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“How did it go?”
Asked the father.
Helgi is out of breath from having run so feverishly, and he catches his breath as he replies.
“Everyone was dead, father.”
At those words, the gathered lycanthropes become largely agitated all together.
One female lycanthrope collapsed to the floor and screamed. She was the mother of the Jason brothers, the third wife, Hera.
At the news that all seven sons, and even Jason, whom she had such high expectations for, had died, Hera became completely shocked and broke down crying.
“It’s a lie! What about Jason? Jason is dead too? Did you see?”
“I saw Jason’s corpse. It looked like he was hit in the head by the human’s weapon and died from it.”
Helgi replies coolly. At those words, Hera grabbed her head and wailed.
The father’s low voice spreads out.
Hera’s cries suddenly stop. With a frightened face, she looked at her husband.
“You can birth more sons. You are distracting me, so go.”
“Hu hu huk.” (sobbing noises)
Hera sorrowfully wept as she left the crowd and disappeared to a quiet place.
The father looked at Helgi again.
“Where have the bastards gone?”
“They made to the west. If they keep going this way, about tomorrow, they will arrive at the human village.”
“You mean that village.”
Father shuts his eyes for a moment.
He ponders on how to eradicate these impudent humans who had killed ten of his sons.
Then he speaks.
“We will proceed as usual”
Helgi asks again. Father nods his head.
“Let them go to that village.”
We walk all night and without knowing, the day begins to brighten.
“Hyung, look over there!”
Suddenly, Joon-ho points ahead and yells. A dense fog has settled in and it is hard to make out what is ahead.
But at Joon-ho’s words I stare intently and indeed, something strange can be seen.
I don’t believe my eyes.
A village where people are living. There is, of course, slash and burn farming, and even a farm with gathered cows and pigs can be seen.
I wouldn’t have thought that in this forest inhabited by lycanthropes, a village with people could be found.
“We’re alive now!”
“People are living here, so we must be out of the forest now!”
Joon-ho and Hye-su are so happy they almost leap for joy.
But I can’t shake off a suspicious feeling.
“This place is so close to the lycanthrope territory and there is a village with people? Something is off.”
“Listen here, oppa. The village wall is extremely high. Couldn’t that be to stop the lycanthropes?”
As Hye-su said, the village is built with a wooden fence rampart.
“… well, let’s see. It might not be an average village, it could be a hideout for bandits, so be especially careful.”
We cannot look at the world of Arena as the same as our 21st century world.
From what we have heard, Arena’s human society is far lagging from our present world. Who’s to know that the village people as a whole won’t rob us entirely?
We approach the village carefully.
The village is enveloped completely by a wooden fence, but the main entrance to its inside is about halfway open.
Perhaps because it is still early dawn, I don’t see any people.
But I decide to be thorough.
Sylph appears in midair and sits softly atop my head.
“Check out the inside of the village.”
Sylph becomes wind and enters the village.
Sylph returns quickly from the village and I ask her a question.
“Are people living there?”
Sylph nods her head.
Sylph draws a number 234 into the ground.
A population of 200 makes it a small village, but considering the village is situated in such a dangerous forest is impressive.
“Is everyone asleep?”
This time, she draws a number 28. It means 28 people are awake.
“I’ll lead the way.”
Kang Chun-seong volunteers.
“Please, thank you.”
Kang Chun-seong stood in front and headed inside the village. We tag along behind him.
The atmosphere inside the village is ordinary.
There are wooden homes densely packed.
When we walked through the entrance, the first thing that catches my eye is a vacant lot that looks like a square.
In the center of the space is a well, and a woman drawing water from the well stares at us wide-eyed.
“Who, who are you?”
Asks the woman.
It’s the same speech as the dead lycanthropes from last night. It sounds similar to Russian, and this time too, I am able to understand it.
“Hyung, you understood her too?”
At Joon-ho’s question, I nod my head.
“I think it is because we are examinees.”
Hye-su is correct.
For smooth progress, it must be because we have been given the ability to understand the Arena’s languages. Otherwise, this makes no sense at all.
The lady with a frightened face, asks us again.
I step forward and reply.
Surprisingly, it isn’t Korean that comes out of my mouth, but the same language as the woman. The other teammates look surprised too.
“Who are you people?”
“We are travelers. We took the wrong road and wandered the forest when we found this village.”
“Travelers? Of this forest?”
The woman looks like she can’t believe it.
Then again, it is hard to believe we are travelers that wandered through a forest full of red apes and lycanthropes.
“Yes, while we were wandering we were attacked by lycanthropes and had quite a hard time.”
As I say so, I carefully observe the woman’s reaction.
I thoroughly watch the woman who has a sensitive reaction to the word ‘lycanthrope.’
‘I think she’s afraid of lycanthropes. Should I up it?’
“Ten of them attacked us at once so we eliminated them all. We’re pretty strong.”
