Chapter 37: Let’s Go! (2)
The heroes from the fifth recruitment contacted her. They said they finally had a breakthrough, but they needed the natives’ help and wanted to talk. Eshnunna was overjoyed. She was having difficulty intervening whenever a conflict arose between the recruits and the natives. However, if the heroes found a way out of this situation and began to make some progress, the complaints from the natives would subside. Thus, Eshnunna dashed to the meeting and met some of the leaders from the fifth recruits. What they told her, however, left her completely at a loss.
“Hmm? Didn’t you hear me?” one of them responded to Eshnunna’s puzzlement. “I asked you all to die,” the hero spoke as if he wasn’t concerned about the natives’ well-being in the slightest.
Eshnunna couldn’t open her mouth for a while. She had come running to this meeting, thinking that everything had been worth the wait, but now… “What…do you mean by that…?”
“Die for a worthy cause. From what we heard, it seems like among the camps…there’s a tribe called the Shahnaz tribe, isn’t there?” The hero continued indifferently, “They told us that you have a holy relic—a statue of the G.o.d that the Shahnaz tribe wors.h.i.+ps.”
“Why are you bringing that up?”
“They told us that you will be able to make a divine circle around the statue. Then it won’t be difficult to build that into a proper temple.”
Eshnunna was at a loss for words; she had figured out what the hero was telling her to do.
“Of course, it will take a long time. A G.o.d can only exist through beliefs, and right now, we can only gather a couple of hundred followers at most.”
“Thus, unfortunately, we plan to perform the greatest display of devotion that we can possibly do and secure the most amount of faith that way. You and your people will have to be our sacrifice for the G.o.d.”
The hero was talking about human sacrifice. Currently, even if all the natives converted to the Shahnaz tribe’s faith, the number they would amount to was insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Thus, rather than doing that, the heroes planned to increase the G.o.d’s influence by providing sacrifices. Human sacrifice was practiced in every World and was the ultimate religious act to show one’s devotion. By helping a G.o.d regain a bit of influence, the heroes explained, they could recover some of their lost powers.
“I understand and respect your culture. Even if we tell you to change your religion, you won’t be able to suddenly muster much faith for a new G.o.d. Thus, the Shahnaz tribe has agreed to carry out the ceremony.”
‘Understand?’ Eshnunna thought. But the hero continued, “So, go ask for the natives’ cooperation and persuade them.”
‘Respect?’ Eshunna thought.
“We could tell them ourselves, but we are outsiders. And I know you are an authoritative figure among the natives, so we believe you can minimize the backlash we might get about this matter.”
Eshnunna’s face turned completely pale.
“I know it won’t be easy, and I know we are pressuring you to perform a task that you don’t want to do. But in order for us to carry out this plan, the role you play is key. We’re thus asking you to do it even if it’s difficult.” As if he didn’t even think about the possibility that she would refuse, the hero tapped Eshnunna’s stiff shoulder. She woke up from her daze and said, “I-I can’t.”
“I can’t. I can’t do it. It’s impossible.”
The hero’s eyebrows twitched.
“We’re willing to die fighting alongside you, but being sacrifices…How could you ask…”
“Nonsense,” the hero immediately dismissed her and snorted. “Fight alongside us? And die a meaningless death? Rather than that, your deaths could at least be of use.”
“I beg you, sir. All of us, including me, have come this far because we wanted to live— to survive. Please reconsider.”
“No, there’s no other way,” the hero firmly refused, “We have already decided amongst ourselves, although we haven’t settled on the person to get the holy relic…” The hero brushed his forehead and sighed. “Anyways, I do understand your perspective, but this is the only option left. We’re not doing this because we want to.” The hero spoke as if he knew everything. “Don’t be too heartbroken. If this plan succeeds, we’ll be in a much better place even with only a few of us regaining half of our powers. Besides, you’ll be making a n.o.ble and valuable sacrifice rather than dying in vain. We will make it so.”
Perhaps Eshnunna was misunderstanding him. The hero couldn’t be telling her to quit being troublesome and do as she was told, could he?
“I promise you. All of us here will remember your courageous decision and sublime sacrifice.”
The hero finished his great speech, but none of his words reached Eshnunna. If she could, she would have started screaming then and there. She would have yelled, asking them how they could do this to them, and if this was what the heroes meant by ‘understanding and respect’. With a supernatural level of patience, however, Eshnunna repressed her emotions and gulped down the words threatening to rush out of her throat. It was because these people were heroes, and they were the only thing she could place her faith in right now. While clutching onto the last ounce of hope, she blurted out in desperation, “Please reconsider…!”
