< Evade the Hero and Flee! 167 #19. Life is a continuous escape (8)>
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#9 Their circumstances: A certain hero’s circumstance.
“…You want us to flee together?”
“That’s correct, instructor.”
When my instructor asked while groaning deeply, I nodded as my reply.
This might be the most dangerous hand to play but my current situation meant that I had to come up with a ‘suggestion’ he couldn’t say no to.
According to Hill, the entire kingdom had already accepted my ‘love affair’ with their princess as an indisputable fact.
Trying to deny it at this point in time would only make me a shameless hero bastard that had toyed around with their precious princess.
The only thing I could do in a situation like this was to run away.
What I could do on my own was to run away using my brute strength, but that would make it impossible to deal with the aftermath. So the remaining option was to ‘borrow’ the strength of the professional escape artist! The one that not even the empire could apprehend!
In other words, the expert in the art of running away, my instructor!
And that man, he…
“I’m not interested.”
…He flatly rejected my offer.
“I said, not interested.”
For a moment there, I almost blanked out.
Was he bluffing? Trying to scam me, something like that?
But even I could see that there was not a single trace of hesitation or regret in the instructor’s steps as he walked away from me towards Alice.
“But, how come?”
My dazed mind somehow managed to ask a question, but no answer was forthcoming.
Could he have already given up?
N-no, wait. Since I informed him just now, there should be some time left for the instructor to flee.
Even if the empire’s agents were to use their fastest means of travel, let’s not forget that the high-ranking priests of the Order of Nature would’ve only delivered the letter this morning.
They probably thought my letter was an ordinary one, so they would have acted without much urgency.
In that case, it’d take one day at the shortest, or two days at most for the letter to reach Mirua. And by the time she reports this matter to the Imperial Princess, it’d be already three days, at least.
If taking into consideration the time needed for the empire’s agents to act, you’d have plenty of time to prepare your escape.
But to think that he’s given up?
He’s gotten fairly old now, so maybe he wants to settle down or something?
N-no, if that was it, then he wouldn’t have tried to evade us in the first place.
In that case, does he have another plan in mind?
But wouldn’t fleeing with us make it easier for him, too?
Why would he reject my offer in that case?
Maybe he’s looking at a bigger picture that I failed to notice? If that’s not it, then maybe he was already anticipating an event like this?
But, what was I supposed to do in that case?
Countless thoughts swirling in my head made me cuss out softly.
But that’s because I now needed to cook up a new plan under the assumption that my instructor wasn’t going to help me.
Seeing the hero stiffening up like that helped me realise that this idiot still had a long way to go. I couldn’t tell whether this kid was smart or dumb.
-But master, wouldn’t it be better to run away together?
-Not at all.
This guy’s combat prowess had already exceeded one’s imagination. Hell, he even managed to beat up an elder dragon all by himself, didn’t he!
But such brute strength was basically useless when trying to escape.
The most ideal escape scenario was, quite literally, the quickest escape!
You’d only need brute power when your escape attempt had failed, and you were about to get caught.
I was currently in the kingdom of Neidon, not the Karuan Empire.
Even if I ran away, the good folks of Neidon Kingdom would not waste their resources trying to capture me.
But it’d be a different story for the hero. He already got ‘marked’ by the princess oozing with the aura of a yandere. So, if he tried to bounce now, all the knights and soldiers in this entire kingdom would be mobilised to track him down.
That’s right. A nearby fist would always be scarier than the one coming from far away!
As such, what I needed to be cautious about was the Neidon Kingdom, not the Karuan Empire some distance away.
If the Imperial Princess was already near this kingdom’s borders, then I might have required the hero’s strength for real. But the message had been delivered only today, so I still had some time left until tomorrow.
Meaning, the Imperial Princess would have a hard time chasing after me even if I take off later tonight.
However, what might happen if I choose to flee with the hero?
First of all, the Neidon Kingdom would no doubt come after us. Even if we run away, they would surely catch onto our trail pretty quickly.
Besides, this dang hero was just too eye-catching regardless of where he went. That would eventually lead to the Imperial Princess catching us all.
