< Evade the Hero and Flee! 166 #19. Life is a continuous escape (7)>

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#8 Their circumstances: A certain pursuer’s circumstance.

 

“Hah-eum…” [1]

I savoured the taste of meat gently melting in my mouth.

It was so good.

As expected of a restaurant that received three stars from the continent’s culinary guide.

The meat’s quality was already excellent, to begin with, and on top of that, the chef’s control over the fire temperature was even better.

The outside was so charred that you’d think the whole meat was burnt to crisp, but hints of blood still remained inside.

The inner part’s succulent softness that contrasted its external appearance…

Not only that, the charred part didn’t taste burnt at all, but what you’d commonly refer to as the taste of fire. That’s what it tasted like.

[Proofreader: Yes, I commonly refer to the taste of fire. Very fiery]

I felt that not even the imperial court’s chefs had mastered flame control to this degree.

That’s how amazing the skill level of this restaurant’s chef was!

“Two more servings!”

“You want to eat more…?”

“Of course. Hah-eum.”

I smiled in happiness while shoving in another large piece of cut meat.

“A-ah, I see. It’s… of course…”

My underling sitting before me sipped on a glass of wine, her expression stiff and weirded out.

This place offered tasty but small portions of food. Yet the subordinate was complaining about how full she felt after eating just one small portion.

We’ve been staying together since a fairly young age, but as far as her eating habits went, I just couldn’t understand her at all.

“Hah-eum…”

“Why does it feel like you’re always eating…?”

“Nope, not true. I’m working right now.”

“Oh, sure…” The subordinate groaned at length.

I confidently stuck my chest out as a boss should. “Just trust me!”

“No, I can’t…”

This dumb subordinate of mine continued to groan away, but there was no helping it, was there? I mean, I was her boss, after all!

“The instructor told us this, didn’t he? Those who keep the faith will be rewarded someday!”

“He also said something else, you know… Like, trust is the mother of all f*ck-ups.”

“Did he?”

I was rendered speechless thanks to my classmate’s ability to recall useless memories.

“Even so, believe in me. Don’t forget that I was the first one to locate the instructor last time!”

“Ah…”

A mere subordinate was staring at me, her boss, with eyes filled with resentment. When interpreting the thought burning in those eyes, it seemed like she was saying to me, “And that’s the reason why I’m stuck in this situation!”

From where I was sitting, it looked like her fate would still be the same even without me meddling in her life, though.

However, I knew. I knew that this kid merely was in denial of her own fate. That she needed an excuse to lie to herself!

So, it couldn’t be helped, then.

I was a generous, kind person, so I should be more understanding of her plight. That was the role of a classmate, her older sister, and certainly, as her boss, wasn’t it!

“That’s why, one more serving, please!”

“Again?!”

My classmate stared at me in pure shock, but all I had for her was a lengthy, soft sigh.

What I bought earlier was meat. But this time, it’d be salad and a bowl of soup.

In cooking, achieving harmony was absolutely crucial.

Therefore… Since I went ahead and ordered the main course, it was only obvious that I’d order the side dishes, too. Yes, very obvious.

“I knew it. Ria needs to learn the proper way of enjoying food.”

“I don’t mind others telling me that, but hearing it from you feels so wrong…”

“It’s not ‘you’, but Madam Squad Leader.”

“Yes, yes. Madam Squad Leader.”

Sipping wine while complaining was not a good look for a subordinate, but the members of our organisation only had to adhere to two rules, so I readily forgave her.

One of those two rules was set by our superior officer, the Imperial Princess.

The first rule… Capture the instructor, no matter what it takes.

But that was probably the hardest of…

“Squad Leader!”

I spotted one of my subordinates breathlessly rushing inside the restaurant.

Even if magic was used to prevent noises from leaking out, that’s not considerate behaviour to others, you know. This place is a regular restaurant, after all!

Therefore, it’s uncool for one of us to run up to me looking all flustered. Especially when we placed so much importance on secrecy and stuff.

“Liechen, you are a team leader, so running uncouthly like that is not good… Ng?”

I was about to issue a stern warning to Miss Liechen, but she shoved a piece of paper in my face as if to shut me up right there and then.

And that piece of paper, which was actually a letter…

“It’s from the Order of Nature?”

It featured a really familiar emblem of a certain religious order.

“Yes, Squad Leader.”

“Good work.”

Besides the subordinate having a meal with me at this very moment, I had one more classmate left in this world… and he worked for the Order of Nature.

And a while ago, I asked him for a small favour.

That favour was…

[To: Mirua.

I found him. I found the instructor.

From: Your classmate, No.1.]

… Achieving the first goal of the organisation I was put in charge of.

“Found him.”

“Found who?”

“The instructor!”

“Huh-uph!”

The subordinate’s lips began bobbing up and down at the revelation of our instructor being found. But I ignored her for the time being and quickly pulled out a pen and paper.

