Chapter 35: Female President (11)
After returning to the mansion, Eshnunna stopped five meters in front of the entrance. There was a small shadow standing at the door. She edged closer to see who it was, and was pleasantly surprised when she got a better look. So much so that she seemed almost taken aback.
“Yohan?” The figure standing in front of the mansion was her younger brother: Salem Yohan. Seeing the brother she loved so much, her cold, expressionless face melted like snow.
“What happened? Why aren’t you in bed?” she walked up to her brother and asked softly. “Are you having trouble sleeping? Do you want to sleep next to me?” Eshnunna smiled gently like she was asking her brother if he had nightmares. Then she suddenly stopped herself.
“…Yohan?” She blinked fast, and her smile was wiped clean from her face. Yohan didn’t move at all, nor did he say anything. He simply stared up at Eshnunna as she walked up to him. His cold gaze was sharp enough to send chills down her body.
“Yohan. What’s wrong?” Eshnunna hurriedly approached him and kneeled down to meet his eyes. “What happened? Hmm?” She stretched out a hand and was about to place it on his shoulders when he finally said something.
“It was you.”
Eshnunna’s hand froze midair, and her heart sank. She plastered on a forced smile. “What are you suddenly saying…”
“It was your doing.” Yohan’s voice was boiling with fury, and Eshnunna’s face fell. “Why did you do it?”
“Did you have to do that?”
“Wait, what do you mean?”
“The hero who went with you. Did you haveto put him in such a state?”
Eshnunna’s face hardened. She stared at her brother’s enraged face and glaring eyes.
“…It’s a misunderstanding,” she replied after a moment of silence. “That’s not it, Yohan. It’s really not.”
“Ha.” Yohan laughed; it wasn’t a child’s innocent laughter, but one dripping with mockery. Eshnunna gulped and opened her mouth again.
“Yohan? Wait, please listen to me. I will tell you everything. Just give me some time.”
“Sure, and you would be telling the truth.” Yohan suddenly changed his stance, but it was clear from his tone that he was mocking her. “We can say that you aren’t at fault. After all, even though the heroes have lost their powers, they are still heroes. How could you have inflicted any harm on them?” The corners of Yohan’s mouth twitched. “But there was no need for you to go out of your way when you could simply let things happen.”
Eshnunna breath hitched. She wanted to plead to him and say that he was wrong, and that it was all a misunderstanding. These words lumped in her throat, and her desire to declare her innocence pounded inside her chest. However, she couldn’t voice them. It was because Yohan seemed to be talking about more than the earlier incident.
Still, she had to say something. “No—"
“Don’t lie.” Yohan had already interpreted her brief silence as admission and immediately cut her off. “Do you think I’m stupid?”
“Do you think I wouldn’t know how we were able to survive in the middle of this complete h.e.l.l?”
Eshnunna opened her mouth and closed it again, but regardless of her reaction, Yohan continued, “You handed the fifth and the sixth recruits over.”
Eshnunna’s complexion turned pale.
“For the price of selling the seventh recruitment, you now—”
“Stop!” Eshnunna shouted unintentionally and hurriedly looked around her in surprise. Then she realized that she had basically admitted to her brother’s accusation with that reaction. Yohan’s face fell from this final confirmation, and he gritted his teeth.
“Are you satisfied?” Yohan asked, and Eshnunna squeezed her eyes shut. “Are you satisfied with selling off the heroes who had come to help ensure our safety? Does that make you happy?”
The words she had feared the most came out of her brother’s mouth. Eshnunna heaved a couple of times and let out a deep breath.
“Yo…han.” She tried to calm herself down, but her voice shook. “I know what you’re saying. I also know that you’re right.”
“Yes, it doesn’t make sense logically. It really doesn’t.” Eshnunna calmed her breathing and continued, “Did you ever stop for a moment to wonder why I made these decisions, Yohan?”
“It’s clear that you’re not completely oblivious. You are smart, so you must have guessed it by now. Right?” Then she said in a pleading voice, “You called them heroes, but do you really think so?” Yes. She knew what she had to say. “No, they are certainly not heroes. Rather, they are just a bunch of fanatics, wallowing in their own far-fetching ideals that hold no sense of reality.” Since the truth was out, Eshnunna felt compelled to continue, “They said they had come to save this World. Fine, we should be grateful about that. Why shouldn’t we? And it’s our duty to show support out of our grat.i.tude. But.” Her voice hardened. “Even if it’s for the World, there’s no need for us to die. Wasn’t that what the heroes told us? They didn’t want us to die fighting alongside them, but instead expected us to sacrifice ourselves. All the while claiming that they were here to save us. Does that make sense to you? How are they heroes then?”
