Chapter 38

I thought it odd for her to insult me at such a time, but they did say that she was crazy.

Only a few meters and she’s in the circle.

Now that I was closer, I could see that there were long thorns coming out of the vines that formed her hair. Her eyes were pitch black. The metal plates’ color clashed violently with the dried wood that was her body and encompassed her feet, hands, neck, and part of her chest. Since the tubes were connected to her back, I figured there was some more there too.

I do not know what she is… but this isn’t her natural state.

She didn’t even seem to belong here. We were in a desert… what was a plant-based creature doing here? Unless it was common and I simply haven’t seen enough of the population. It seemed that someone had taken a folk tale’s character and decided to go Frankenstein on it. And whatever they had done to her, it had included fusing her with technology.

Did humans do this?

I was getting closer and she suddenly stood and walked toward me. Her movements were slightly mechanic, and I noticed that sawdust sometimes fell from her joints.

She stretched a hand toward me.

“Finally,” she whispered with glee. Then louder, “Finally! Rejoice, Bunker! I can finally go…”

She tilted her head when she noticed I had stopped walking.

“What are you-”

I didn’t speak but picking her as a target for the ring and allowing her to see my title had seemed enough to interrupt her.

Her smile wavered.

“Edward,” she called. “Come.”

“No,” I said.

That caused ripples to spread in the mute audience. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why they hadn’t put her down already for what she had done to these children, but that was none of my business.

What I wanted was to make it clear that I wasn’t someone she could put a claim on.

“As you can see,” I told her with as little anger as I could manage, “I am a delver. That means that you don’t fuck with the temple again unless you don’t mind no longer having access to the terminal in the guild.”

Her smile was replaced by a frown. Her stretched hand came back to her side. She cocked her head again, but in a way that would have killed a regular person. Head perpendicular to the neck.

“Young man. Maybe… Maybe you do not understand my words? It is very simple really! I am- I am telling you to resume walking until you get in front of me. Then kneel!”

The compulsion that followed her order was stronger than the one that had come before, causing me to go light headed for a brief moment. It seemed that the reduced distance increased the efficiency of her spell, but thankfully it hadn’t been enough.

“And I’m sure you’ve noticed,” I continued, “I came out of a meeting with Bokwen and his elders. Which means that you don’t fuck with me unless you want them to make paper out of you.”

A large bare-chested warrior came out of the crowd holding a broadsword and confidently walked until he reached the stage. He was very similar to Balrosh, in that he was bull with a menacing pair of horns and impressive muscles. The difference was that he appeared to be younger.

“My lady!” he barked as he slapped his chest.”I beg you to give me the order and I shall drag this arrogant shit to your heels by the scruff of his neck!”

“Please die,” she said without even sparing him a glance.

Four of the surrounding children around her collapsed. They were as quickly replaced as the first, but what shocked me was what followed her command.

The beastkin let out a yelp and seemed to struggle for a while. But then something in him gave in and he turned his own blade against himself and plunged it into his chest.

Blood gushed out, spraying everywhere as he struggled. He pushed hard enough for it to come out through his back until the hilt hit his chest.

Then he fell to his knees in the crimson pool quickly growing under him and didn’t move again.

I looked around and saw no one move. No one.

No one thinking that this was too much and thought it a good idea to rush this creature. Her spell was obviously limited in how fast she could use it, so what was keeping them from killing her after she had done so?

My eyes fell on Balrosh. He was also staring down, despite the veins on his forehead and how hard he seemed to grit his teeth. He was also doing nothing.

There probably was a few things I was unaware of. But even if there wasn’t…

I’m not here to try to save people who don’t want to save themselves. Hell, even if they wanted to.

I looked for the black orbs that were Genoneva’s eyes and notice that the blood that had splashed on her face had almost disappeared.

“Forget about me. I have nothing more to say.”

I was about to turn around when she spoke with annoyance, “Grab him.”

Suddenly brought back to life, the expressions of the children surrounding me suddenly became mad grins. I could see their muscles tense in preparation as they were on the verge of executing their given order.

