strange again, Zed hurriedly changed the topic, “Okay… let’s put the insignificant matter aside for now… More importantly, do you know the way out from this forest?”

Even though Riria wanted to retort about her age being significant for her, she suddenly realized about something inside that question, “E-eh? RirI thought, Hero and his friends had come here to save Riri…..”

“”””……”””” All four of them fell silent as they suddenly realized…..that….

“So…..Riria-chan is lost too?” asked Tooru.

“Y-yes….and Hero?”

Tooru just nodded and scratched his hair as he smiled wryly at her.

Seeing that, Riria suddenly fell to the ground and cried, “Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu…….RirI want to go baaaack!!!!! RirI is tired from eating grass and drinking dew!!!! Uuuuuuu”

“Eh? How long have you been here then?” asked Zed curiously as he ignored her cry. Even though the girl in front of him was crying like that, Zed didn’t feel anything because a ‘flat’ little girl was simply not his type.

But, as if she could hear Zed’s rude inner voice about her breasts, Riria just kept crying and ignored his question, “Uuuuu….”

Seeing Riria crying like that, Tooru squatted down in front of her and said, “Riria-chan, how long have you been here? You must be hungry… Here, I have some dried meat…” Tooru just smiled at her and put out some dried meats from his [Storage Bracelet]. The bracelet was given to him by the church together with the Mithril Armor and the other equipments.

“Meat!! RirI have been staying here for a three weeks already!! And after two weeks, Riri’s food supply was already gone!” shouted Riria as she sat down on the ground and took the meat from Tooru’s hand.

“Why don’t you just kill some Magical Beasts then?” asked Zed.

But Riria just ignored him again and kept eating the dried meat that Tooru gave her.

“You must be thirsty too, here…have some water…..and Riria-chan, why did you even eat the grass?” asked Tooru as he gave Riria his bottle of water.

Riria hurriedly drank the water and then said to Tooru, “Somehow, RirI couldn’t find any animals or Magical Beasts inside this forest….”

“Poor girl…” said Tooru as he patted Riria’s head.

Feeling Tooru’s warm hand on her head, Riria just smiled cutely and chewed the dried meat on her hand. She looked exactly like a squirrel that was being fed by someone.

Zed was in awe because he saw that Tooru had easily ‘tamed’ a girl with foods. Although he felt annoyed because the girl ignored him again and again, he still told himself to remember Tooru’s method for future references. While he was thinking about a useless thing like that, he suddenly felt a prickling pain on his upper arms. He hurriedly turned his head to see the cause of his pain, but he could only see the growling Lucy standing over there.

Lucy was currently trying to suppress her jealousy by gripping Zed’s arm with all her strength. She felt that it was really unfair, even Tooru never patted her after they were together for six months. She too wanted to be fed and patted by Tooru.

Zed could feel her nails were trying to dig into his skin and her hands were also trying to squash his arm like a lemon. If it wasn’t for the Dragon Blood inside his body, maybe his arm would have been ripped off already. Zed even frowned inside his mind, ‘What the hell is Tooru doing? His bear is trying to rip my arm off! And he’s only playing there with the squirrel!!’

As if Tooru had a telepathy, he suddenly turned his head and looked at Lucy. “Lucy? Why are you frowning like that? Oh! You must be hungry too, here I have some fruit…” said Tooru as he smiled innocently at her and put out an apple from his [Storage Bracelet].

“Eh? No, I…” Lucy actually wanted to refuse because she wasn’t hungry, but she instinctively realized that she needed to do something or she would get beaten by the new girl. So, she just silently went to Tooru’s side and squatted down beside him. She took the apple from Tooru’s hand and put it slowly in her mouth.

And then, a surprising event suddenly happened. As she began to eat the apple, she suddenly felt that a hand was patting her head. So she slowly glanced upwards, it was actually Tooru’s hand. Feeling his warm hand slowly patting her head like that, Lucy felt really happy and just continued to eat the apple while smiling brightly.

Zed’s jaw dropped as he stared at the ridiculous scene in front of him. To even pat two girls at the same time……, even his father couldn’t tame his three wives this perfectly. Zed thought that Tooru’s ‘power’ was simply too terrifying. If only Tooru was not a dense guy, maybe Zed would have already ask him to be his teacher.

Well, even though Zed actually had tons of question to ask Riria, he didn’t dare to disturb the scene in front of him. He didn’t know what Lucy would do to him if he tried to stop Tooru from patting her head. So, he just waited patiently for them to finish their meal.

After Riria finished her meal, Tooru stopped patting ‘their’ head. Lucy looked really disappointed because she purposely ate her apple little by little to get a longer pat from Tooru. Seeing that, Zed wanted to try to pat Lucy’s head, but before he got the chance to do it, Tooru suddenly asked Riria a question that he too was curious about, “Riria-chan, can you tell us about what really happened in this forest?”

