The Rebirth of the Hero’s Party’s Archmage chapter 23

Chapter 23

“What’s your name?”

“Rain.”

“Hmph, I knew you’d make a bad impression right from the start with a name like that! What a fitting name for someone as pesky as a downpour.”

“Actually, my name is Sun.”

“What, what? Don’t lie! Your ID tag reveals everything, you know?”

As Archer Rem quarreled bickering with Rain, they proceeded into the red mountain range, where foot traffic became increasingly sparse and eerie wailing sounds began to fill the air. The two potions previously purchased dangled noisily from the waistband, and a staff was held steady in hand.

Bart had assured that he would protect Rain, who should not be afraid, but Rain’s silence was not due to tension; it was because of an unpleasant sense of déjà vu.

The sweltering heat of the Red Mountain Range and the incessant chatter of a party member beside set a certain ache in a corner of Rain’s heart, recalling a memory of the hero party’s back as they walked away.

“Brother, is this your first adventure?”

“Yes.”

“Do you understand the habits of the Rat-Spiders?”

Not really.

There was a time when Rain was engaged in hunting ‘Ancients’ who served the rulers of the abyss. There was no need to know about the monsters that were left on the continent.

“All you need to know is that they are divided into a ruling and a subordinate class,” Bart explained.

According to them, Rat-Spiders are divided into queens, soldiers, and workers.

“The workers harm the trees but usually flee upon seeing humans. It’s only the soldier class that attacks humans.”

“And the queen?”

“The queen commands her Rat-Spiders. Catching her is equal to catching a thousand Rat-Spiders.”

As Rem walked ahead skillfully, tracking hidden Rat-Spider traces through the brush, she scoffed.

“Don’t even think about catching one. That’s for experienced adventurers like Bart and me. Usually, they keep to themselves and wouldn’t even come above ground.”

Yeah, not interested in catching one.

Of course, that was before knowing the bounty offered for exterminating a Rat-Spider Queen.

***

Rat-Spiders were not only large but had a spine-chilling appearance.

As the name implies, imagine a creature with the head of a rat and the body of a spider.

They were craftier than rats and instilled in humans a deep, primitive disgust greater than that of spiders.

With a fierce battle cry, the axe’s blade ripped through the air, slicing through the monster’s flesh and creating a spray of blood.

And as the sound of slicing echoed, a tail was drawn across the sky, ending with an arrow embedding precisely into the forehead of the rat, causing it to convulse in death.

“Alright, that’s twelve!” Rem exclaimed as soon as they arrived at the hunting ground she knew. Bart and Rem began slaughtering Rat-Spiders with ferocity, displaying skills that even Rain had to acknowledge as extraordinary.

“Don’t even think about taking a break, Bart! There are too many other adventurers around!”

“I know!”

It was common for adventurers to share information, and roughly every 50 meters in the hunting ground, various adventure parties were bustling about.

─ Wow, look at all of this.

─ Is this like printing money?!

Sitting idly under the shade of a tree, bored and yawning at the scene, it was exceedingly dull.

“Do I really not have to fight? You said we’d split the profit into quarters.”

Trainee priest Sammy leaned against a tree, reading a scripture and then offered a beaming smile.

“Yes. Maybe later you can start a fire when we camp, or help produce drinking water.”

“That’s it?”

“From the beginning, there was never an intention to involve you in the fight.”

“What are you talking about?”

Rain replied indifferently, stretching out lazily on the grass with hands cradling the back of the head. It’s so hot it’s killing me, really.

“As I said at the beginning, the two just wanted to help. They did the same for me before.”

Sammy explained that he had to earn money to take a priest exam and after learning his situation in the tavern, the two had unceremoniously added him to their party.

“I had already earned enough for the examination fee, but they continue to stay. Being with them, it’s like feeling the love of the gods.”

I see, so that’s the point.

These people help others. Is that what being a good person means? Just like Lista once did.

– Let’s go, Rin.

It then occurred that Bart’s smile earlier, which had made Rain trust him, had been similar to Lista’s—wait a minute.

“Sammy, do you know about Tureina?”

“How could anyone not know about them?”

“Has the church declared Tureina a heresy by any chance?”

Heresy… Sammy tilted his head in consideration, then suddenly his brows tightened as if he remembered something.

─ Aaaagh!

A desperate scream echoed, halting the spirited adventurers in their tracks.

The ground shook with a heavy weight, and the adventurers focused on the source with eyes dilated in tension.

A large and terrifying predator approached, its blood-soaked jaws holding a mangled adventurer in agony.

“What, what is that?!”

“Crazy!”

It was huge.

Insanely huge.

Rain had known Rat-Spiders to be roughly the size of an adult man, but this one was twice the size of Bart.

“Is that the queen? On the surface?”

Veteran adventurers felt a cold sweat at the thought. Less experienced adventurers stumbled backward and fled in terror.

“Don’t turn your backs!”

An e-ranked adventurer, Bart shouted desperately.

The Rat-Spiders, under the queen’s command, change dramatically in danger level when they receive her orders versus when they don’t, as recorded in the “Adventurer’s Chronicles” by the great adventurer Ryuthym.

“‘Ordinarily a disorganized group, when commanded by the ‘army’—the queen—they transform into a precise killing machine, more precise than any Dwarven gear mechanism.’”

The eyes of the Rat-Spiders branded with the queen’s mark began to discharge a deadly glow.

The fledgling adventurers had either failed to see those eyes or didn’t hear Bart’s warning as the Rat-Spiders pounced on the fleeing adventurers, their teeth sinking deep into their victims’ throats.

“This is why novices…”

Rem, frustrated, opened a flask from her waist, drinking down the last drop, and then stood up to assess the situation.