But before I could summon Ikun Omi, the warriors let out shouts of surprise as blue light inexplicably shone from the floor. Plants with blue flowers emerged from every crack in the stone and grew at an impossibly accelerated pace.

They climbed on the children, twisting around their limbs, regrowing when they would get cut. First, their movements were only lightly restricted, but in the blink of an eye, those light restrictions became severe shackles as the green bindings tightened themselves.

Minor blessing of Umion Ji

It was about fucking time!

I saw the flowers rush toward the stage, but that alone seemed to irritate Genoneva more than everything that had happened yet.

“Don’t you DARE!”

She yelled with an inhuman voice and the caused the plants that had reached the stage to whither. They didn’t grow back.

But Genoneva was seething. I was starting to think that there was no way this would end well when a loud crashing sound came from the back of the theater.

I looked back and saw Bokwen. He had apparently jumped from the box’s window, as indicated by the cracked stone he was standing on in a relaxed manner.

“Genoneva,” he said. “He is a delver and I confirm that he is one of ours. You have built a lot here through the years and it would be a shame to see it all go to waste.”

“You think you can threaten me? You, a mangled beast?” she asked with a pointed finger.

He took a deep breath in.

“I am not threatening you. I am telling facts. And you know for a fact that we have nothing to lose. Let us not go down a way no one will come back alive from.”

She seemed to hesitate, her eyes darting from him to me. The theater was dead silent, everybody waiting for the end of her inner debate with bated breath.

Everybody but me.

I turned around and walked toward the huge stone doors that lead to the passage I had taken to reach the theater.

I wasn’t going to wait for her to make her decision. Bokwen had been twiddling his thumbs while I was facing the murderous mind controlling co-leader of his city. Now it was time for that bastard of a bear to pull his own weight.

I had done my part.

The sound of my footsteps echoed in the silent theaters. The warriors watched me leave with bewilderment on their faces, some even forgetting to close their mouths.

I reached the doors without anyone stopping me.

The weapon merchants had cleared the long hallway, probably after sensing the trouble brewing in the fight club.

The effects Respite of the Undead were dissipating, leaving me in a better state than before I drunk the golden liquid, but still not as good as new.

I didn’t hear any noise come from the theater and wasn’t able to relax until I reached the general population of the Bunker, though only slightly. People still gave me odd looks when they saw me.

I was tired of all this mess. Tired of the next creature being stranger than the previous one.

Children… I thought as I got on a lift to the upper layer. For fuck’s sake, she was pumping these children dry like they were batteries.

Tired of all the politics. The plan had been to simply grow stronger so that I could deal with my personal hell. It was supposed to be about me and my demons.

I quickly reached another lift and the one after that. I would soon be out of this city of madmen and I couldn’t wait for it.

Sending their own children to a haunted mine…

I could understand being desperate. But was life still worth living past a certain point? Did food still taste like anything when you knew your young child had to face death to bring it to the table?

I was almost on the last lift when I felt someone tug my sleeve, though I was walking too fast for them to stop me. I groaned and glanced back, expecting to see another helpless parent, but was surprised to see a young girl on the ground.

I realized she had probably made her lose her balance as I was hurrying past her.

“I’m sorry,” I said as I quickly helped her stand. “Are you hurt?”

She looked like she was ten. Maybe nine.

“Yes, I’m fine,” she said. “I mean, no I’m not hurt! Oh!”

She ran to pick a basket I hadn’t even noticed and handed it to me.

“This is for you!” she said.

I looked at it with confusion. “What?”

“My dad told me to give this to you. Mom made them,” she said. “My sister works in the mine, and she said that no one died since you came back.”

I looked over her shoulder and saw a stern man watching us from a store. He smiled and gave me a cheerful nod.

“He said you helped everybody but they don’t know how to thank you,” the girl continued, curiosity in her tone. “Is it true you went so low you came out on the other side of the world?”

“No,” I said with a smile. “It’s not true. Give your dad my thanks, okay?”

“Okay! Bye!” she said before running to her father’s shop.

I took a peek at the steaming food inside the basket and just stood there for a moment.

I really am a dumbass.

 

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