“Eh? Um…ok then…” said Riria as she began to tell them about herself. Yes, she didn’t tell them about the forest but rather herself. Zed wanted to retort, but seeing that Lucy and Tooru were paying close attention to Riria’s story, he finally gave up and sat down to hear about her story as well.

Riria Lionheart was the only daughter of a famous level 7 adventurer pair ‘The Lion and Lioness’. The pair roamed together for years killing Magical Beasts and exploring the dungeons across the Human Continent. They live freely wherever they want, without any worry and restraint. But when the ‘Lion’ knew that his wife was pregnant, they decided to go back to the girl’s house in the Knightley Empire. They really wanted to surprise the girl’s mother with a grandchildern.

Her mother was indeed surprised to see her daughter, who ran away from home years ago, suddenly came back telling her that she was pregnant. She even hit the ‘Lion’ countless time with a broom.

But they were really happy when Riria was born. They loved the little girl so much that they even decided to retire from their adventurer life temporarily. Riria was a really loved daughter. Her live in the village with her parents and grandmother was also a really happy one. She was trained everyday by her parents with care and patience. She loved her parents very much, and she also told them that after she was bigger, she would go adventuring together with them.

Sadly, it couldn’t come true… Ten years ago, when she was still 6 years old, both of her parents went missing without a trace….

It all started when her parents traveled to the capital to do something that they wouldn’t tell her anything about. They only told her to wait at home with her grandmother. Even though she acted sad and pretended like she didn’t know anything, actually, her grandmother already told her that her parents were going to the capital only to buy her a birthday present. She was really happy when she thought about what kind of present her parents would buy her from the far away capital.

Two weeks passed after her parents went to the capital city. Even though the capital was far, her mother was a Beastmaster that had a tamed high grade Lion beast, so they were able to travel on its back with ease.

That night, she was sitting near the window watching the stars and thinking about her parents. She was thinking that her parents were supposed to have arrived in the capital around these days. As she thought about the present that her parents would buy for her, the sky on the direction of the capital city suddenly lit up brightly as if it was midday.

To be more precise, Riria saw that the sky was turning red for a couple of seconds before it finally went back into the color of night, and she could also feel that the earth was slightly shaking below her. Feeling scared, she hurriedly went down and hid herself on her grandmother’s bed.

Only a month after that did she find out that the capital city was gone on that night where the sky was burning. And maybe, so did her parents….

But she still believed that her parents were still alive, so she just waited patiently at home and kept training by herself everyday.

She waited and waited, days, weeks, months, years….But they never came home……

And things even got worse a year ago. Her grandmother suddenly fell sick and passed away. She felt really sad when she lost her grandmother. But it was not for long, because Riria believed that she was not alone in this world, her parents are still alive and waiting for her somewhere.

Then she left her village and went to the nearest city to become an adventurer in order to find her parents….

Riria paused for a while as she tried to remember about her early days as an adventurer. But then, she suddenly heard a sobbing sound. When she told them about her life just now, she was completely in a daze and didn’t really pay attention to her surrounding. But when she looked at Tooru and Lucy again, she saw that the two of them were already crying like a fountain.

Seeing them crying like that, Riria only giggled and said, “Riri… is fine, you know…”

“Hiksss….Ri-chaaaaaan……” Lucy bawled as she couldn’t contain her feeling anymore. She threw herself onto Riria and hugged her tightly with her arms. Well, because Riria is shorter than Lucy, it was more like Lucy suffocated her with her big breasts though.

Even the Hero was crying like a baby after hearing her story. He even used his white robe to wipe his overflowing snots. “Riri-chan has done well….Big brother is proud of you….hiks…,” Tooru was sobbing while patting Riria’s head at the same time. He had already forgotten completely that Riria was older than him.

Only Zed was speechless after hearing her story. Without anyone realizing, he was already wearing his silver mask to cover his face. He didn’t say anything to the three of them but just stood up and walked slowly to a tree near them. He leaned his back on the tree, then gazed upwards as he tried to find the sky that could clear his raging emotions. But all he could see was the mist.

Zed knew….

He was the one who killed Riria’s parents…..

He knew… if Riria’s parents haven’t contacted her for the past 10 years already, then most likely, they were already perished together with the city on that night….

Even when there is a small chance that they were dead because of something else, would that change anything? It was still a fact that the explosion he made, killed countless people….and most likely, two of those countless people were Riria’s father and mother….

He felt guilty… and sorrowful…..he wanted to tell her the truth……

Suddenly, Riria pulled her head away from Lucy’s breasts and then said to them while giggling, “Ehehehe! Don’t worry, RirI knows that her parents are still alive somewhere, so RirI wants to go to the old capital and find some clues. RirI has acquired enough money after one year of adventuring after all!”