The woman is completely surprised and I continue.
“Could we meet with the leader of this village? We would like to get permission to dwell here for a couple days. The lycanthropes fear us so you do not have to worry about them chasing us and attacking here.”
At my words, the woman looks even more scared.
“Um, please hold on a moment. I will bring you the village chief.”
The woman hastily runs off.
“Hyung, can we really bullshit our way here?”
I shrug my shoulders.
“I did just to see how she’d react.”
“… it’s a bit strange.”
“This village is a little weird. There is more than one suspicious thing here and there.”
Says Kang Chun-seong.
“It’s strange enough that a village is just plopped right in a lycanthrope infested forest, but the main entrance is open and no one is guarding.”
Then Joon-ho and Hye-su and Kang Chun-seong look around the village and realize too, the oddity.
“You saw that woman’s reaction, right? When I said we killed ten lycanthropes and that the bastards are scared of us, oddly enough, she became even more frightened.”
“Maybe the lycanthropes changed into village people? They told us they can transform into humans.”
Hye-so offers a possible explanation. I shake my head.
“Sylph said people are living here. That’s right, right Sylph?”
Sylph wraps her tail around my neck and nods her head.
“Are you sure they are humans and not transformed from lycanthropes?”
Sylph nods her head.
If Sylph is this sure, there is no doubt.
Moreover, in this village are fields and ranches. It’s hard to imagine lycanthropes farm and ranch.
A while later, some ten village men appear around us.
“Are you guys the travelers?”
Asked a white-bearded old man with a cane.
“Yes, we are.”
“I am this village’s chief, Lebil.”
Lebil? What a strange name. Is this a name that is common in the Arena world?
“We are travelers that just travel here and there. We wish to rest here for just one day, will you grant us permission?”
“You say you fought lycanthropes?”
“Yes, things like those aren’t much.”
“Hoho, impressive indeed. I say, our village has been greatly bothered by those things. Fellows as strong as you are always welcome.”
“There is an empty house so it will not be in inconvenience for you to stay a few days. I will escort you, follow me.”
“Now now, leave it to me and go back to your business.”
The chief dispersed the ten or so men that came out with him.
The men scatter, and we follow chief Lebil and walk through the village.
“Isn’t it strange?”
The chief asked randomly.
“What do you mean?”
“Isn’t it strange that a village is located here?”
“Oh, yes, I thought it strange indeed. That a village is in such a dangerous forest.”
“Hahaha, yes, the beasts and monsters from the village are dangerous. But do you know what is scarier?”
“I don’t know.”
The chief lets out a sigh and continues speaking.
“There is nothing as scary as a murderous tax. Lycanthropes are better than a cruel (feudal) lord. All the people in this village are people that ran away and hid from the lord’s tyranny.”
“You must have all suffered greatly.”
“Un-conveyable with words. Harvesting with slash-and-burn farming, raising pigs and cattle, fighting with lycanthropes, our struggles are endless.”
‘That last part is a lie.’
At the end of my deciphering, I make that conclusion.
I believe it is true that this village was made from people fleeing tyranny.
But going head to head and fighting with lycanthropes seems doubtful.
I had noted the men that had appeared with the chief earlier, and not a single one was properly weaponized.
‘I will wait and see.’
I have to find out what this elderly chief Lebil is planning.
I think that they have a certain relationship with the lycanthropes.
I have to find out this village’s identity and why they are lying.
“Okay, this is it. It’s decent, eh?”
The chief shows us a crude building built of wood plants. Well, it is better than sleeping on the floor.
“We thank you for your goodwill.”
I express my gratitude to the chief one more time.
“If there is anything you need, please let me know.”
The chief smiled pleasantly and left.
We are left to ourselves and Hye-su furrows her brows and speaks.
“Oppa, do you think it will be okay to stay here? Like you said, this village feels odd.”
“After what you said, hyung, I’ve been noticing a couple strange things too. Wouldn’t it be better for us to not stay at a village like this and just keep going?”
Hye-su and Joon-ho feel uneasy about this village. Kang Chun-seong hasn’t said anything but he is of the same opinion.
“Like you guys are saying, this village is suspicious. But we have to pause at this village.”
Everyone looks doubtful. Like they’re asking me why.
“Let’s say we just pass this village and keep going the way we were going. You think we can evade the lycanthropes chasing us?”
“… I guess not. They are a lot faster than we are.”
My conclusion is the same.
“Then think. With our pace, we can’t evade the lycanthropes and it’s too much to fight every time we get attacked. The bastards aren’t stupid either so now they won’t be careless and they’ll come attack in bigger groups.”
The Mosin-Nagant isn’t an automatic gun that can spray bullets and we have limited ammunition.
“But they won’t have given us an impossible mission. Somewhere, there is for sure a hint to clearing this mission and I think that hint is in this village.”
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