Yohan’s pupils shook slightly. Eshnunna said in a firm tone, “Think about it. What’s the point of saving the World if we’re not in its future? ‘n.o.ble and sacred sacrifice?’ Don’t make me laugh. I don’t want to die. I want to live with you, Yohan, and…” Eshnunna couldn’t finish her sentence.
“No.” Yohan shook his head sideways. “No, you’re wrong.” Although he had wavered slightly, his voice now sounded resolute. “If that’s what you really think, it’s all the more reason for you to not act this way.”
“You said you wanted to survive and forge your own future. If you continue in this manner, you might be able to live momentarily, but you won’t be able to reach the future you have dreamed of.”
Eshnunna failed to respond.
“Could you be certain that the recruits would continue to come if this keeps up? What happens if they stop coming? Even if they continue to send people here, do you think all heroes are stupid? You would be exposed sooner or later. What are you going to do then? And is there a guarantee that the cursed ones would keep their promise forever?” Yohan argued vehemently, and Eshnunna looked at him with sorrow.
“Plus, not all of them are the same,” Yohan said.
Eshnunna had expected Yohan to understand because he was precocious for his age, but Yohan continued, “There are heroes among the recruits who are skilled and have the ability to help us.”
He was too stubborn, Eshnunna thought. That was why he couldn’t understand. “Ah…” Of course, she knew stubbornness wasn’t a bad trait, and Yohan was born this way. But right now, she was simply frustrated by his inflexibility. “Is that what you think? Then, Yohan, are you saying that we should all just give up our lives?” Eshnunna felt strong emotions bubbling up inside her. “That we should all sacrifice ourselves for this World? For the future of people we don’t know? Yohan, aren’t you aware of all the responsibilities on your shoulders?”
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“That is preferable compared to how we’re living now,” Yohan said without hesitation. “And I’m sure that if I were in your position, I would never do something like this.”
At that moment, the Eshnunna in the mirror smiled brightly. It was a beautiful smile that blinded people’s eyes. Meanwhile, Eshnunna’s eyes widened in shock. She blinked like crazy and quickly touched her face. Her eyes were wide as saucers, and her lips were shut so tightly that her teeth hurt. But the face reflected in the mirror was still smiling. No, it wasn’t just smiling. The softly curved eyes had become strangely bent and distorted like those of Hahoe masks, and the lips stretched impossibly wide to the tip of its ears. Then, in the blink of an eye, the thing opened its mouth wide and burst out of the mirror.
“Ahhhhhhhh!” Eshnuna’s scream came out a few seconds later.
Eshnunna fell hip first onto the ground and gulped, but before she could calm down—
[Why don’t you be honest with yourself?]
She heard a voice from her left ear. “Yohan?”
[Sister, you did it because you wanted to live.]
[Did you want to live so badly that you use me to rationalize your actions?]
She could also hear his voice coming from above her.
[You dirty coward.]
When she lowered her head, his voice came from below.
[Why? Do you also want to turn me over?]
“No!” Eshnunna screamed at the top of her lungs. She shook her head in a frenzy and struggled to move. Even then, the voices did not stop. She heard the accusations from all directions, so she could no longer even decipher what they were saying. She instinctively struggled to fight, and her back hit against the wall.
“No…That’s not true.” Eshnunna shrunk into herself with nowhere to hide. She denied what the voices were saying about her while covering her ears. The last person she had held onto for support, her younger brother, had also turned his back on her in an impossible situation where there was no place for her to go and n.o.body to depend on. Eshnuna sobbed and subconsciously pleaded in her heart, “Help me.” Anyone. “Please—Please help me. Please…”
Eshnunna flinched. She had been covering her ears so hard that marks were left on her temples, but finally, she allowed her hands to come loose. Before she realized it, the mysterious voices had all disappeared. Eshnunna raised her head in reflex, and her tear-soaked eyes looked up in bewilderment. The person standing in front of her was no other than Choi Chi-Woo.
Eshnunna’s lips slightly parted. “…Why…?”
“You asked for help,” Chi-Woo calmly replied and reached out to her. Eshnunna’s gaze trailed along his arm and settled on his large hand. “Here. Please get up.”
She then heard the words she wanted to hear the most right now.
“I will help you.”
1. A different kind of ‘you’ is used in different situations; in this context, he addresses her like they’re distant or strangers. ☜
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