Chapter 181 - Renewal Plan (2)
When the next morning came, Maetel found Etna holding onto Artpe's shoulder as she slept. She became incredible angry, but she didn't wake up Etna. Did she remember Regina's words?
As soon as Artpe opened his eyes, he saw Maetel glaring at him. His heart was beating faster, but not in a good way.
"When everything ends, I'll settle this matter once and for all."
"You shouldn't kill her. It is also questionable as to whether you'll be able to kill Etna. She won't die easily."
Artpe and Etna got up. And finally, the rest of the hero's party woke up. The Steel Horse had stopped in mid air. The roof of the temple could be seen far down below.
"We've already arrived at Paladia."
"Artpe, are you really going to do it?"
"I have to."
Etna had been a Demon. It seemed she was having a moment of retrospection.
"I can't believe the heroes will get help from the holy nation of Paladia."
"It is a crucial milestone in a hero's story."
"The hero's story······ Pffft. Hoo-hooht."
"Don't laugh, you dork."
In their past lives, the hero's party hadn't been able to do this. The Chef's recipe had mapped out everything. The hero couldn't receive help from the temples. In fact, all nations had refused to help the hero. The recipe had been amazing, so pace of the hero's growth had been exceptional. However, everything else had become a mess.
"Yes, this is a method that befits Artpe. I like it."
"You know me well. Since this will minimize the death of Demons, you should give me your full cooperation"
"I have no objections, my hero. I'll do ask you like. I'll do whatever you ask me to do"
"I'm also the hero! You should also follow my words!"
"Oh my. I guess the tiny Miss is also a hero."
"You are a bit larger than before, but….. Pfft."
"Did you just laugh at me!? You just laughed at me!"
After regaining her memories, each words that had exited Etna's mouth had been unnecessarily toxic. It put Artpe in a bind. The most troubling fact was that Etna meant every word she said.
Instead of focusing on Artpe's words, Maetel growled towards Etna. He let Etna deal with Maetel. He immediately took control of the Steel Horse. It seemed the most troublesome one in his party was occupied by the one he considered to be the most difficult one to deal with. It was like killing two birds with one stone. Maybe, it wasn't such a bad thing that Etna had recovered her memories from her past life.
"That is very rude."
"Did I speak that out loud!?"
"I'm sure of it now after I saw your reaction."
Regina was slowly becoming very good at dealing with people. If she could somehow be managed, it would be great for him. Artpe didn't show any sign of contrition as he had rude thoughts about Regina.
On the other hand, they were approaching the capital of Paladia. Elrick's expression didn't look too bright when he saw the city of Lihazeta.
Since he hadn't fought recently, he had taken off his armor. His armor was infused with a Guardian Spirit, so it followed behind Elrick. If someone saw the armor walking behind him, Elrick would probably be mistaken for a necromancer.
"This place made me realize that the world isn't as pure as I thought it would be."
"You said they shut the door in your face when you asked them to dispel your curse."
"That's right. They didn't even bother talking to me. If it wasn't for Artpe, I would still be trapped within my armor."
"Lihazeta… No, the entire nation of Paladia had become stagnant."
Vadinet threw in a helping word. It had been a while since she had visited her homeland. This was why she wore a clean outfit. She dressed up for the occasion. She had put on accessories she had worn during her life within the holy nation of Paladia. It had been a while, but she looked like a holy figure.
"We were too obsessed with the past teachings that had been passed down to us. We didn't accept anything new. We didn't send anyone outside, and we didn't let anyone inside. We started to rot from the inside. It was like that until Artpe-nim broke us."
The words coming out of her mouth sounded very acerbic.
"At a fundamental level, I don't think they've changed. At the very least, they'll listen to Artpe-nim's words. If Artpe-nim hadn't existed, our future descendants would have laughed at Paladia. We owe a lot to Artpe-nim."
"You do as you are told according to Artpe's will, but you haven't changed at a fundamental level. You are quite similar to them in that aspect."
"Shut up, Maetel-nim. Of course, I don't expect Maetael-nim to understand my love towards hero-nim!"
Before another war started between the holy priestess and the hero, the Steel Horse landed on the ground. Of course, they hadn't hidden their presence. This was why the priests and holy knights residing with the heart of Lihazeta came running out. Most of the priests had been enlisted in the continental alliance, so they were out fighting the Demons in the battlefield. This was why there weren't that many priests and holy knights present within Lihazeta.
Maybe, this was a blessing in disguise.
"The two hero-nim and….. Holy Priestess Vadinet is here too!?"
After Aria made her official appearance, the number of holy priestesses had increased to two. Therefore, the priests had to make a distinction between Vadinet and Aria. It felt a bit odd hearing that title, but she didn't say anything.
"What's going on!? We were told that the hero's party had entered the Demon realm!"
"We'll be going back soon. However, I need you guys to do something for us before we do that."
"Finally! The hero-nim has a task for us!"
The holy nation of Paladia considered their ultimate duty was to help the hero defeat the Demon King! When the priests heard the request coming from Artpe, they became extremely happy.
"We'll help you in any way we can! Just tell us what you need!"
"Thank you. Let's······."
Artpe smacked his lips as he rubbed his hands together.
"Let's go raid your vault first."
Artpe had activated Iron Face. It was an essential skill for merchants and swindlers. Afterwards, he searched every corner of Lihazeta. He collected every holy Artifact that contained an ounce of Mana. He extracted every Magic stone he could find. No one could stop Artpe, who was moving at full steam.
He was so straight forward in his plunder that the priests were having a hard time expressing their grievances. The priests watched with their mouth agape. They watched as the important infrastructure of their nation became dismantled by him.