This profession called the hero required you to work like a dog as long as your chosen god sent you an oracle. Indeed, being a hero did not suit the concept of fleeing, now did it!
All in all, the prospect of escaping together with this punk was not appealing to me in the least. So with what confidence did he even suggest that we should run away together?
-Master, that’s because he’s in a rush, right? And when you think about it for a second, most normal people would feel secure with an ally strong enough to beat up a dragon, you know? Unless those people are like my master and are not properly functioning in their heads, obviously.
-No, that’s the dumb way of looking at this. Imagine how much aggro you’d attract with a dude capable of killing a dragon next to you!
Bards played a crucial role in spreading the tale of love between the hero and the princess. However, the tale of the hero killing the dragon had spread around just as quickly, too.
The tale of the dragon slayer must’ve reached all corners of the continent by now. So can you imagine just how many people would come out of the woodwork to seek out this fool’s help?
Hiring low-ranked mercenaries already cost an arm and a leg for most commoners, but hey, here’s a fool strong enough to kill a dragon offering you free service!
The commoners of this continent with problems would no doubt want to ‘speak’ to our hero. Hell, never mind them, even the majority of low-ranked nobles with insufficient military strength would want to have a chat with the hero right now, too.
Choosing to travel with this punk would be the same as turning every person on this continent into a surveillance camera.
-Besides, I’m trying to get away from this idiot in the first place. And it seems that now would be the perfect time to ditch him for good.
Why did the hero have to fight the dragon, to begin with?
I planned for it to happen this way so that I could run away while the hero was battling the dragon!
If it weren’t for that nonsensical sudden power boost phenomenon, my plan would’ve been a success. My daughter and I would’ve left this kingdom by now and settled down somewhere to start another farm once the winter was over.
-Which means we’ll be kicking the hero to the curb and fleeing from here. Right, master?
There were instances of enemies finding themselves in the same boat and needing to work together to overcome a particularly tough situation. But it’d be a different story if you were to get devoured the moment you climb off from that hypothetical boat.
If we were to wave our hands at each other before going our separate ways after successfully escaping, then sure. Why not. But even after the initial escape, I still had to escape again from the clutches of the evil hero capable of killing a dragon.
This punk knew how to fly around in the air using magic to hunt a dragon down. Would I be able to escape from someone like that? Especially when he even learned the art of pursuit from me?
It was absolutely impossible.
That’s why the hero punk simply had to get married in this place.
-Aaaah, so it’s not marrying by choice, but ‘have to get married’, huh.
There was a big difference between marrying by choice and ‘have to get married’.
Anyone unfortunate enough to experience that situation should know how big of a difference it actually was.
-Sounds about right. Master, you also found yourself in several dangerous situations of being forced into marriage, after all.
-That’s why you should work even harder for my sake!
-I sure met a bad master, didn’t I~.
Uh-huh. Without me, you wouldn’t even have been born, don’t you know that?
Besides all that, just how many people in this world would be willing to use a weapon like you that’s seen as a cursed torture device belonging to an evil god?
I was an excellent individual, and that’s why I could use this bat to this extent, you know.
-Master, for some reason, my mood’s getting worse…
-That’s my line, though?
If it was some other people, fine. But my pride simply wouldn’t let the metal bat give me a rubbish evaluation and get away with it.
If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t even have been born into this world, you know!
-That’s right. As expected of my daddy!
-Sorry about this, but… That gives me the heebie-jeebies, so never say that word again.
When the metal bat’s (wannabe) cute voice echoed within my soul, a nasty bout of goosebumps broke all over my body.
Hey, I only have one daughter, and that’s Alice!
As expected of my daughter. It seemed that we were telepathically connected somehow because she began running up to me.
“I want to go back to my room, dad.”
“Okay, let’s do that.”
I brushed her hair, and while holding her hand, we began heading back to the room she was staying in.
“Ah! May I accompany you, Sir Naruan?”
“Yes, you may.”
But when my daughter and I got ready to leave, Selena the Elf also got up from her seat. The comrade of that insidious hero wanted to stalk my daughter, in other words!
But the current me was simply too weak to stop her.
Ah, aaah! Indeed, being weak was such a lamentable thing!