“Ri-chan!! Don’t worry! Big sister will take you there!” shouted Lucy as she hugged her again.

Tooru just nodded and patted Riria’s head again and again.

Zedediah couldn’t say anything and just stared at the suffocating little girl. He couldn’t bring himself to tell her the truth, and even if he did, maybe she still wouldn’t believe him and would just keep searching for her parents….

He would never be able to pay the sin for killing her parents, nor could he bring the dead back. He was confused. He didn’t know what he should do…

He closed his eyes and started thinking for a while, but nothing came to him, or to be exact, he couldn’t think clearly at all. It was the truth that he had killed every single people in that city, but he never realized that maybe there are people like Riria, who still waited for someone to come home….

Zed…slowly stared at Riria…

That small girl….is now wearing a smile on her face….

but….

How much……tears….had come out from her eyes, when she waited every night….?

How much……sorrow…..had she felt, when she couldn’t see her parents every morning….?

How heavy…..was her longing…..to meet with her beloved one….?

And….how frail…..was the small hope….that she put deep inside her heart….after all these years…?

“Guh…!” Zed bit his own lip to stop his tear as he couldn’t withstand the guilt that ran amok inside his heart. It was painful, way too painful…..

He even wanted to rip his own heart and gave it to her to stop this painful guilt….but no, if he did that, then it would only mean that he ran away from his sin….

He looked down to the ground. There he saw countless charred hands were grasping at his feet. He could see those hands for the past ten years already. The hands of the innocent that wanted to drag him to the burning hole behind him. Into that burning hell that he made….

He was….confused….

Could he really pay his sin by simply killing the Demon Emperor?

Will the innocent people that he killed be satisified…?

Will they stop pulling his feet to that burning hell…..?

Will they even forgive him….?

Zed looked up to the misty sky and whispered slowly, “….what exactly should I do….?” Tears poured down from his eyes as he felt helpless….

He wanted an answer….

An answer…for all the pain he had withstand and given to others….

An answer…that ‘I’ could never gave him……

……..I…..no….

…..Hearing the small and unclear sound that Zed brought out, Tooru turned his head and looked at Zed. “Hmm? Zed? What did you just say?” asked Tooru.

“No…nothing….” said Zed calmly as he looked back at Tooru. His tears were hidden by the mask and the robe, so he wasn’t worried about Tooru finding that out.

Lucy and Riria were now also staring curiously at Zed.

Zed felt slightly irritated as he suddenly being paid attention to, because they usually just forget about him completely.

Zed then looked at Riria who was peeking at him from Lucy’s cleaveage and said to her slowly, “Riria…”

Riria just popped her head upwards to see the silver-masked Zed more clearly and said, “Yes?”

“……………Sorry…”

“Eh? Why?” asked Lucy as she was confused about Zed’s sudden apology.

Zed knew the answer to her question, but he couldn’t tell her about it, so he just said to her, “Nothing…”

Big question marks floated up on top of Riria’s, Tooru’s and Lucy’s heads as they saw Zed’s sudden strange behaviour.

Zed stil didn’t say anything. Zed actually wanted to be alone to clear his mind, but seeing the misty forest around him and the three lost little kids that he need to take care of, he could only frown depressively.

Feeling annoyed and depressed about everything, Zed actually wanted to pick the three kids over his back and just jump the hell out of the forest, or maybe he could just burn down this forest again, but he realized that it would only make things more complicated later. So, after a careful consideration, he gave up. He just gave up to think about anything.

“So, Riria…could you tell us about what you are doing in this forest? And who trapped you with the rope? Is there any human beside us here?” Zed said to Riria.

“Eh, that’s…..” Riria suddenly hid herself between Lucy’s breasts and stopped saying anything.

“Hmm? What happened Riria-chan? Is that something that you couldn’t tell big sister and big brothers about?” asked Lucy as she looked at her own breasts, ah no, at Riria that hid between her breasts.

“N-no, RirI hasn’t met anyone in the past 3 weeks…a-and that Rope is Riri’s…” Somehow, she already accepted the fact that Lucy and the others were looking at her as a little sister.

“So….you were caught by your own trap?” asked Zed again.

“N-no!! Riri….was fooled by a rabbit!! Yeah!! A rabbit led RirI to the trap!!”

“…..but you told us that there weren’t any animal in this forest….and why did you even lay a trap when there is no animal…” Zed said to her coldly.

“Aaa….uuum…that’s…”

“Humm! Ri-chan! Goddess will be mad at a lying child, you know?!” lucy scolded Riria like she did to the kid on the church orphanage.

Hearing the mad Lucy, Riria was startled and then suddenly cried, “Uuuu…I’m sowwy….uuuu”

Lucy just smiled at her new ‘little sister’ and hugged her again. “Riria is a good kid….so don’t lie okay…”

“Un…” Riria nodded her head as she cried on Lucy’s cleaveage.

