His father, whose face he could barely remember, was a drunk.
When he was sober, he looked like a very honest working man, but once a drop of alcohol got inside him, he would turn into a bastard that would hit Hale’s mother and grandfather. Even though he was such a bastard, he would complain about Hale’s habit of stealing. Hale hated how a boring evil adult like him was always getting on his high horse and telling Hale not to become a dull person.
Hale’s father would claim he was the best in the world at making leather boots and was blinded to his own shortcomings. He was the most despicable man in the world.
Hale wanted to punch him and tell him he was the bad one, not Hale, but he left their town before Hale could do so, and Hale had no idea where he was.
The priest in front of him reminded him of his past with his father.
“Me? What about me?”
“I’m… Not the bad one!”
So Hale advocated for himself and people that lived like him.
“Yes, I sold women to brothels and nobles, so many I can’t even count on both hands! But they were all hopeless anyway!”
“Yes… All good-for-nothing! They couldn’t even afford to eat right! They weren’t strong enough or smart enough to fight back against anyone! They weren’t even shrewd enough to pretend to be docile and run away! They wouldn’t even take advantage of their youth to try to become beautiful! But they were shameless enough to want a good share! That’s the kind of person I went after! I didn’t force anyone that fought back or noticed my lies! If they had that in them, they wouldn’t get tricked by me! Those people couldn’t survive on their own anyway! That’s why I told them what they wanted to hear and let them dream! In the end, I introduced them to their masters! I took care of them and I deserve a commission! If anything, they should thank me!”
“So basically… You’re a very charitable man right?”
“You got that right! If I didn’t do it, someone worse than me would’ve done something worse! That’s how it works in this world, if you can’t protect yourself, someone will eat you! Everyone gets eaten by someone else! Am I wrong!?”
Hale’s eyes became bloodshot, but the priest let out a disappointed sigh, and didn’t seem convinced.
“The moment you start viewing the world like that, you’re not a rebel or anything. You’re a dog acting like an outlaw.”
“Ah, sorry. I didn’t mean to insult you, let me rephrase it. You’re loyal. You believe in survival of the fittest and want the world to be like that. That way of thinking is great for people that are strong. Especially stronger than you. Your words and actions support even more unreasonable things.”
“Y-you’re the same aren’t you? You bounty hunters are just dogs!”
“Maybe, but I take the side of people that were victimized by you.”
“Y-you’re just acting cool.”
The priest’s mouth was distorted like a crescent moon as he smiled.
Was that the wrong answer?
When his father scolded him, he would always ask a question with a correct and wrong answer. When he answered wrongly, he would be hit, when he answered correctly, he would receive a head pat. Sometimes he would even bow to him.
He was strangely fair when he didn’t drink.
“No… Yes, that sounds about right. I want to act cool.
I’m a pathetic loser, an idiot that didn’t realize how harsh the world is, and a freeloader in a strong group, and I don’t like any of it. So, I want to show off and act like a jester.”
“W-what’s with that…!? What do you gain from showing off?”
“First, doing what I want to do saves me. Second, cool people are more popular than uncool people. That’s it. Being popular by lying and turning a blind eye to your faults is a lot less fun than being popular by telling the truth. You’re well known in the red-light district aren’t you?”
This hit Hale like a bolt of lightning.
He wanted to hear someone be truthful, and not try to hide their faults.
He never found this at home, or even after leaving it. He was raised a liar, and made a living through lies.
“Thank you Hale, I got one of the answers I wanted. I won’t let you go, but if you’re ever released, I’ll be sure to reward you.”
The priest gently patted him on the head, and went down to his cheek and chin.
Hale was confused, and made little sounds.
“If I’m acting cool, you’re putting on a brave front. You know what you’re saying isn’t true. There will come a time when you realize the severity of what you’ve done, and once you do, I pray for a desire to make up for it to be born inside you, and for you to one day be able to actually do good deeds.”
Hale looked at Sem’s eyes again.
Those eyes that looked like they belonged to a devil, let out a light that seemed to come from an angel.
Hale was fascinated.
He was in awe, and didn’t feel like he wanted to be angry at him anymore.
This man would not kick, punch, or even stab him, and yet, just imagining being scolded by this man was as scary as imagining the ground beneath his feet crumbling.
Hale was a lady-killer, and he made use of his face, eloquence, and attitude to get ahead.
He excelled at seducing people, and because of this, he didn’t notice that something surpassed his womanizing and was effective on men and women.
He was now feeling the magnetism that could only be felt by the person being seduced.
“A-alright… I’ll go quietly.”
He scaredly forced out these words, and Sem responded with a kind smile.
Nick looked at Hale, who was facing down.
“Ah, hum, can we get back to business?”
He said awkwardly.
Sem and Hale were having a very serious conversation, but for some reason a lewd atmosphere surrounded it. Tianna, Karan, and Bond all felt this, and were blushing.
Nargava was the only one that didn’t feel bewildered.
“…I don’t have much more to say. If you’re going to take Hale, go right ahead.”
“Can I ask something first?”
Bond cut in.
“There have been a lot of kidnappings. A lot of children are being targeted.”
“Kidnappings? Hale, did you…”
Nargava glared at Hale, who vigorously shook his head.
“No no! I didn’t do it! I’ve sold women but I’ve never assaulted anyone like that. I’m not strong enough to do things that way in the first place.”
“Then, do you know anything about it?”
Hale heard Bond’s question and started thinking.
“Well… People disappear around these parts every day. To begin with, kids selling themselves… Oh?”
“Do you know anything?”
“I did hear about kids around here disappearing… Maybe it’s someone that frequents this place.”
“Do you know who it could be?”
“Who knows… There’s perverts here that like kids, but they can just lure them with cash. Boys and girls from the north are one thing, but there’s no point in kidnapping hungry kids.”
Bond seemed satisfied. He thanked Hale and stepped back.
“So, do you need anything else? If you’re not feeling good, I don’t mind taking a look.”
“No, it’s fine.”
“Then get out of here. No one’s going to try to save someone with a bounty on their head, but no one likes bounty hunters either. And I’m going to be busy too.”
“Yes. There’s a lot of fighting around here, and with that, comes a lot of injured people…”
Just as Nargava said this, the door was violently opened again, and several men entered.
Nick held Hale tightly so as to not let him escape, but the men took one look at them and lost interest.
Bounty hunters have a rule to not engage anyone other than their targets and muggers that attack them.
The men that entered wisely chose to ignore Nick and the others, but their goal was not them in the first place, it was Nargava.
“There you are mister Nargava! We have someone that was hit head-on with fire magic.”
“Idiot! Take him to my office! Bring water and cloths!”
“Mister Nargava, do you have medicine? That blue rust disease is going around…”
“It’s not getting worse right now is it? You can wait.”
“My tooth hurts! My tooth!”
“That’s not my area! There’s a dentist in the water tower!”
“That one only examines women!”
“Then go look for one outside! Take some painkillers for now!”
Survivors looked on in amazement at the chaos in front of them.
It was like a field hospital.
They felt like they were in the way.
Nick said with a tired tone, to which Karan strongly nodded.