SETP Vol. 2 Chapter 4
Chapter 4 – Resolve
The waves made a gentle murmuring sound.
The sailboat boarded by Welles’ party proceeded at a good pace towards its destination: fortunately, they did not incur any weather-related trouble.
The sky, however, was covered in heavy clouds.
The dull, black clouds threatened heavy rain that could start at any moment.
“So? What did you want to talk about?”
On the boat’s deck, Rowle was standing with his back to the sea. The question had come from Grerial.
Soon enough Welles, Lychaine, Feli, and Zerum all came out on deck. Rowle had called them there, waiting for the right timing when no knights were around.
“There is something I forgot to tell you.”
Rowle was deftly spinning a syringe around his fingers, his white coat fluttering in the breeze. The stinging smell of medicine mixed with the tidal winds, making his nature as a chemist evident to all present.
He looked just like the stereotypical back-alley doctor.
His devilish smile made it abundantly clear that he had not forgotten anything, but simply chose not to speak before.
“About the identity of the monsters dwelling on the island.”
“…what, you know it?”
The first one to react was Zerum.
Being an archaeologist, he had the greatest knowledge of history among the members of the party.
The island Rowle was about to talk about was an almost untrodden area after all. Zerum couldn’t help but feeling extremely interested.
“I did go there and return in one piece, after all.”
Rowle then showed the syringe he was twirling to the group.
“Before that, let me explain about my ability.”
He added that it was a matter of life and death.
Rowle then injected his neck with the syringe and, crying out in pain, his face contorted into an expression of distress.
The next instant, his eyes turned blood red, but only for a second. He quickly regained his rationality.
“My ability is this body. This body, which can withstand even the most lethal poison, is my unique ability.”
Rowle put back the empty syringe in a pocket of his coat, then took out a small survival knife-like dagger.
“The medicine I just used boosts recovery and reproduction— in other words, it enhances healing powers.”
Rowle then extended his left index finger, so that the others could see.
His expression showed only a trace of pain as he proceeded to cut off his finger, without any hesitation.
All five members of the group were left speechless by his absurd behavior. Before anyone could talk, however, a crackling sound emitted from his hand and reverberated in the surroundings.
From the wound left where Rowle’s finger used to be, bones and meat swelled and extended: recovery and reproduction had started.
With a disgusting sound like soft matter mingling and mixing, in less than 10 seconds Rowle’s left finger was completely regrown.
Only the remains of the severed index finger remained: the hand had returned to its original state.
“As you can see, even if any of my body parts is cut off, I will return to normal in a span of seconds. However— ”
Rowle picked up the severed finger and threw it in the sea.
He then shook the hand he had cut.
“The pain associated with the recovery is something else. A normal person would probably go insane, I think.”
Rowle then laughed, concluding that he was a failed experiment, after all.
“My body is an exception though. The pain is subdued, or rather, injecting too much medicine in me dulls my pain sensors, so I can endure it.”
And so people started calling him “Immortal”.
The medicine created while pursuing the ideal of curing others ended up creating a powerful, albeit broken, medicine which could only save its creator.
Rowle’s raised one corner of his mouth as he said “ironic, isn’t it?” His tone was covered in a dark shadow that words could not describe.
“Well, anyway, thanks to this ability I could go as far as the heart of that island.”
The silhouette of the island was already faintly visible in the distance. It looked the size of a bean, and in the group, only Rowle could look at it with some kind of nostalgia.
“Oh, and another thing.”
Rowle put away the dagger and continued in a casual tone.
“Make sure you never touch my blood, okay?”
The other members looked at him, puzzled, but the reason why manifested soon enough.
The spot where the severed finger had fallen had conspicuously changed color.
It had turned to an unhealthy-looking, dark purple hue.
Welles, who knew the most about Rowle Zwelg’s unique nature, was the first to notice.
Realizing what the chemist had done.
“…Rowle…you can’t have…changed all your blood to…”
To deadly poison….!?
Before Welles could finish his sentence, Rowle replied.
“—this is a battle.”
His tone was low.
It was harsh and forceful, very different from the usual.
“I’m going to do anything I can in order to survive. Is that not obvious?”
Rowle Zwelg was not a pure “Hero”.
