The rain was unfruitful in its futile attempt to scuff away the lingering coppery scent that permeated the air. Puddles of crimson fluids and water littered the crummy soil in great quantities as wads of mowed flesh and severed limbs were strewn all over the grassland. The victims were only dozens of goblins, yet the brutality they were wiped out with made the scene look like as if a throng of hundreds of them were actually slaughtered. Stephen swiped his blade down, blood dribbling off onto the even bigger pool beneath as he scruffed a hand through his wet hair, his lips crinkled up in a grin, “That was… wow.” he commented, a foot resting upon the head of a dead goblin, overlooking the enemies he had slain.
John crooked his head to the side, his chest constantly heaving back and forth in a constant and rhythmic intake of oxygen “Ok, I’m calm now.” he shifted his gaze upon a cowering Sarah whose legs had a hard time staying still, “You… are you okay?” she recoiled, averting her gaze like a child would do when caught redhanded, “I’m not going to harm you, Sarah, relax.” the fresh crimson liquid on his clothes and the likewise color of his eyes didn’t help the young woman despite his soothing tone.
“Leave her be, she… no, they are having some troubles processing what just happened,” Natasha piped in, her back leaning against the trunk of a tree, “We just minced those poor things into an unrecognizable mess of flesh and bones,” she sneered, “And you were quite… cruel with that axe of yours, you can’t expect her to jump into your arms as if nothing happened, can you?” her words were straightforward and to the point, albeit a bit rude, but nobody could have said that she was wrong.
The older man winced. He didn’t want to take the first blood as wickedly as he did. It was just the spur of the moment, fueled by rip-roaring rage, uncontrollable and untamed. The moment that creature decided to pose its filthy clutches on her, he lost his s*** and went on a purging quest in the name of cooling down his burning emotions.
“Franky, stop staring at the void and kill the goblin.” Stephen’s voice rang out, “You won’t get the special privileges otherwise.” he chuckled, taking his sweet time to waltz towards the kneeling man, blood trickling down from the potbellied man’s wound onto the small puddle it was ever so slowly shaping up, “You’re injured too…” he observed with an arched eyebrow before looking at John, “I’ve spared a few goblins for the ladies, they’re over there.” he pointed his thumb at two overlapped and entangled mess of goblins vainly squirming, their limbs harshly snapped as bones poked out of their dark chartreuse hides.
“S-so… cruel…” Sarah mouthed out with a shiver, an appalled expression etched on her delicate face. The creatures were suffering as they whined in a baby-like whimper, and although she couldn’t bring herself to feel pity for them, the sight she was exposed to was so brutal and violent that she had to close her eyes and clasp her ears closed, “Please! Make them stop!” she shrieked, salty pearls welling up at the corner of her eyes.
Frowning, Stephen ignored her as he crouched down, “Frank…” he called out softly, “Tell me, what do you think your place is here.” he placed a hand over the older man’s quivering shoulder, “Have you seen how easily and quickly I disposed of those goblins?” his lips curled upwards, “Cool, right?” he tightened his grip, “You can do that too, just a step further, and you’ll be like us. Unfettered. Free. Unchained.” his whisper was like the tempting beckoning hand of the devil, “You’ll fall asleep, and when you’ll come to yourself again,” he stood back up, proffering him his sword, “You’ll be reborn.”
Frank looked at his injury, then at the sword stretched out towards him, his eyes wavering in a mess of emotions that slowly played out on his blanched face, “Can I… can I really be like you?” he asked, his tone hopeful and suspicious, yet the living proof was in front of him, blood smeared on his hands.
Frank looked hesitant for a moment before steeling his resolve. If what Stephen was saying was the truth then there was no way he wouldn’t accept it, and if it wasn’t then it wouldn’t have harmed him either way, he just had to kill the creature in front of him, the same creature that wanted to end his life under its ruthless spear, “Good…” he muttered softly.
Pushing himself up through the pain on his abdomen, Frank accepted the weapon laid out at him before making his way to the still suffering goblin with wobbly steps. His hand trembled a bit, but his determination was unshakable. It was his chance, or so he thought. He was seeking that difference, that something that would have made him soar above normal standards and redeem him from his unsuccessful life.
“Die for my survival…” Frank mumbled to himself as he pierced the goblin’s eye with the blade’s tip, its length forcing through the creature’s skull before it perforated its brain, instantly putting an end to its life. He felt a bit sick. As coward as he was, he hardly ever hurt someone for he himself was afraid of being hurt.
Vertigo sieged his senses as a black screen suddenly popped up in front of him. His eyelids fluttered closed, not allowing him the opportunity to read the contents of the message before he inelegantly slumped down with a muffled thump.
Nodding in satisfaction, Stephen retrieved his prized weapon before trotting to one of the goblins he had incapacitated beforehand, and with a harsh motion, he grabbed one of them by its neck, not caring if his touch caused it more pain than it was already enduring.
