Chapter 45: Consequences of One’s Choices and Actions
A being that had gone mad from a curse was different from a broken and eaten being. They could exercise physical power at the level of a living being. Thanks to Ru Hiana, they found out that heroes specializing in battle could deal with these beings considerably well. Chi-Woo had been concerned due to their considerable numbers, but everything turned out well in the end.
“It’s over!” Ru Hiana twisted their last enemy’s necks and brushed the dust off her hand.
“I apologize for borrowing this without permission. I was in such a hurry…” Ru Amuh sincerely apologized to the middle-aged man and returned the cleanly wiped sword. His performance had been especially amazing; he had cut down half of the cursed ones by himself.
“Okay, let’s…” Ru Hiana was about to ask Chi-Woo for an explanation but stopped when she got a good look at her surroundings. Groans were coming from all over the place. The ranch was full of heroes, and each one of them was squirming on the floor.
“What in the world…?” Ru Hiana’s jaw dropped; she looked incredibly shocked.
The rescue effort began immediately. There were more survivors than they had thought there would be. As they predicted, it seemed that heroes had been dragged to the ranch for a specific purpose, and therefore weren’t killed. Of course, it didn’t mean they were in a good condition just because they weren’t dead. Most of them were waking up and regaining their senses, but there were some heroes in such devastating states that it was difficult to even look at them clearly.
‘How cruel.’ Chi-Woo pulled a heaving man outside and scowled. The man was left with only his head and torso, and his two eyes were missing; it was a miracle that he was still alive. His condition was grotesque enough to induce vomiting, but since Chi-Woo had grown up seeing spirits in all kinds of gruesome forms, he could endure it. He ran into Eshnunna as he dragged the hero outside. Her breath hitched when she saw who Chi-Woo was carrying.
“The leader of the fifth recruitment…” He was the hero who had pushed Eshnunna to be a sacrifice. Chi-Woo shut his mouth and looked down at the man. He wasn’t acquainted with him in any way, and didn’t want to judge him. Chi-Woo simply pitied the man. The hero must have received all kinds of respect and reverence in other worlds, but this was how he ended up after coming to Liber. Unlike the time she told her story, Eshnunna didn’t seem to hold much resentment towards this hero, either. She simply froze in her spot from the shock.
Chi-Woo turned around. They found a total of 155 people at the ranch. Since they lacked the necessary manpower, the middle-aged man and Ru Hiana went off to call on more of the heroes at the main base camp. During the wait, Chi-Woo surveyed the ranch.
‘Let me check for rewards in case there’s any!’ The glory of raids was their reward. No matter how thoroughly he searched the area, however, he didn’t find any adequate weapons or useful potions. Instead, the effort did nothing but foul his mood. He could see traces of what had happened to the heroes from the fifth and sixth recruitment, and he realized where the skin and bones hanging on the walls came from.
After some time, Ru Hiana returned to the ranch with the seventh recruits and more natives. Despite their surprise at the scene before them, the heroes quickly took up a patient or two and carried them on their backs. Chi-Woo watched them with satisfaction and turned around when someone came up to him. Shahnaz Hawa was looking down at the scattered remains on the floor.
“Aren’t you going to join them?” Chi-Woo asked.
In response, Hawa slowly turned her head to glance at Chi-Woo and said, “This is him.”
“The sorcerer hero.”
Chi-Woo sighed. Now that he thought about it, he had heard somebody call for help when he arrived at this place. Perhaps—just perhaps, they might have been able to save more people if he had come yesterday. Hawa turned around and stared at the people leaving the area. Her eyes lingered especially long on Eshnunna before turning to Chi-Woo again. It seemed she wanted to ask something.
“Why don’t you go first?” Hawa suggested and kneeled. Then, while gathering the remains on the floor into one place, she said “I’ll catch up a bit later.”
Chi-Woo stared at Hawa’s back and approached her quietly. ‘I have to come back here a couple of times anyways,’ Chi-Woo thought and got down to help Hawa dig the ground and collect the remains. There was no deep meaning behind his actions. It just didn’t feel right for him to simply leave. Hawa glanced at Chi-Woo, but she didn’t turn down his help.
After collecting the remains of as many heroes as possible, Chi-Woo held a short ceremony for them, praying that they would go to a good place. Then he thanked the sorcerer for leaving him with information and apologized for not coming sooner.
On their way back to the camp, Chi-Woo had to endure everyone’s attention on him. Zelit appeared especially excited; originally, he had thought the situation in this World couldn’t have been worse, and that it was near impossible to save it. Thus, he planned to gather like-minded individuals and secretly escape from the trap that the leader of the camp might have prepared for them. However, on the very day he discussed his concerns with Chi-Woo, Chi-Woo had returned after dealing with the main problem they were facing. Not only had Chi-Woo saved the fifth and sixth recruits, but he also wiped out a whole army of broken beings. A part of him wondered how this was even logically possible, and if he had been bewitched into believing the impossible.