Thus there wasn’t the slightest bit of arrogance within him.
This was his strongest point, as Welles knew very well. By witnessing such an absurd act, far and removed from common sense, he understood.
Rowle had planned a countermeasure for the possibility of his own body being eaten by the enemy. He would put his life on the line more than anyone else present.
“Discard any naivete you might still have, Prince Welles. The threats we will face on that island are not only the monsters.”
Rowle added that the monsters were just something of a bonus.
“There are several monsters dwelling on that island, yes. But they are not the island’s real inhabitants.”
“….what do you mean?”
Information about the island that not even Welles had heard. Why did Rowle keep it hidden until now?
Welles made no effort to hide his irritation as he immediately questioned Rowle.
“Just what I said. The island’s real inhabitants aren’t monsters.”
Irritation and restlessness.
The first one to understand what Rowle was hinting at was Zerum, who voiced the unfortunate prediction he came up with.
“What? Are you saying that someone is controlling the monsters? The monsters said to have chased away “Heroes” 200 years ago…?”
They lived on the island, but were not its inhabitants.
Rowle probably meant to say that the well-known monsters were nothing but an extra danger, and there were other, more dangerous creatures controlling them.
Zerum, however, never heard of any creatures that could control monsters powerful enough to overwhelm even “Heroes”. He laughed at such a possibility.
His smile, however, did not last long.
“Several hundreds of years ago, a certain species was driven out from the continent.”
Zerum’s eyebrows rose in surprise.
Hundreds of years ago. A certain species.
Zerum’s knowledge of archeology flashed the vision of a dreadful scenario in his mind. Lychaine and the others too could tell how ominous Rowle’s words were, as their expressions tensed.
Several hundreds of years in the past, in a world where the average life expectancy was less than 50 years, was an unfathomable time.
“A certain species suddenly went extinct several hundreds of years ago…or at least, it was supposed to. One tribe of that species, however, managed to secretly escape.”
Only Rowle knew of the enemy’s true identity.
He had learned this truth, which was not revealed even in the heroes’ expedition of 200 years prior, through the use of his own body.
“They call that remote island their ‘Sacred Land’.”
“Yes, or Sacred for short. That’s what they said.”
“An ‘inviolable sacred land’, is that it…?”
Someone uttered these words and sighed.
Rowle paid them no mind and continued.
“The island itself is surrounded in a sort of invisible bubble. As soon as anyone penetrates it, the monsters are dispatched to get rid of them.”
Thanks to her unique eyesight, Lychaine might be able to see the bubble. So thought Rowle, as he glanced at her before adding a more detailed explanation.
“Once on the island, there’s no escape. Either you go at least 100 meters away from the island or you defeat the monsters.”
That is why—
“So you can never be too prepared. To lose there means to die.”
Rowle spoke more forcefully. Even with his immortal body, he had gone through unbelievable pain and had been killed hundreds of times.
“…the species living on that island…they’re vampires.”
A warrior species which once prospered on the continent.
Because of their relentless aggressions and indiscriminate acts of vampirism towards any other species, they became heavily resented by other species and were ultimately annihilated. Indeed, it sounded like something out of a fairytale.
Rowle, however, maintained a grave expression on his face.
“The survivors from centuries ago are the masters, controlling monsters as their cohorts.”
That was why Rowle said the monsters were “just a bonus”.
Monsters powerful enough to rival “Heroes”. The vampires were called a warrior species, after all: their fighting power was exceptional.
“Even if anyone in this group dies before your eyes, never surrender to anger.”
Letting anger prevail would simply mean to leave one more corpse on the island.
Rowle thought that telling them about what he knew was the best way to ensure the survival of as many members as possible.
“Even if you encounter a vampire, I ask you to avoid fighting them, no matter what.”
Rowle recalled a distant memory.
A memory of trying to deliver at least some payback.
A bitter memory in which not only he could not do anything to his enemy, he wasn’t even treated as an opponent. And he was forced to see, clear as day, the stark difference between their species.
Rowle recalled how simply facing a vampire made his insides churn. How overwhelming their aura of intimidation, their presence was.
Thus he spoke.
To increase the expedition party’s survival rate as much as possible.“—they are not an opponent humans can ever hope to beat.”