Medical Officer: Their check up is done. There’s no signs of internal or external injuries. They should be fine.
Medical Officer: However, they are slightly weakened at the moment. They are in need of some rest.
Ethan: Bring them some clothes and water.
Medical Officer: Got it.
As the cold wind blew across my naked body, I finally realized how cold this place actually was. With a few deft movements, I immediately threw on the shirt they gave us.
I tossed aside my ruined pair of pants, welcoming another bout of goosebump-inducing coldness as I practically jumped into the pants they handed over. My legs huddled together for warmth, desperately trying to shake off the slight numbing coldness from my brief flirt with nakedness.
In contrast, the water they gave us was like a soothing mug of hot chocolate as it flowed down my throat, warming my entire body.
Ethan: Mo Chuan, Di Qi Ju, how did the both of you survive?
Di Qi Ju: ……
Mo Chuan: ……
No one answered him.
Breman: It’s alright, after such a close brush with death, I doubt anyone would be able to answer that question.
Ethan: Sir…is it over?
Unbeknownst to us, Breman had already concluded his negotiations with Hilda Carlyle and had returned to our midst.
Breman: Ah…they are planning to leave.
Di Qi Ju: —-!?
A series of splashes suddenly disrupted the otherwise serene lake surface, drawing my attention away from the blonde officer in front of me. A few seconds later, calm was restored once more to the lake surface.
Did someone just jump into the lake to commit suicide?
Breman: It’s Hilda Carlyle and the other inquisitors. They are merely taking the same route they took here, back.
Err what? So they came from the lake?
Breman: Ignore them for now. If I’m not mistaken, the work here should already be done, Ethan?
Ethan: Yes sir, we’ve also collected the corpse of the other adventurer, so the matter is concluded.
Ethan: It’s just that the other four adventurers have just undergone sentencing and are on the way to Honor city to await their execution.
Ethan: Since there’s no deaths, should their punishment be…
Breman: —-Ethan, I told you already, I’ll leave this matter entirely in your hands.
Ethan: Yes sir, I understand.
Breman: I’ve a new mission for you. Ethan.
Breman: Bring your men and check out the cliff wall opposite us. There should be a giant cave hidden over there.
Ethan: A giant cave?
Breman: Stealth is vital for this mission. Who knows if there might be more of those giant worms lying around the forest. If you see one, retreat immediately.
Breman: You can transport that worm corpse back for research once you’ve completed this mission.
Breman: I’ll bring these two back with me and my bodyguard. I need to quickly get back to the base as well. Wouldn’t want my unannounced trip to cause any trouble.
Ethan: Yes sir.
With that, Ethan led his team of approximately 10 soldiers into the forest ahead. It wasn’t long before the silhouettes of their orderly ranks were swallowed up by the dense greenery.
Within a short span of a few minutes, the lakeside was empty except for Mo Chuan and I, along with Breman and the bodyguard following him.
Breman: It has been an eventful few days hasn’t it, Di Qi Ju?
Di Qi Ju: …Ah hah ha, it seems so.
Such an awkward exchange…
Breman: Compared to the last time we met, your wish points seemed to have changed again.
Breman: Same with Mr. Seasonal Wolf as well.
Mo Chuan: …?
Breman: I’m aware that in order to survive that fall and also to evade that worm, making a wish was unavoidable.
Breman: It must’ve been hard on the both of you. Even the troops on the frontline may not necessarily encounter such a life-threatening situation.
Di Qi Ju: Mhm…so true. It’s all thanks to the grace of God that we were able to survive.
Breman: Let’s head back to the laborers’ camp. I’ll give you guys a few days off. You can head back to Honor city and rest up there.
Breman: Naturally, we will also compensate you according to the terms in the contract.
Di Qi Ju: Err regarding that—-
Di Qi Ju: Can we visit our teammates?
Finally…we can leave this god forsaken ravine.
Breman’s bodyguard ended up carrying me up the ravine wall, while Mo Chuan and Breman scaled the cliff face by themselves.
To think that even the delicate and slender looking Breman was able to scale that sheer cliff…exactly what else has this expedition been hiding?
What awaited us at the top of the cliff was an animal-drawn wagon that carried us the rest of the way back to camp. Judging from its build, it’s probably not meant to carry live cargo…in all likelihood, it was prepared with the goal of carrying our corpses back.
Soon, the familiar sight of the expedition camp loomed over the horizon. As the wagon slowly made its way into the camp, it marked the end of an uneventful wagon ride home.
What greeted us as we entered the laborers’ camp was a few familiar figures who seemed to be eagerly awaiting something.
Halfmoon Leak’age: ……
Halfmoon Leak’age: It’s them…they’re back! And they aren’t corpses.
Lee Sole’shot: Ahhhhhh—–!