As I thought, love your country, love your classmates, they said. I knew that my classmate would come through!

“Let’s see…”

Like I said earlier, our first rule was to catch the instructor no matter what it takes!

And to achieve that goal, we must do everything in our power.

That’s why I should write a letter to Her Highness.

[He’s been found, Your Highness. Current location, Neidon Kingdom. The informant, the hero of the Order of Nature, Swinn lel Raina.]

The information could turn out to be false, so I made sure to write down the informant’s detail just in case. Exactly like how the instructor had taught me.

If something did go wrong somewhere, then my dear classmate should shoulder all the blame.

“Alright, then!”

“Are we setting off to find the instructor now?”

When I shot up from the chair, my subordinate stared at me with a complicated face full of anticipation, joy, confusion and concern.

“Not yet. We still have something to do before that.”

“Really? What?”

I had to sigh again when my subordinate tilted her head this way and that.

As a member of our squad, it was about time she had finished memorising the other rule but to think that she has not!

That’s a fail as a member, you know!

Of course, I’d never fire her or anything like that, though!

“Wrap them up.”

As her trusted boss, I told my dear fellow squad member what needed to be done.

“Wrap them up? Wrap what up?”

Unfortunately, it seemed that she still didn’t understand such a simple explanation.

Which meant I needed to explain in depth.

“My food is about to come out, so we gotta wrap them up for takeaway. Obviously.”

I left behind the subordinate making a dumbfounded expression, found a waiter nearby and handed over some money while asking for my orders to be wrapped up for takeaway.

The other rule in our Kidnap Ast Squad, the one beside the first rule Her Highness had set out for us…

And that was the rule I made for everyone to follow – one should eat first before getting down to business!

 

***

 

The day after I had successfully pulled off my plan…

I went to see my daughter while feeling utterly relaxed. It sure had been a while, me feeling this way.

“Dad, you look happy.”

“Maybe it’s because I’m talking to you?”

“I’m happy too, dad!”

My daughter rushed into my embrace, and I enthusiastically petted her head.

Ah, ahhh. I’m being healed right now. How long has it been since the last healing session?

As I thought, my dear daughter’s existence alone was enough to heal me.

“Dad, are you finished with your work?”

“Almost, my child. Almost. Soon we should be able to stay together forever!”

“Woah!”

Look at how overjoyed my daughter is! Look how happy she is right now!

To think that bastard wanted to take away this tiny bit of happiness from my lovable daughter. I knew it, that hero bastard was definitely an evil creature.

But my dear daughter, you don’t need to worry anymore because that evil hero has been taken care of by the former villain, me!

“Sir Naruan. What happened to… Sir Hero?”

“After requesting some time to think it over from Her Highness Vera, he has quietly isolated himself in his room until now. Miss Selena.”

“Is that so…?”

Selena, the hero’s comrade, avoided meeting my gaze. Her expression showed how conflicted she felt at the moment.

She probably never imagined that a hero she’d been journeying together with would cause such a massive incident.

No, wait. Maybe she didn’t want to believe it?

Well, that’s also a possibility. You’d often hear about the heroes getting it on with their elven companions in various heroic legends, after all. So, our hero punk could also have…

-Which means master is a bad guy who wrecked a nice couple’s relationship, no?

-That’s just a hypothesis. Besides, the bad guys are the hero party!

Indeed, they were vile stalkers harassing someone who only wanted to live in peace while farming for the rest of his life.

To think that these Peeper Goddess-worshipping fools wanted to mess with my and my dear daughter’s idyllic, happy lifestyle!

And you want to be a couple on top of that?!

The Goddess might have forgiven you, but I sure as heck cannot!

“Did Sir Hero really…?”

“Yes. In the name of the Goddess, I have not lied.”

-But master, you don’t even believe in any religion…

-Well, it’s true that I haven’t lied, right?

-What happened to your morals, master? Aaahng?!

What do you mean, what happened to my morals? It went up in flames alongside my farm back when I was still a youngster. That’s what happened.

Besides, I really haven’t lied about this incident. It’s just that the hero got caught in the trap the princess and I had laid out, that’s all!

“Hah-ah…”

“Big Elf Sis? What’s the matter?”

They seemed to have grown fairly close during our stay here because my daughter worriedly looked at Selena when the latter began sighing non-stop.

“No, it’s nothing much.”

The Elf seemed reluctant to explain to a child that she was concerned about the hero doing something bad to Princess Vera. Instead, Selena put on a fake smile and tried to assuage my daughter’s worries. “Yes, it… really isn’t much.”

“Really?”

“Yes, child.”

Selena’s hand gently stroking my daughter’s head was filled with affection.

My daughter Alice, who oozed bewitching charm that even rendered her former enemy, an Elf, utterly defenceless! I bloody knew it – when she comes of age, she will definitely entrance countless men with her charms!

Of course, I was planning to not accept a single one of them!

At the very least, the potential suitor must be skilled enough to survive living with me. Otherwise, it’s a firm no!