Realizing that something was strange about Riria’s status as the older little sister, Zed tilted his head in confusion and tried to remember about the moment when everything had gone wrong like that. “Er…no…wait…..I don’t care who the little sister or the big sister here…. But could you tell us more about this forest?”

“Ah, um…So, RirI had managed to collect some money after adventuring for a year. Then RirI bought a cheap [Storage Ring] and supplies for Riri’s travel. RirI wanted to go to the old capital, but it’s located on the Western region and there is no mission that go there, So RirI walked alone because RirI didn’t have enough money for a horse….”

map2

“Poor girl…. Don’t worry!! We will go with you! Right Tooru?” asked Lucy as she turned her head to Tooru.

“Of course!! Right Zed?” asked Tooru as he now turned his head to Zed.

“……Okay…” Zed was actually reluctant to go there. But he knew that he had to do something for Riria. It would at least ease his guilt a little bit. And it wasn’t that far from their original route after all. ”But we still need to get out from here first…” he said to them.

“RirI have been here for three weeks and still couldn’t go out….”

“Poor Riiii-chaaan….” said Lucy as she cried and hugged Riria again.

As Tooru slowly moved his hand to pat Riria’s head, Zed suddenly hit his head and then spoke again, “Guys….focus…..or I will hit you three again…”

“But you hit me already!!” Tooru protested.

“You want one more?” said Zed as he glared at him.

Tooru just shook his head and then furrowed his brows as he started to think.

“Could we….somehow use the rope?” suggested Lucy as she stared at the long rope near them.

“Hmmm, it’s too short, I guess…” Zed answered.

“Could we…fly?” said Tooru.

SMACK

Zed hit his head and said, “What are we? A bird?”

“B-but you don’t need to hit my head….”

But Zed just ignored him and then said, “So…..Burn it down?”

“””No!!””” the other three answered together. If they burned down the forest, then they would die because they were still in the middle of it.

“Hah…,” Zed just sighed and said, “…fine then….let’s just camp first….it will get dark soon….”

“Okay! I will build the tent!” said Tooru.

“I will find some branches,” said Lucy.

“Are we going to eat again?” asked Riria.

Zed just shortly answered, “Only if you help….”

“Riri-chan, come help big sister collect some branches…”

“Un…,” Riria nodded, but then felt something was off, “…eh?” Sadly, she still couldn’t realize it at all. You older younger sister….

After they finished preparing the tent and campfire, they ate dinner together and chatted with each other. Riria’s eye were dazzling as Tooru told her about his fight against Magical Beasts together with Lucy. Riria also told them about her adventurer’s mission from collecting medical herbs until she managed to kill low grade Magical Beasts like a wind Wolf beast or a twin-tailed Cat beast.

But Zed still kept his silence and wouldn’t tell them anything about his past. Even when Tooru and Lucy asked him about it for the past six months, he would just change the topic and avoid the question. Riria was also curious, so she pestered him about that, but it was not for long, because she suddenly fell asleep.

Even though it was only around 9 o’clock at that moment, she just suddenly fell asleep like a little child as she leaned on Lucy’s shoulder. Seeing her sleeping like that, Lucy just giggled and then brought her into their tent. And after an hour or so, Tooru went to sleep inside his tent as well. Only Zed remained outside, lying down beside the campfire.

“I could go out from this forest…but it would certainly get troublesome later….huuft…” Zedediah just sighed as he didn’t know what else he should do.

After laying there for almost two hour without getting any answer, Zed felt slightly tired and started to close his eyes to sleep. But, as he tried to put himself in a comfortable position, he saw that the mist was suddenly clearing away. Seeing that, Zed hurriedly stood up and looked around him. The mist was really clearing away from the forest.

Zed didn’t know why the mist suddenly cleared up like that, but he knew that he had to wake the others up, so they could leave from this place as soon as possible, before the mist came back.

“Guys!! Wa-“

Before Zed managed to finish his sentence, a really loud laugh could be heard on the air, “AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!”

Zed hurriedly used his [Mana Web]. Even though it could tell the enemy his own position, that would be better then not knowing about where and what his enemy at all.

As he slowly sensed his surrounding with [Mana Web], he could feel a single mana source near them. Its mana was something that Zed never sensed before. It was clearly different from a Magical Beast’s mana, but it was also not a Human’s mana even though it was slightly similar. It was somehow more creepy and dark.

“This mana….and also that laugh…..could it be…..?!”

Zed gazed sharply at the north and then whispered slowly, “Demon….”

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7 thoughts on “Book Zero Chapter 0.8 – The Journey to the Misty Forest

  1. Ahh… here you are my zed
    You did tell your story at the capital right? And the atmosphere around your group became a bit awkward.
    But the innocent hero at last forgave you. Is it right? If right please delete this

    Like

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