Inha, unaware of himself, whistled softly.

“Alcohol, you say? Kiess’s archery…?”

The essence of Drunken Shooting, needless to say, was the state of inebriation.

The power of the bow techniques that could be utilized changed according to the strength of the drunkenness, and having downed an entire bottle meant soaring the force to its limit in one go.

But the risk was just as certain, with the peril of vomiting or falling into unconsciousness during combat.

“Interesting. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

Then, three arrows were swiftly notched on the bowstring.

Swiiiiish…!

Each arrow, twisting bizarrely through the air, pierced through the heads of the Rat-Spiders that were overpowering the adventurers.

“Snap out of it and fight! Unless you want to die!”

At Rem’s bellowing shout, the adventurers who were on death’s doorstep held their weapons with trembling fingers.

“Rem, it’s pointless to just kill the minions. We have to take down the queen.”

“I know that! Sami! Heal those fledglings! Rain, cover Sami!”

“Ah, understood!”

Before Sami could even answer, Rem fitted five arrows to her bow and targeted the queen, twanging the bowstring.

Swiiiiish…!

Though the arrows each flew in arcs to the top, right, left, and bottom, the landing points were, astoundingly, the same.

“Kiess’s simultaneous impact shooting…!”

Now widely known as a technique from Drunken Shooting, the queen, whose left eye was maimed, screeched in pain.

“Grrrrrr…!”

“Grrrrrr…!”

Dozens, no, hundreds of Rat-Spiders, under the queen’s command, charged at Rem.

“Huuuuuh!”

Yet, there was one giant standing his ground against that fleshly tidal wave: Bart. One swing of his axe ground a dozen Rat-Spiders into meaty scraps, scattering flesh and blood.

And between the swings, an opening for Rem’s arrows emerged, piercing the Rat-Spiders’ heads.

As the path finally cleared, Bart for the first time grasped the double-bladed axe with both hands and leaped mightily from the ground.

“Incredible!”

“The Black Bart indeed!”

“Why is that monster still only ranked silver?”

The power required to propel an armored body so high was indeed immense.

Bart, with a kiai, brought the axe blade vertically down onto the queen’s crown. The heavy mass, combined with gravity, lent more power to his strike.

Everyone anticipated the blow to cleave the queen in two; however, as the axe seemed to tear through tough hide and crush the skull, it came to an abrupt halt mid-air.

“What is that…?”

While Bart sensed something amiss through a warrior’s intuition, Rain felt a familiar chill run down his spine and urgently shouted.

“Bart! Dodge! Drop the axe! If that hits, you’re dead!”

At those words, Bart immediately let go of his axe and rolled sideways.

It was a hair’s breadth escape.

From the cleaved surface of the axe wound, bubbles foamed and a blue venom gushed forward.

Gururururururuk…!

The axe Bart once boasted, the Black Axe, liquified and dripped onto the ground as a dark fluid, and the plants touched by the smoke withered away.

Meanwhile, the queen’s wound healed in the blink of an eye.

“What the hell? Regeneration at that speed…?”

Shock spread in Rem’s eyes, replacing tension with alarm.

And the queen, taking advantage of Bart now unarmed and undefended, launched at him.

Bart managed to grab the queen’s jaws with his ironclad hands, narrowly avoiding being bitten, but the difference in strength was clear.

“Ugh, aaaah!”

His armor buckled and bones snapped, causing Bart to groan in agony.

“Bart!”

Rem dodged attacks from the Rat-Spiders while firing arrow after arrow at the queen, to no avail.

The queen, single-mindedly determined to kill Bart, ignored the arrows embedding in her body and pressed her maw ever closer.

“It must be… Shadow Poison…”

Rain’s face turned ashen and his fingertips froze with the realization.

It was impossible not to recognize it.

Shadow Poison, the toxin that corrodes the soul, an ancient and terrifying power wielded by masters of black magic.

They all had reasons: The Priestess of the Dragon, Pride, a powerful cleric, was part of the Heroes’ Party; Lin, the great sorcerer, had to enter a dormant state using a spell akin to Hibernation—all because of the threat posed by Shadow Poison. Then, was it possible that a master-level black magician was nearby, enhancing the queen?

“Black magic that can strengthen a beast to such levels? Does this mean remnants of the Black Church still exist in the world?”

In a rush, Rain inhaled sharply and asked Sami, who was chanting over an adventurer whose neck was bitten, healing them.

“How much…?”

“Huh?”

“How much for that thing…!”

There was no need to get involved in this situation. And no one would blame him for choosing not to.

What he truly wanted was to flee.

Fighting an entity that dealt with Shadow Poison was the last thing he wanted. Trauma seeped into his brain, making his breathing rough.

“Ah, it should worth about twenty gold coins! As I mentioned before, it has the effect of saving a thousand lives and it’s hard to catch because it’s deep underground… normally!”

My body is not yet fully recovered.

If a single mistake forces me to use that Hibernation spell again… and then I wake up alone in a different world…

An involuntary shudder overtook him at the thought.

“Twenty coins, okay, twenty coins…”

I’m interfering in this for the money I need. A quarter of that creature’s worth would be enough to buy books on the black market, and more.

‘My actions aren’t borne of altruism or loyalty to the party…’

It was solely for the money, for myself.

The archmage rationalized his actions in such a way, moistening his parched mouth with his dry tongue.

In truth, it was Bart’s smile and Sami’s voice crossing his mind that caused that.

– As I said at the beginning, you two simply want to help out our brother.

It wasn’t out of gratitude either.

It was just that the thought of such a fool dying before me would make sleep restlessly uneasy.

“… Formation of the magic barrier, four successes.”



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