“Daphne…” he called out, gaiting towards her under the astonished gaze of the group, “You know the drill, don’t you?” he asked, a smile on his face, “Even Frank did it…” he propped the writhing creature on the ground as he leaned out his sword at her.
“N-no…” she refused, flinching back from his encroaching crimson eyes, “No…”
“I don’t wanna do it!” she yelled, tears gliding down her cheeks as she defiantly forced herself to look into his eyes, “I… I…”
“Daphne! Don’t you understand the situation we are in? Do you really think we’ll have a smudge of hope of going back home?” he frowned, his words stabbing out sharp and resounding, “Look around you!” he flailed his arms up, beckoning to their surroundings, “Can you hear the faint roars?” he asked aloud, not only Daphne but the entire entourage of survivors had their lips clammed up; Sarah included, “We are not in a forest Daphne!” he fixed his eyes onto hers, “We are in hell!”
He clenched his fist, his crimson orbs sweeping left and right, “We all had to go through s***, you’re not the only one!” his voice was accompanied by the rumble of a thunder, “Here… here I have the f****** chance of taking the situation in my own hands! I don’t need to be worried as long as I put in effort!” he turned around, looking at the rest of the group, “I don’t want to be beneath others, not again!” he snarled, his tone tinged with bitterness and anger, “I don’t care what your reasons are for gripping that blade, nor what s*** your life was like, whether you preached holy b******* or had questionable moral views!”
The wind picked up speed as he rambled on, “I want to survive! With or without you!” he took a deep breath, wetting his lips with his tongue, “But I do believe that if we team up… this place… would not be a hell anymore, it might even become our own heaven…” he chuckled, “Frank made the wise decision to leave his old shell behind to become a new man… he’s leaving his mistakes, his failures, and his past behind.” he gazed at them, “What about you?”
“N-not all of us can do that…” Daphne lowered her head as tears glistened her eyes, “I can’t forget…” she curled her legs up, making herself small.
“Daphne, dear.” Natasha approached her with slow steps, petting her head and smothering her in her motherly affections, “Some things aren’t meant to be forgotten, whether good or bad.” she twiddled with a lock of the younger woman’s hair, “Decisions are what carries us forward, and ultimately to our last destination,” she brought her head to her chest, “You can either stop before, which is completely fine, or you can explore and see what fate has in store for you.”
John stayed silent as he listened to their discussion before sighing, “Sarah?”
“I’d rather have you not do it but…” he stole a glimpse at Stephen, “I don’t think we’ll… find a pathway back home anytime soon… and…” he draped his hands over her small shoulders reassuringly, “We gotta survive first… it’s our foremost priority, I’m sure you get it, that’s why…” he hinted with his eyes at the goblin a few yards away from them, “If you kill it… your head will become clearer, you’ll wake up different, better, with a broader outlook of things, and…” he smiled, something he rarely did, “You won’t fear anymore.”
“…” Sarah nibbled her lips in nervousness before complying, “F-fine…”
John nodded, his features softening, “Good girl.” he jogged to the goblin and brought it back to her, a heavy rock on his other hand, “Just drop this on its head.”
“Um.” she struggled to lift the rock out of his grip but managed to do so only after a bit of help from the latter, “Do… do I drop it now?” she asked after he used her hands to align the rock right above the creature’s unprotected head.
“Don’t look into its eyes, and drop it when I say so…”
She nodded as she spun her head around, squeezing her eyes shut.
She gritted her teeth when she heard his voice, her hands releasing the rock as it fell upon the goblin’s head with a crunching sound, killing it on impact.[You have awakened.]
Her body swayed back from sleepiness, thankfully John was there and quickly held her up against his chest, “You’re a brave girl…” he whispered soothingly before he redirected his gaze at the others.
Stephen smiled when he saw Sarah falling unconscious, “Daphne? You’re the only one who has yet to awaken… I’m pretty sure you’ve heard John’s words just now…” he copied the older man’s idea and he picked up a big rock from the ground, “I know that I sound forceful, but this is not just about you… we can’t ensure your survival all the time.” he narrowed his eyes, “So?”
Maybe it was because she was afraid of being left behind, maybe it was Natasha’s presence that brought comfort to her, or perhaps it was because she was convinced by Stephen and John, but she slowly stood up, her steps decisive despite the rising anxiousness that threatened to make her stop and give up.
Her heartbeat accelerated, her palms got sweaty. Taking a last look at Stephen’s inhumanly crimson eyes, she obeyed. Following through the motions she found herself looking down in a commanding position at the squiggling greenish creature she had yet to remember the name of. The rock whopped on its head, ending its misery.
Blood flowed out of the injury, something she didn’t find pleasing yet would learn to love soon as her vision wheeled, darkness hugging her unconscious.
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