62. Havlin Village (3)
Lulu couldn’t muster up the courage to ask whether he could come along, as a fear of humanity had been ingrained within him. He had already been unsettled by such a tiny human, so what would other humans be like? That was why he didn’t follow Tom. Lulu had asked the other demons about how humans were before the trip.
“Humans?! Of course they’re scary. They’re always muttering this or that about their God, do you think they’re in their right minds? What’s more, the Holy Knights mark their armor with demon blood! People in their right mind don’t do that kind of thing!”
An Orc who had fought with humans many times had said this.
“Mmm, well… I am not in the place to say anything about humans. Humans are their own individuals as well. But, I can remember a good human. A human I met in the past who offered me water. To a slave like me. She was such a beautiful nun that looked a lot like our Demon Lord. With just that moment… I can’t say that all holymen are bad.”
These were the words from Commander Karakul.
“Humans? There are quite a few good ones! Mmm, A monk in the border regions was one of them? He was scary at first, but… he made a house for me! He was very friendly and warm! And… Mmmm…”
This was Ellin’s reaction.
Each had their own opinions. Lulu had faith in the words of an Apostle, and an initial relief accompanied his decision to travel with Tom. But for the reality to be so different, Lulu remembered the opinion of the Orc warrior most soundly.
‘We’re finally traveling together… but what if I can’t help him and turn out to be a hindrance…?’
Lulu’s fear made him feel small. This would not do, he decided.
“Ok! I’ll do what I can! It’s already getting late, so I’ll prepare his room for him!”
As Lulu set about, cleaning and organizing the room, his sensitive ears picked up something.
“Is there a ceremony today as well?”
“It’s usually once a week!”
“Reverend must be curious about the foreigners that just arrived.”
“T-then we can receive the ceremony, right?”
‘… Again… the Humans look like they’re going to that weird gathering. For them to go even this late at night… Should I say that they’re very earnest… or foolish… Not that it has anything to do with me.‘
Lulu headed to the window to dust the pillows when a stone flew through the window and struck him on his head.
Lulu covered his forehead with his hands, tears welling up in his eyes. Looking in the mirror, he could see his forehead had begun to swell and bleed a little.
“It hurts!! Who was that! Throwing stones…! Are you crazy? Who’s playing these dangerous games…!”
He frowned and looked at the stone in his room. It was smaller than a fist, but if it had hit a human, it would have been quite painful.
The sound of something thudding against the building continued as stones kept flying. It must have been a coincidence that the first went through the window as the majority of the stones to follow mostly hit the wall.
Lulu carefully poked his head out the window.
Fran, the young girl, grinned upon seeing Lulu stick his head out before throwing the stone in her hand. Lulu flinched, watching a few more stones hit the wall before shouting back.
“Stop that! Who are you!?”
“Show me your ears!”
“I don’t have anything to show!”
“They’re rabbit ears! If you don’t show it, I’ll throw stones all night!”
Lulu looked conflicted. Tom hadn’t arrived yet. If the girl continued to throw stones when Tom returned, it would interfere with his rest.
‘I can’t let Tom be bothered because of me!’
“Stop throwing! I’ll… tell that human called Chief!”
Fran flinched in response to Lulu’s shout. It looked like the girl didn’t want to be scolded by the Chief.
“D-doesn’t matter! If you don’t show them, I’ll shout! I’ll shout that you have monster ears-!”
Fran shouted back angrily. Lulu looked around in surprise. He didn’t see any other villagers. They must have gone to that ceremony.
‘Still, to empty an entire village for that…? Is no one supervising this dangerous brat? Humans are really ridiculous! Have we really been losing to them time and time again?’
Lulu sighed. It would be troublesome if more humans came to investigate. If that commotion hindered Tom, Lulu would be to blame.
‘This is the first time I came into the Human World,and the first time I have undertaken a mission to aid her highness alongside an Apostle. I can’t mess this up!’
Lulu grabbed his robe to hide his head before opening the door.
Lulu was greeted by a massive stomach smudged with dirt blocking the entrance. He lifted his head. A large and intimidating man with the look of a farmer glared down at Lulu with hostile eyes. There was farming equipment in his hand. Lulu knew that there weren’t just farmers in the area, but adventurers and those that looked like mercenaries. He had been so preoccupied by Fran, he hadn’t heard him walk up.
“… What is wrong, sir Holy Knight?”
The farmer spoke to Lulu. His voice was flat and emotionless. Lulu spotted his eyes, loose and unfocused, unlike the other ‘ordinary’ humans.
“No, it’s… just… W-what are you all doing…?”
The farmer merely tilted his head before looking his farming tool up and down.
“…Ah, well… we came looking for an offering for our God.”
The corner of the farmer’s mouth rose. Others behind him smiled in unison. Lulu’s hair stood on its end.
Lulu instinctively closed the door and locked it. The moment after the lock clicked, the farmer began banging on the door.
“Sir Holy Knight, Why are you closing the door?”
The voice speaking to him was calm.
“Sir Holy Knight?”
The farmer kept banging on the door.
