12 The Second Odyssey(6)

Like a deer in headlamps, Al froze. It seemed that the end of his odyssey was a foregone conclusion. He would have no option but to fidget and stand, ashamed, in front of that old man when he gloated that he had wasted the opportunity given so graciously to someone who had never deserved it in the first place.

Even though he hadn't said it specifically, it had been obvious that losing even one odyssey would strike a major blow on his chances of getting into the secret government program. Along with the sound of clothes rustling that was caused by the hero quickly moving his hand, it was as if the knife was sounding a dirge to signal the end of his ambitions.

His mind was quick, but his body just wouldn't move. Hence, he just stared as the knife reached near its destination and plunged through…

… only to be glanced aside while the sound of metal striking metal echoed in the hallway.

Sharp pain shot up his stomach. He loved it, though, as it finally allowed him to spring out of his panic and move.

For a moment, his mind went back to the first thing he had done after reaching the mayor's residence. The blacksmith had been called, and a special metal plate had been requisitioned.

His thoughts then went even further back to the book in which he had written down all of his ideas regarding odysseys. On just the first page, the words 'Personal safety is most important!' had been written in bold and even circled in emphasis, and in both his odysseys, he had taken steps to ensure that just such an attack would not be successful.

He should have remembered all this before… but in that urgent moment, his mind had scattered. This made him realize one thing: he was still really, really unsuited to combat.

The hero had looked stunned when his blade did not meet flesh. He had winced with pain due to the opposing force that went u[ his arm, and then, he roared with anger and increased the strength behind the dagger. His objective was clear: even if he didn't succeed in killing Al, he wanted to maul him.

Understanding this, Al tried to jump back, but even in this, he was too slow. The knife went to the left and neatly sliced through the shirt, and then the flesh beneath, drawing blood that dripped to the floor like molten lava, reflecting the fire behind them.

Al bit his teeth. This was a different kind of pain. Where before it had felt as if he had been struck by a hammer, now, it burned, and a feeling of lightheadedness threatened to sweep over him.

Instinctually, he bit down harder, and like poison fighting poison, the stinging sensation and the taste of blood made him rouse himself. He almost felt proud of himself for a moment… but then, the sound of two bodies crumpling to the ground made him turn around and feel like a fool.

In front of him, the hero had killed two of the guards who had pounced in his direction with two swift swings of the dagger. From the fact that he had been fast enough to retract his hand and still deliver two killing blows… it was obvious that this man was much more well versed in the art of battle than him.

'Well, then, only one thing to do…RUN!'

Screaming at himself, he made his sluggish legs move. The only good thing about the situation was that the stairway was present in the opposite direction of the hero, so he reached it without danger. Taking the steps two at a time, he didn't even glance back as he reached the bottom floor… and found it engulfed in smoke.

Men and women could be seen to his left and right, coughing and looking for the exit. His mind and body were finally back in sync, so when he remembered that the first thing to do in such a situation was crouch down and retain a supply of air, he did so quickly and began walking straight forward. He also recalled the layout of the first floor clearly, so he knew that if he walked in this direction, he would come upon the door sooner or later.

Even when the hero arrived, the man would have no way to reach him. Convincing himself of this and taking courage from it, Al sped up. His legs began to cramp, but he ignored the pain. His eyes burned and he was losing more and more blood with every second, but all of his thoughts were focused on the large wooden door through which he could get out of this hellhole.

It came upon him all of a sudden. At one moment, he was blindly groping in front of him, and in the next, his hands met wood. He lunged forward, and after pushing through a few people who had also been exiting just then, he gulped large mouthfuls of air, remarking inwardly about how he had never thought that air would taste so sweet.

With relief, he turned around, hoping to see the manor collapse and bury the hero. Instead… he found the man right behind him, having just gotten out, too.


Panic arrived for the second time, but the experience just now already seemed to have benefited him. He was able to retain rational thinking, and right away, he found his salvation: two naked women who were standing just a little bit to the right.

Both of them had the flimsiest of clothes on. On closer observation, he realized that they couldn't even be called clothes: they were just ropes that emphasized their ample breasts and buttocks. With slender curves and luscious lips, they were pretty, and as he studied them for the briefest of moments, he saw a piece of parchment hanging from the rope between the breasts of one of them.

"For the pleasure of the mayor, from the proprietress of the 'Singing Wench'."

'If they were meant for me, why are they here?', he wondered bemusedly, then found the answer. His bedroom had initially been supposed to be one with loads of windows and only one exit. Not liking it, he had changed the place he would sleep in at the last moment, choosing the study that had two doors. Had these two been waiting for him in the bedroom, then?

It didn't matter, now. Jumping in their direction, he whispered, "Distract him with your charm and I'll drown you two in gold," before pulling both their hands and throwing them in the hero's direction.

The word 'gold' jolted them into action. After taking a moment to comprehend what he had said, they took a step to accelerate their fall and went down on top of him. The last thing he saw was one woman reaching for his lips, while the other went for what lay between his legs.

Turning around, he began to run down a random alleyway, first, before stopping after a few seconds to take a bearing. He had taken an entire day to familiarise himself with the small town, so even though it took a few seconds for him to understand where he was, he soon remembered the location of one of the other plans he had set into motion the day before.

He felt like patting himself on his back, then, but knowing that would cause even more pain, he stopped the thought and ran to his right.

'I can already tell that my weakness might always be unpreparedness. Give me a day, and I'll have set down all sorts of plans. If this guy had attacked before… he might have won.'

A few minutes later, he limped into a bar at the edge of town. He was clutching the side of his chest that was still bleeding, and his teeth were gritted so tightly that it looked like they might crack soon. He was convinced that more than one rib was broken, and after reaching the shabby bartender who looked startled, he shouted, "What the hell are you waiting for? Help me, if you don't want your wife to die!"

The man jumped into action. Running to Al's side, he supported him on one side before leading them both in the direction of a doubt nearby. They went through another door after that, and then, a trick door on the floor was opened. When the man put Al down on a chair and quickly lit a candle, gold and silver glinted nearby.

By then, he began to lose consciousness. It was all he could do to mumble another threat, and after that, darkness arrived, engulfing his eyes and starting his journey to a place with much less pain.

Before he blacked out, one last, furious thought came to him.

'Hero…if I survive, I swear I'll f*ck you over so thoroughly that you'll be afraid of taking on another odyssey. I swear it!'

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