One’day High: That’s great!!!
Before I could even react, Lee Sole’shot and One’day High had already stepped onto the wagon and embraced me.
One’day High: Little Ju, thank goodness…you’re alright…
Di Qi Ju: I’m definitely alive and kicking, but is there a need for a bunch grown men to hug each other so tightly.
Lee Sole’shot: But how else can we express our joy!
Di Qi Ju: You can hug Mo Chuan as well.
Lee Sole’shot: —Err, I’ll pass on that.
Mo Chuan: ……
Halfmoon Leak’age: Lee Sole’shot, I wouldn’t be surprised if you get beaten to death for saying such a thing.
Mo Chuan: It’s not like I’m the type of person who beats someone to death just because of that…
One’day High: Either way…thank Westrealm…*rub rub rub*…
Di Qi Ju: Hey! Don’t rub your snot all over my shirt!!
Mo Chuan: That’s right, where’s Alvin?
Halfmoon Leak’age: His cut was much deeper than ours, so a large amount of poison managed to enter his bloodstream. It would probably take another day or two before he recovers. He’s lying in the medical center right now.
Mo Chuan: What happened later on that bridge? Were the goods stolen?
Halfmoon Leak’age: ……
Halfmoon Leak’age: At that time we were all unconscious. By the time we woke up, the patrolmen had already arrived and the adventurers had all been knocked out.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Other than one cargo chest that dropped into the ravine, nothing else was lost.
Mo Chuan: Hmm…?
Breman: To clarify things, those bastards weren’t knocked out by our troops.
Breman hopped off the other wagon and joined us.
Breman: Someone had already taken care of those adventurers by the time we got there.
Breman: As for who that someone was, we weren’t able to find out.
Breman’s gaze indifferently swept over everyone present before finally landing on me.
Breman: This should be enough, right. Di Qi Ju? According to our plan, it’s time to send both of you back to the City of Honor.
One’day High: Huh? Why do they need to go back?
Breman: It’s compensation for the unexpected dangers they had to endure. They’ve been awarded three days of rest.
Lee Sole’shot: Shouldn’t we get some compensation as well? Shouldn’t we?
Breman: The military allows for the legal whipping of laborers who skive off. Do you want a taste of that?
Lee Sole’shot: …..
Breman: Once you’ve recovered, head back to work. If you can’t even handle such a small wound, I suggest you head back to the city and find a safer job.
Breman: Even if you are only a laborer, I do not wish to keep any cowards or lazy bums.
Seeing the serious look on Breman’s face, Lee Sole’shot and One’day High caved in immediately.
Breman: Leave the idle banter among yourselves for later. You guys can continue after they come back from their break.
Breman: Mo Chuan, Di Qi Ju, prepare to head back to Honor City.
Breman: I have a mountain of questions to ask you as well, but that can wait until you guys get back.
Di Qi Ju: ……
Under the evening sky of the half light, half dark sun, the frontier city of Honor began to welcome the arrival of what was bound to be an eventful night.
In the central plaza of the city, stood a large plot of empty land. It was cordoned off by a bunch of uniformed soldiers with what looked like ticker tape.
Around them was a crowd of onlookers who filled up the remaining spaces of the central plaza.
Among them, a lady weaved her way through the sea of people with unusual haste.
While her elegant gait and figure painted the picture of a teenage girl, she was in fact 26 years old.
Instead of her usual long robes and hood, she wore a set of plain colored, tight fitting clothes that wrapped up her body.
The intention was to prevent anyone from easily recognizing her, and also to hide her appearance.
However, these clothes did not manage to hide the crimson red strands of hair that leaked out the sides of her hood.
Suddenly, the crowd erupted in an uproar.
The lady walked to the edges of the plaza and hopped onto a chest to get a better view over the commotion.
She saw a troop of soldiers escorting four wagons laden with cages right into the cordoned off area.
Whether it was the lady or the clamoring crowd, everyone knew what was about to happen—-a public execution.
Onlookers: I knew it! It’s an execution! I win, I win—-!!
Onlookers: Ah ah…it’s still so early…I didn’t expect those stupid adventurers to act so early.
A makeshift gambling den seemed to have sprung up in the middle of plaza. The crowd reveled in the pleasures of gambling as they watched the grim procession, ready to make their next bet.
Poppy: Excuse me…what’s going on here?
Onlooker A: Ah? Miss, are you new here?
Onlooker A: We were obviously betting on when those stupidly suicidal adventurers would lay their hands on the expedition! This bet has been ongoing since the expedition left!
Onlooker A: We had bet on which day they would get executed, how many would get executed, how many people they had harmed, etc…if you got it all right, you would have made a killing.
Onlooker B: Miss, the next round of betting has started, care to place a wager?