“Why are you closing the door?”
The door struggled to hold him back. The farmer’s voice lost its pretense of kindness as he became frustrated.
“I asked why you closed the door, you brat-!”
He smashed the door with the farming tool, his voice was now dripping with murderous rage.
Lulu leapt back in surprise.
The door was splintering into pieces. Lulu could see the farmer’s eye through the broken crack, and then through that crack, an arm came through and flailed about in an attempt to open the door.
“Please open this. We just need a live offering for our ceremony.”
Even as the sharp fragments of the door tore apart his arm, the farmer’s hand did not stop. He continued to struggle to open the door. When the door didn’t open, he kicked it angrily with his foot.
“W-what the! Why are humans like this…!?”
Lulu turned to the window in fear. He didn’t have anything to defend himself with. Tom wasn’t even here!
‘I-I have to flee…!’
Lulu dove out the window. Fran, still on the road below, watched him, wide eyed. Anyone jumping out a tall 2 story window would be seriously injured. Lulu, who landed nimbly, quickly looked over his shoulder. The door had been broken open and the farmers who had invaded the room approached the window and looked down at Lulu.
“…Ah, he got away.”
That single sentence gave Lulu goosebumps. It was truly an emotionless voice. That intense hostility he had felt moments ago had vanished. It was such an intense mood swing. Fran grabbed Lulu’s hand.
“Come this way-!”
Lulu looked at Fran.
“I’ll lead you to where you can run! Hurry…!”
Lulu grit his teeth and nodded. He was worried about Tom, but there was no way he’d suffer under the hands of some humans. It was infuriating, but he had to run until Tom sought him out. Lulu followed Fran into the forest.
“… This is?”
Tom looked at the cultivated field. Fresh crops grew from careful tending. The vibrant, blooming herbs gave off a familiar fragrance.
‘… Where have I smelled this before? It’s such a familiar fragrance.’
Tom peeked to the side. The village gate opened slowly as people with torches ventured out one by one.
‘What is happening in the middle of the night…?’
The villagers spotted Tom near their crops and advanced toward him. There were a dozen or so, each holding farming equipment.
“Sir Holy Knight…? What are you doing here?”
At the question, Tom rose from his spot and scratched his head.
“Haha, it’s just that the cultivation was done so well here that I was curious to see what was growing here…”
“You were trying to steal our crops.” Tom narrowed his eyes. “As I thought…! It was all a lie that you weren’t interested in the tea yesterday. You shouldn’t do that. You shouldn’t covet this precious plant, which makes the holy water and grants us many blessings.”
The man’s eyes had become bloodshot. His face was pale and his body moved rigidly as though it was frozen solid. The farmer put more strength into his grip on his farming tool.
“Yesterday… there was a ceremony yesterday… so we needed to harvest more… There are so many thieves after all.”
“That is… I think you’re misunderstanding…”
“Sir Holy Knight… a thief?”
A smile formed on the farmers’ lips.
“It’s a thief!”
They roared loudly and the other people surrounding him began to follow along. They slowly lifted their farming tools, forcing their stiff bodies to move.
“We have to use this thief as the offering in our ceremony!”
“Offering… Offering… Offering…!”
Tom stood dumbfounded, having lost all of his words. These people were not in their right minds. Their gazes were scattered as though they were in a trance, or under the influence of some drug…
Tom’s eyes grew wide as he looked at the herb on the ground. That familiar fragrance.
‘Aah, why had I forgotten it…? Even I knew what this was! It’s the narcotic that I took in the past…’
At that moment, he wasn’t aware of its exact name, but it was said that the body would turn to stone with continuous usage, so it earned the name ‘Petrification Herb’.
“This is troubling. I came to this village to gather manpower… but it turned out to be a garbage heap in need of cleaning?”
Tom crushed the herb beneath his heel, repulsed.
Lulu and Fran dashed through the forest. The villagers followed them from the rear, but it wasn’t long before their presence disappeared.
Lulu gasped for breath as he looked around. Fran turned to a breathless Lulu, and laughed.
“Aren’t you glad that I saved you?”
Lulu averted his gaze before expressing his gratitude. He didn’t want to admit it, but he did receive the girl’s help, so he couldn’t do anything about it.
“So show me your ears!”
“… So that’s what this is all about, huh?”
Lulu sighed and took off his robe, and when he did, his rabbit ears shot up. It was shameful for a Moon Rabbit-kin to receive help and not pay it back in turn. He believed it should be okay as Tom had reassured him that no one would believe the words of children.
Upon seeing the ears, Fran looked surprised.
“Wah! It’s really ears! Real ears! Boing Boing~!”
Fran began to touch the ears all over.
When Lulu took his ears back, Fran looked disappointed.
“Fine… Oh yea! Come this way!”
Fran began to walk deeper into the forest again, beckoning him to follow.
“Hurry up. If you don’t… the villagers will catch you.”
Fran disappeared into the forest. Only her voice rang out, which Lulu followed using his excellent hearing.
“Wait, where are you?”