-Oh, so you are basically looking for a guy who can fight the empire and win, master…

-Indeed. I can’t win against a guy like that, after all.

-My poor little sis… There doesn’t seem much hope left for her now…

-Ah, let’s not forget that they also need to pass your test, too.

-My little sis will never get married at this rate!!!

-You don’t know that. Maybe someone like our Shuttle might pop out of somewhere.

A man with tough willpower that could endure against the metal bat’s assault, and possessing enough power and influence to fight the Karuan Empire and still prevail…

If someone like that showed up, then even I would have to give up.

Obviously, my daughter would never abandon me just because she found herself a boyfriend. Which meant that as long as I looked out for any potential poisoning attempts, it’d be fine for me to live alongside her.

Of course, I didn’t think there would be a male protagonist fitting that description, anyway.

Unsurprising, really, since the opponent was the one and only Karuan Empire.

That place was filled with geniuses who could create things out of nothing if you dared them to do it. And on top of them sat a pair of the Emperor and the Imperial Princess who were experts at manipulating and controlling people.

All those ‘famous words’ the Imperial Princess said while making people do her bidding like slaves! Her unwavering brazenness while declaring, “This is what having power is about!” after making people do unreasonable, crazy things for her!

She quietly yielded the seat of the next emperor to her younger brother, the Crown Imperial Prince, but the truth was… She must’ve done that to install a puppet leader and then dump all the annoying matters to him.

The poor Crown Prince should know that he has no choice but to work his ass off while quietly shedding a tear or two.

Didn’t need to see it to know it. What a sad and pitiful life that was.

-What about your life, then, master? Since you’re being chased around by a scary older sister like that?

-An already ruined one, I suppose?

My life effectively ended back when I met the wrong feudal lord. To think that idiot would dare to invade the Karuan Empire of all the nations out there!

If my fields hadn’t burned down back then, I would’ve remained an ordinary farmer living an ordinary life.

-It doesn’t feel like that would’ve happened, though…

-No! I’m definitely ordinary! It’s just that this world chose to forsake me, that’s all!

Didn’t the gods even acknowledge it?

Yes, my unique difference, the only one in this whole world! In other words, this world is actively rejecting me! I’m not the one at fault here!

Knock, knock…

It was right then that someone began knocking on the door.

Who could it be? That evil Shuttle who dared to monitor my daughter along with Selena?

Or, maybe it was the princess seeking me out to completely conquer the hero?

If it’s none of the above… the hero coming here to inform me that he has accepted his destiny and decided to marry the princess?

“Can I enter, Selena?”

“Yes, Sir Hero.”

The correct answer was the third option, the hero.

Selena, the temporary master of the room, gave her consent and the hero, looking clearly worn-out and listless, trudged inside before standing next to me.

“Instructor. I’ve made up my mind.”

“Is that so?”

Good. You made the right decision. Now, forget about everything and become Princess Vera’s husband to lead a comfortable life in this kingdom’s royal court.

I mean, this isn’t such a bad deal for you, is it?

The next-in-line for the throne has already been decided anyway. Only a comfortable, luxurious life with the princess as either a duke or grand duke awaits you from this moment on…

“Yes, I have. And that is to report you to the empire.”

“Son of a?!”

What the f*ck did this as*hole just say?

Could that ’empire’ be THAT empire?

It can’t be, right? Unless he’s lost his marbles, there’s just no freaking way, right?

-But master, to my knowledge, there’s only one nation in the continent that people refer to as the empire since the last great war. Am I wrong?

The metal bat did her usual shtick and poured cold water on my reality denial mode. I glanced at the hero, my eyes filled with anxiety.

Since this punk was my disciple… A punk who received my teachings, so he would have…!

“You… have already reported me to the empire, haven’t you?”

“Yes, I have.”

And he was the act-before-the-enemy type, too.

This punk ended up using a technique from my past life. Back in my military days, everyone talked about how important this technique was but, if you really went ahead and did it, everyone would slag you off, instead!

And the hero had created the worst possible situation, to boot!

“When?”

“Right after we finished talking to the princess!”

Which meant it happened yesterday.

No, wait. Since the hero didn’t budge from his room, Shuttle must’ve been the one to carry this plan out.

Dammit! To think that I didn’t notice the 3cm Drop happening right next to me! [2]

Shuttle must’ve sent the word out this morning while treating the commoners!

In that case, my location should reach the Imperial Princess’s ears by later today, tomorrow at the latest…

And the fact that this punk chose to tell me this now…

“…You want us to flee together?”

“That’s correct, instructor.”

His smile looked so refreshing, which perfectly suited his handsome exterior. But to me, this punk nodding away was making a smile that was easily the most insidious smile in mankind’s history.

 

[1]: That’s the sound made when mouthing a big chunk of food.

[2]: That’s Starcraft reference. To all imperial unit users, it’s “one-inch drop”, but in metric.

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