“Ugh, what’s happening?” Not being able to shake off all these stares, Chi-Woo turned to Eshnunna, who was walking by his side. “Is there something on my face?”
Eshnunna shook her head quickly. Chi-Woo asked one more time, “Did you fall in love with me or something?”
“What?” The tails of Eshnunna’s eyes rose sharply. Chi-Woo regretted his words instantly and quickly looked forward. Eshnunna snorted, sneaking glances at Chi-Woo. Chi-Woo was covered in dirt from head to toe from all the digging. Eshnunna thought about the way Chi-Woo had cared for the dead, his drastically calmer state while fighting, and his unreadable face.
“Which one is your real self?”
“What do you mean?”
“…It’s nothing.” Eshnunna blurted out loud without meaning to. She had stared at Chi-Woo intently because she couldn’t figure him out. He seemed like a completely different person than the man he had been a couple of hours ago
[Let me hear your cry, arrows! Burn arrowheads!]
She could still remember it clearly. The image of Chi-Woo sputtering nonsense and singing excitedly while wielding a club like a madman.
When they returned to the camp base, the day had gone by in the midst of all this craziness. Instead of resting, they had to take care of the injured now. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much they could do. There wasn’t any priest who could use curing spells, and they didn’t have medicine. All they could rely on was folk remedies.
Even the strongest of the heroes they rescued were in a severely weakened state, as they hadn’t been able to eat or drink properly in captivity, and many were near the point of starvation. A storage room had to be cleared out to house the injured. The camp sc.r.a.ped the meager resources they had and made porridge to make the most out of their food reserves. Their amount of resources. .h.i.t an all-time low as a result, but saving lives took precedence.
Once afternoon pa.s.sed and night fell, Chi-Woo could finally take a breath in relief. Of course, what awaited him was a great mountain of questions. It was something he had to deal with at least once, and Chi-Woo decided to answer as truthfully as he could while making up some details here and there.
“So…she was bewitched?” asked Zelit.
“Yes,” Chi-Woo responded. “It took advantage of Eshnunna’s desire to live.”
“Hm. So you’ve been thinking of the big picture while investigating…”
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Chi-Woo explained that he had waited quietly for an opportunity to escape rather than resisting when no good could come out of it. Those who were present considered his action reasonable given the circ.u.mstances. In fact, it was a calculative decision that prevented everyone from dying with minimum casualties. However, some of them couldn’t accept how he had gone about it even though they could understand Chi-Woo’s decision.
“I understand,” Zelit said. He understood Chi-Woo’s intentions and concerns. “I don’t know how the fifth and sixth recruit would react, but don’t worry about it. I’ll talk to them.”
“I mean, what are they gonna do about it?" Ru Hiana piped up. “They shouldn’t even have a say.”
Chi-Woo was surprised at how well everyone accepted his story. It also made him see Zelit in a new light. The hero seemed more like a trustworthy companion than a bother.
“Yeah. If they remember how important the natives’ cooperation is to us, they might not make a big deal of it,” Someone suddenly joined in the conversation. Chi-Woo blinked and saw that it was Eval Sevaru.
‘Hasn’t it been a really long time since I last saw him?’ He had rarely seen Eval since coming to the main base camp.
“Oh, you’re still here?”
“What, did you think I was dead?”
Ru Hiana was also surprised. “Where have you been this whole—”
“I’ve just been hanging around,” Eval Sevaru interrupted and rubbed his belly. “By the way, aren’t you guys hungry? Is there anything left for us?”
“There is, but I heard that the remaining food will only last for a couple of days. This includes the food we received from the other camps too,” Ru Amuh answered, which put a frown on Eval’s face.
“I suppose it will be better to just starve today.”
“I am going to preserve my stamina and go to rest. Since the forest is now safe, I think it will be easier for us to find food,” Zelit said while getting up. Everyone else was also tired after all the work they had done today without having a proper meal. Chi-Woo got up from his chair as well once a couple more people rose to leave.
Outside, the bustling hadn’t stopped. The natives and Eshnunna were busy taking care of the heroes, whose conditions had suddenly grown worse. They seemed as exhausted as they were.
“Please get me some warm water. Grind wild flowers and…” Eshnunna gave out clear orders even in the midst of this chaos. Her stern face befitted her much more than the friendly smile she had put on while greeting them. Chi-Woo wanted to help, but he had promised to scavenge for food tomorrow. To save the rest of his stamina, he had to get some sleep
On his way back to his room, Chi-Woo’s head was full of all kinds of thoughts. Zelit had told him that he was amazing—that he had gotten the greatest result possible in a hopeless situation. That might be the case if one looked at the current matter in isolation. In Chi-Woo’s perspective, however, this was only the beginning.
In a way, he had done everything he did of his own volition. He wondered what repercussions his action might have, and if they would come to him suddenly or gradually. He couldn’t relax yet. He had to be prepared for what was to come. With his thoughts sorted through, Chi-Woo lay down on his bed.
His stomach growled. Chi-Woo looked up at the ceiling blankly before closing his eyes. He suddenly thought of the chicken he had left at home.
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