He continued walking, and arrived at the entrance to a cave, which contained a pit not too far in. Fran smiled as he waved both her hands.
“Here! Hide here! Rabbits hide in caves!”
“… I’m a Rabbit-kin, but not a rabbit.”
“But you’re a rabbit!”
Suddenly, Lulu frowned, he could hear something from the pit. Lulu tilted his head and craned his neck toward the source of the sound.
Lulu turned his ear to hear properly.
“Give me drugs!”
Without a chance to react, someone pushed Lulu from behind.
Lulu looked over his shoulder, and saw Fran smiling darkly.
“Rabbit is offering to our God!”
And with that, Lulu fell into the pit.
He smashed his head onto the pit’s side as he rolled down, before coming to a painful stop on the damp earth at its bottom. There was a horrible stench, while flies and maggots were seemingly everywhere.
“Uwek! Ptoo Ptoo!”
Lulu spat out mud that had found its way into his mouth. As his sight adjusted to the dark, and formless shadows took shape, he froze.
It was a pile of corpses, some still moving. There were people that weren’t quite dead yet. When they finally noticed the fallen Lulu, they began to wriggle as they tried to grab him.
“D-drug! Drug-! Give the blessed holy water!”
Then, they began to bite down onto Lulu’s arm. Not only his arm, but the humans scattered all over began to bite at the rest of his body.
“This bastard must have drank some of the drug! The drug must be flowing in his blood! Drink his blood!”
“The blessed holy water must be in his belly! Split his belly!”
Lulu kicked at these people and broke away from them. Befitting their emaciated bodies, they were weak. But the places they bit him were torn and began to bleed. As the wounds mixed with the mud, the pain grew worse.
“J-just where is this place…? A-are humans always this scary…?”
Lulu began to limp. The leg that one of the humans had bit was broken. As he tried to walk, he heard a voice.
“Ey, move it quickly!”
“Ooo, the stench. It shouldn’t be stuffing itself with the villagers so much.”
“Haha! Did you just see that one bastard? Begging for a blessing…? Hahaha! Wasn’t it hilarious or what?”
Lulu held himself to a wall as he heard unfamiliar voices. As the footsteps drew closer, he hurriedly hid himself with illusory magic. They were different from the villagers. These people wore black robes and carried something like a staff on their backs. They were carrying a corpse which they threw onto the muddy water.
“Hah… I’m exhausted…!”
“Why do we mages have to do this kind of thing? Can’t we just have the villagers do it? There were strong mercenaries and adventurers as well!”
“Hah? What are you talking about? The villagers think all these bastards went to heaven. If news of this gets out, it’ll be hard to deal with them, even with the drugs. Let’s just get on with this peacefully before we absorb another village.”
One of the men wearing a black robe pulled the staff from his back and poked at one of the struggling humans.
“D-drug, give me drugs…”
“Drug? Ah, the drug that can help you reach heaven? Haha… I’m sorry, but it’s wasted on you. Don’t you know how much those sell for? There is nothing better to help fund our work.”
The unknown man smashed the begging human’s head with his staff.
“Aren’t they pathetic? They abandoned their homeland to avoid taxes and donations. They abandoned their nation for their family, and kept running despite the fear of being eaten by demons, but in the end…”
The man in the black robe narrowed his eyes as he finished talking.
“Not only their families, they even sold their souls here as well. Truly a pathetic existence.”
“You all will be our offering. Fucking blessing, who’s offering?”
The staff pierced the man’s chest. The man began to spit out blood as his body convulsed before his eyes rolled back into his head. His jaw went slack as he shouted some strange noise and stood up.
He began to waver and vomit blood from his mouth. He turned to look at his summoner with his eyes still rolled over.
Zombies. They were the lowest of grade among the undead. They moved slowly, but they were several times stronger than humans and did not tire. Also, upon the order of their summoner, they would rush to face certain death. Watching the entire scene unfold, Lulu’s eyes grew wide. Only Necromancers could use such magic.
Dark Mages existed on the continent, but the only ones that could raise the dead were Necromancers, and even the Dark Mages loathed them, as it was a despicable magic that imprisoned one’s soul and forced them into eternal servitude
“Haha! If we use that thing you call religion, people become a lot easier to handle. If I show them a bit of magic and call it a miracle, they say ‘Ah~! Our god~!’ and follow so easily? Isn’t it?”
“Yea. When our teacher raised some dead bastard into a zombie, they rejoiced, calling it a resurrection.”
The Necromancers laughed mockingly.
“People that have lost their homes and have nowhere to rely on are the easiest to manipulate. They are so desperate to rely on someone that they followed us?”
“Especially in this place, that Chief is the worst. He sold out his village to save his own family. Haha! Well, in the end, his granddaughter is addicted to the drug and not in her right mind.”
“Now I see why the Petrification Herb has been banned in the Holy Empire! It’s truly a terrifying narcotic.”
‘Herb? Narcotic? What are they talking about?’
It happened when Lulu gulped. One of the Necromancers stopped talking and looked around, suspicious.
“Ey, Don’t you… feel magic power from somewhere nearby?”
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