"H...hero-nim. That is….."
"If the Demon race is able to reach this place, the human realm is already doomed. A barrier is unnecessary here. Just give it to me. Oh, Vadinet. I want you to disassemble that."
"You can't, hero-nim. That symbolizes Paladia's honor and dignity… Holy priestess, you can't dismantle that one!"
"Honor and dignity can't save your lives. This will buy you your lives."
No arguments worked in front of Artpe! In the name of saving the future of humanity, Artpe stole every Artifact within Lihazeta. He was able to bully the dazed priests into helping him. In the end, he was able to finish his task in three hours.
"Hoo. This isn't too bad of a haul."
In terms of capacity, Artpe possessed the greatest Dimensional Pouch in this world. He put the Dimensional Pouch away as he turned around. Artpe had a satisfied expression on his face. He looked like a housewife that had finished washing the dirty laundry.
"You don't have to feel so aggrieved. I'm going to to visit every single nation."
"Y...you are going to do this to the other nations?"
"Of course. This is woefully inadequate for my needs."
He was speaking to the highest ranked priest within Lihazeta. He patted the shoulder of Bishop Becidi, who was the proxy to the pope. The priest was struck dumb. He asked Artpe a question.
"Hero-nim, what are you planning on doing within the Demon realm?"
"Success isn't guaranteed, so I can't give you any assurances. But….."
If things turned out as he planned…...
"The meaning of existence for Paladia will change a little bit."
He left behind the confused priests. He got on the Steel Horse once again. It was crucial to retreat quickly! At his abrupt change in pace, the priests were struck dumb. His party members followed behind him as they got into the Steel Horse. Etna was the last one to get on. She turned around, and she gave them a wink.
"You guys should live hard. Don't do anything that you might regret. This is your bonus life."
Afterwards, Etna was dragged away by Artpe. She burst out laughing. Even as the Steel Horse moved towards their next destination, the priests continued to mull over the words left behind by Etna. They wondered what she had meant by bonus. At the same time, they thought about how pretty that maiden was.
"We'll loot all the nations that are on our path. Let's started making an estimate right now."
"What kind of estimate?"
"It is an estimate as to how much Artifacts and Magic Stones is needed by each nation to defend against the Demon King's army."
He would steal the rest. When she heard his words, her eyes opened wide, and the whites of Maetel's eyes were visible.
"Artpe, I think you are worse than the Demon King."
"It isn't like that, Maetel. The Demon realm was created thanks to the greed of humans. This is inarguable. Wouldn't it be appropriate if the entire human race shared in the burden of changing back the world as it should be? We really worked like a dog after being chosen as heroes. Shouldn't others pay a price that is equivalent to what we go through?"
His argument sounded ridiculous, yet she strangely couldn't find fault with his argument. Maetel became speechless. While they were speaking, the Steel Horse had gotten close to the empire of Zard.
"You shouldn't be surprised by this. There are more places we have to plunder."
"There are others we have to steal from······? You already said you'll plunder all the nations. What else is left?"
"Wait a moment. If you are going to plunder after plundering the nations, you are…."
Unfortunately, Elrick had picked up on his plan.
"Are you perhaps······?"
"If you don't know the answer, you can just admit it."
"Are you planning on stealing from the merchant companies!?"
When Vadinet heard Elrick's guess, she clapped her hands. It was as if Vadinet wanted to say, 'Kyaa. There was that possibility!'
On the other hand, Maetel just nodded her head. It was as if someone had explained to her that a mountain was a mountain, and water was water. Sienna snickered. The only one that took it seriously, aside from Elrick, was Regina. It was unexpected.
"They are scary when it comes to anything related to money. They are a bundle of desire and voraciousness. Even the magic kingdom couldn't take them down easily even if they tried. I know Artpe isn't foolish enough not to know that.."
"Of course, I know that. The Anywhere company and the other merchant companies have hidden forces all over the continent. I have a rough idea as to how strong they are."
This was obvious, but in a war against the Demon King's army, the merchant companies sold supplies at a cheaper price. However, they couldn't sell their products at a loss, so they extracted their price in other ways. Despite this fact, they were part of the continental alliance, and they were fighting hard against the Demon King's army.
However, not all within the merchant companies were fighting the war. The defense of the human realm was important, but the survival of the merchant companies was more important.
This was why their elite forces were protecting their most important treasures. If it looked like the human realm would fall, the merchant companies were thinking about throwing their lot in with the Demon race.
"They don't value humans or Demons. They value money the most. Mycenae values love the most, but she is a really rare exception."
"Don't talk about that in front of Mycenae. Anyways, it seems you know about the power of the merchant companies."
"So let me ask again. Who are you going to steal from?"
Cold energy emanated from Regina's body.
"I don't like jokes."
"You should think about it, Regina."
Artpe smiled as he gave an explanation.
"The magic kingdom couldn't easily deal with the merchant companies, but it also means the magic kingdom was capable of doing it if they wanted to."
"It would have been possible if the magic kingdom was prepared for its collapse in doing so."
"In the end, they are comparable in power to the magic kingdom?"
Regina finally had a realization. The person in front of her was the culprit that had ended the magic kingdom! That wasn't all. Regina's level couldn't be compared to the level she was at couple years ago! She could easily steal from the large companies by herself!
"That is why we'll be ok. We can rob them real well."
"As expected, Artpe is the baddest of them all…. However, I really love that about you!"
The hero's party drove the Steel Horse towards the imperial city of the Zard empire.
The hero's party, who was more vicious than the Demon King, started to earnestly gather ingredients for the great spell!