Poppy: No…I’ll pass.
Onlooker B: Ha…by the way, I heard that after the execution, their corpses would be publicly humiliated as well. I just don’t get how stupid you would have to be in order to take up such a job.
Onlooker A: Bro, that’s not true. There might be some advanced technology or unknown treasure within the expedition forces. If you managed to steal them, you would be set for life.
Onlooker A: Besides, if they weren’t so crazy, we wouldn’t be able to entertain ourselves!
Onlooker B: Either way, they deserve what’s coming to them! I would rather be an exploration merchant than an adventurer anyday!
Onlooker A: Running a business is a lot tougher than robbing people!
All in all, she got a rough understanding of the situation…
The uniformed soldiers brought out the convicts and tied each of them to a set of tall, rounded stakes. As they did so, the crowd let loose a round of cheering.
This was the beginning of the execution. It was a form of venting for the public. Nearby, the crimes of the convicts would be put up for display on a noticeboard. After this venting was over, they would be taken down for execution.
The crowd automatically made way for the soldiers so that they could pin up the notices easier. Once the notices were pinned up, the crowd flowed back into the space created, with an eager look on each of their faces. Everyone was here for the same purpose: to find out exactly what crimes were committed by these adventurers.
Onlooker B: Let’s have a look—-
Onlooker B: “….these five adventurers had ambushed the contracted laborers of the expedition in a bid to rob and murder them. Their sentence is death..”
Onlooker B: “…their victims include a total of 6 laborers, of which, two had died during the ambush…”
Onlooker B: “…of the perpetrators, 1 died during the ambush, leaving these 4 to be sentenced to decapitation…”
Onlooker A: Damn it! I bet that there would be 5 people who would get sentenced! I almost struck it rich!
Onlooker B: “…the convicts’ names are…”
Onlooker B: “…the victims’ names are: Mo Chuan, Di Qi Ju…”
Onlooker A: Hey—lady don’t shove, don’t shove…Aiya! What’s up with this lady!
Onlooker B: Ah—! Don’t pull my hair! I’ll move, I’ll move…
The lady walked up to the noticeboard, and gave the notice a serious look through.
Onlooker A: Hm? She left?
Onlooker B: That lady’s off her rocker!
Onlooker A: Don’t tell me…there’s someone she knew on that notice?
Soon, the public viewing of the notices was over. The crowd began to disperse and returned back to the area around the ticker tape in the central plaza.
Executioner: Time’s up! Begin the execution!
Onlookers: *cheering* —–
Amidst the fervent cheering, the soldiers began their grim task of taking down the convicts and putting on the black hoods for them. Soon, they would be sent to the executioner’s chopping block.
Adventurer A: ……
Adventurer A: ———-!!
Adventurer A: Arg—-ugg—-erg………
Soldier: Stop struggling and come along quietly! Your fate is already sealed so there’s no point struggling.
Adventurer A: Arghguhh….uggh…
Adventurer A: ……
Adventurer A: …
Soldier: Hmph, so you’ve come to your senses?
The convict was quickly set upon the chopping board as the executioner drew out his gleaming blade. The crowd immediately erupted once more.
Official: In the name of Westrealm, God will retrieve his blessings and their lives along with them.
Official: Only through the glory of God will their sins be absolved.
Official: —–let the execution begin!
As the executioner raised his giant blade, the surrounding light bounced off its gleaming body, dazzling anyone who looked at it as if it were a miniature sun overlooking the masses.
The executioner was experienced at his job. He knew exactly where to cleave in order to avoid the blood splattering all over him.
However, the impending bloodshed never came. Instead, he slowly lowered his blade.
Official: What’s going on?
The onlookers began clamoring once more, however, he merely ignored them and took off the hood of the now motionless convict.
Executioner: Sir, he’s…dead.
The official rushed up to the platform with a disbelieving look on his face, and snatched the convict’s body from the executioner.
Executioner: His tongue seemed to have flipped over, blocking his airway causing him to suffocate to death.
The official in charge of the execution immediately checked the remaining three convicts. The result was: they had all died recently in the same manner.
Right in front of the masses, beneath those black hoods through some inexplicable means, someone had managed to harden their tongues, flip them over, and in the process blocked off their airways, suffocating all of them to death.
And so, the grim show of death was abruptly interrupted by this strange string of events. As the crowd stirred, a red-haired lady could be seen among them, walking away from the central plaza.
A light breeze blew past her, revealing the face underneath the hood.
Thankfully, the chaos atop the executioner’s platform had attracted the attention of the crowd, so no one was there to witness this scene.
Right at that moment, her face could only be described with one word—-ruthless.
Special thanks to Steve Granger, Ichitsuzen, and LaRue Martin!!
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.