This right here was the pain my forefathers felt when the lack of strength led to our old nation becoming a colony. The pain of our country getting divided, the pain of all of us getting forcibly dragged into military service!
-What are you busy barking about, master?
-You know, just. It’s too unfair, I tell you.
Especially back when I was still serving in the military. It was horribly unfair.
Just how much do you need to embezzle from the military for its soldiers to be forced to use the exact same canteens that were at least several decades old despite the massive defence budget?
The canteen I used was around eighty years old when I got it, which meant it was even older than the current me. And while being discharged, I had to hand it back, so someone was probably still using it even to this day.
While making us suffer through all that nonsense, they kept saying bull crap like, “If you’re a man, defending your country is your duty!” or “No one’s been acknowledging you, but you’ll become a cool dude after joining the army!”
Ah, right. How unfortunate it was that I didn’t get to learn the defence contract embezzlement technique back then.
If only I took a little bit of a lesson in that technique… I could’ve embezzled a bit more while living my life trapped in the imperial court.
I was still a greenhorn back then, so it was easy for the Imperial Princess to discover a few of my schemes and confiscate my hard-fought earnings. And using that as a pretext, she even forced me into the frontline of her massive-scale embezzlement scheme, and as a result, I had to risk my life several times.
It got so bad that I even feared for my life for real after the First Imperial Prince mobilised the treasury to investigate the scheme.
Thankfully, I didn’t leave any evidence behind, and thus my head remained attached to my neck, but if I hadn’t done that, then…
That situation still gave me goosebumps whenever I thought about it. And it even made me groan almost automatically, too.
“It’s nothing to worry about, my child.”
I ended up groaning while my daughter was opening the door to her room, so unsurprisingly, she reacted to it.
I quickly waved my hand and reassured her that it was nothing. Alice tilted her head this way and that, but when the door was fully opened, she forgot all about it and quickly dashed inside.
“I’m home, everyone!”
My daughter burst into a peal of joyous laughter after seeing her pets, the cat and Coco.
“Big Elf Sis, would you like to play with us?”
“No, I’m fine.”
Selena might have gotten close to my daughter but she still seemed uncomfortable around a dragon judging from how she shook her head at Coco.
Alice looked a little disappointed by that. But her expression perked up again while running up to the cat and Coco with a burst of laughter.
“Would you like to have a seat, Miss Selena?”
“No, I’m fine.”
I asked her just in case since I was fetching a chair for myself, but Selena said no and leaned against a wall nearby instead.
“Aru, go and play along with them, too.”
When the metal bat that stayed quiet until now – outwardly at least – was deployed into the situation, the cat and Coco urgently cried out in alarm and began running away.
“Play with me, too~!”
The sight of the metal bat jumping in with both of her hands up in the air frightened my daughter, prompting her to hurriedly run away.
“S-Sir Naruan, is it alright to do this?”
“Kids are supposed to play while running around, Miss Selena.”
“B-but, even if that’s true…”
Was it because she had prior experience of getting beaten up by the metal bat in the current appearance? Selena stared in complete astonishment at the metal bat running around in the room, but I chose not to intervene.
Honestly speaking, Selena’s attention being robbed by the metal bat’s antics was an unexpected boon for me.
I picked up the cat as it tried to escape from the metal bat’s reach.
The cat struggled and screeched unhappily after getting picked it up but soon calmed down after hearing what I had to say.
“Listen closely from now on. Soon, we shall leave this place.”
“I have a job for you when the time comes.”
While I quietly whispered to the cat, the creature began acting like any other regular cat by lightly wagging its tail around.
“I’ll explain the plan from now on.”
Here was the one variable that the hero party members had no idea about.
The impact from the revelation of a dragon being our pet might have obscured the truth, but the fact remained that this little cat was no ordinary animal, either!
Indeed, it was a nobility among the therianthrope race!
And although not to the extent of ‘sword materialisation’, this cat could still manifest the sword aura!
“And that’s why I shall leave securing Alice’s escape path to you.”
The way it opened its mouth wide and yawned was unquestionably that of a regular cat. But the light gleaming in its eyes was sharper than ever.