“…Ha.” The hero closed his eyes. His indifferent face was now twisted in annoyance. “This is a bit disappointing. I thought you were a reasonable person.” The hero spoke as if he genuinely failed to understand her. “Why can’t you do it? Do you want all of us to just die like this?”
“I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but the Shahnaz tribe’s seer, who suggested this method, readily promised to offer not only herself but the rest of the tribe members as sacrifices.”
“Yes, except for one person—the tribe’s next-in-line, as she is the closest person to their G.o.d, and we at least need a priestess to manage the ceremony and connect us to their G.o.d.”
Eshnunna felt like someone had dropped a hammer on top of her head. She thought it was strange that the Shahnaz tribe had suddenly intervened like this, but now, it was clear what that old, sly fox intended to achieve.
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“It was probably difficult for them, but she made the most reasonable decision for a better future. You should learn from that seer—”
The hero one-sidedly told her that they’d first give a speech, and then move to the Shahnaz camp where the ritual would have been prepared. The hero also told her to become the very first sacrifice with Yohan before everyone, and she could leave the rest of the plan to them. Eshnunna didn’t say a word; she merely lay down with an expressionless face. She had completely given up and was letting things unfold without her.
However, the hero who had told her that he’d come and bring her out when all the preparations were done did not arrive. Even though a significant amount of time had pa.s.sed, not a trace of him could be found. By that time, Eshnunna realized something was off. Then she noticed that it was noisy outside. Eshnunna got up from the bed and sluggishly went out. She couldn’t hide her horror once she saw what was going on.
h.e.l.lish chaos! There was flesh and blood everywhere and screams a.s.saulted her senses from all sides. A b.l.o.o.d.y figure was flung right in front of her. It was the hero who had spearheaded this plan and acted as the leader of the fifth recruits. But he wasn’t the only victim. Similar events were happening everywhere. Most of the fifth recruits had been violently ripped apart, and their flesh and body parts were scattered all around the camp. The heroes who were alive were severely injured and groaning in pain. Many of them had also been flung to the ground with parts of their bodies torn off.
Eshnunna lost all strength in her leg and dropped to the ground. She struggled to speak, “What…”
“…You weren’t the one…” the fallen hero saw Eshnunna’s reaction and muttered. “No wonder…then who…how did…ugh!” The hero was suddenly off the ground. It looked as if someone had forcibly lifted him up. It was then that she felt it. Even though Eshnunna couldn’t see it, she felt an extremely evil and ominous presence all around them.
“Aghhhhh!” The hero’s eyes went bloodshot. The being grabbed the hero’s arms and dangled him upside down, flinging his body around like they were playing with a toy. Eshnunna did not know what to do, so she instinctively scanned her surroundings to ask for help. However, this only made her realize how doomed they were. The heroes that seemed as great as G.o.ds were all too easily defeated. The natives were huddled together, and they could only cry or s.h.i.+ver in fear.
It was only a second later that Eshnunna noticed Yohan’s warm presence; he had come up to her without her noticing and was holding onto her with his eyes shut. Then she shouted without thinking, “Please spare us!”
Eshnunna was certain that the unknown being had heard her because the hand roughly yanking the hero’s hair paused for a moment. Eshnunna felt chills down her spine. She got gooseb.u.mps on her skin, and tears flowed out of her eyes. Seemingly broken, her body refused to move, and it felt like she was going to faint at any moment. Just being near them made her gasp for air. She felt her mind slipping toward unconsciousness, but she managed to say, “Please…spare us…”
“These people…they said they’re great heroes from a holy place…” Eshnunna pressed on for survival, “They’ll…probably send people here again…However, if they find out that the heroes have disappeared…they’ll definitely…”
“They’ll make contact with us again, so….” Eshnunna was basically saying anything to escape from certain death. “If you just let us live…” She tightly hugged the crying Yohan. It was at that moment—
The hero floating in the air suddenly dropped to the ground. He stayed that way briefly and began awkwardly moving like a doll without strings. With his head lowered towards the ground, he crawled up to Eshnunna before shoving his face into her s.p.a.ce. The hero’s sunken and b.l.o.o.d.y eyes distorted into a circle, and his mouth split open.
His teeth hit hard against each other as if he was trying to say something. Even though no voice could be heard, a chilling presence poured out of the hero’s figure.
“…Yes!” Eshnunna blurted out.
Yohan, who had been trembling in fear, slightly opened his eyes to look at his sister. He saw clearly that his sister was smiling and laughing with tears at a being that was no longer a hero.
“Of course. Yes, of course, we’ll do that! If you just let us live…we’ll do as you say.” Eshnunna’s pupils began to steadily lose focus.
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