༺ The Man with the Crimson Spear ༻
In her childhood, Oznia’s day always began and ended with prayers.
The devout villagers viewed Oznia as an ominous presence due to her ability to communicate with beings that ordinary people couldn’t see, hear, or speak to. Even her parents were afraid of the child they had given birth to.
So they confined her in a narrow basement and prevented her from freely wandering outside.
A life of being scorned.
All she could do was pray.
Oznia knelt on the cold, hard floor and opened the Goddess Church Bible she received from the village priest.
The verses of the worn and tattered Bible were already in her head, but Oznia recited them as she habitually turned the pages.
“O Goddess, we pray to You, our leader and protector.”
The village priest constantly told Oznia to confess her wrongdoings, repent, and seek forgiveness from the Goddess. He said that she could be cleansed if she did so.
However, Oznia was unsure of what wrongs she had committed. So, she eventually prayed for forgiveness for her own existence.
Her belief was that if she repented for even her existence, someday her parents would warmly embrace her. She longed for something she had never experienced.
Also, she thought that if she followed the teachings of the Goddess faithfully, the beings that tormented her would eventually disappear.
“Lead our souls and send trials to our lives… and by overcoming those trials, let us come closer to the Goddess…”
But even at this moment, as Oznia recited the Bible,
The whispering voices around her never ceased.
It wasn’t a real language. Young Oznia thought it was a voice, but it was not composed of words instead it was weakly connected to her mind and conveyed its intentions.
These beings always stayed by Oznia’s side and whispered something incessantly.
Don’t you hate the walls that imprison you?
Don’t you detest your parents and villagers who torment you?
If you wish, we could make all that torments you disappear.
But they couldn’t fulfill Oznia’s real wish.
The desperate wish for her parents and villagers to love her.
No, even if they had the power to grant her wish, Oznia herself would not have believed it.
The beings that lingered around Oznia tended to fulfill her wishes, mostly in directions she didn’t want.
“Make our hearts humble, and grant us the strength and wisdom necessary to obey the will of the Goddess… Let us serve the Goddess and gladly accept sacrifices… and through that, let us grow spiritually…”
Oznia was afraid.
Her parents and villagers who tormented her.
The village priest who incessantly demanded repentance.
The unknown beings that lingered around her.
But there was something she feared the most.
It was the fact that someday she might succumb to these whispers and commit something terrible.
Eventually, Oznia could no longer bear it and threw the Bible on the floor.
“Stop, just stop!”
With a trembling voice, she cried out to the invisible beings.
“Why won’t you just leave me alone…!”
This was also one of her daily routines that she had repeated countless times.
Oznia already knew that such actions wouldn’t change anything, but she was too young to endure this pain with no end in sight, and she was gradually reaching her limit.
She prayed fervently to the Goddess.
That she could someday escape this suffering.
That night, Oznia’s prayer was answered in the most cruel way.
It was an eerily quiet night until the first scream shattered the silence.
“It’s the Demon Army!”
“Aaah! Save me!”
Soon, screams echoed throughout the village, and the air was filled with the stench of blood and acrid smoke.
Oznia had no idea what was happening above her. But she could at least sense that something terrible was taking place.
She crouched in a corner of the basement, hugging her knees to her chest, and covered her mouth with both hands, fearing that her breathing might be heard.
Whenever she heard a scream from above, Oznia’s body trembled, and she was captured by all sorts of ominous imaginations.
Finally, she heard the sound of the cabin door being broken.
“Please! Save us!”
As her parents’ screams rang out simultaneously, Oznia’s breath began to tremble uncontrollably. Her fear of death and her desire for everything to end quickly were tangled in a complex way.
Oznia thought the demons who attacked the village would immediately kill her parents. But instead of killing them, the demon spoke in a harsh, ragged voice.
“Where is the Awakened One?”
“Aw, Awakened One… What do you mean…?”
“The Transcendent. The one loved by mana. Whatever you call it. There should be a very ‘unique’ human in this village.”
Oznia realized that he was looking for her. Her parents seemed to understand this too, as they desperately replied in fear.
“A-ah, we know! She’s here! She’s right here!”
Oznia’s father said this as he hurriedly opened the basement door.
As light entered the dark basement, Oznia retreated deeper into the shadows to avoid it. But her father, without hesitation, grabbed her arm and forcibly pulled her out.
“Come, come out! Come out right now!”
Oznia was dragged out of the basement by her father’s arm. It was then that she finally saw it.
Knights clad in armor, riding on their horses, and roaming around the village.
And a man standing in front of them.
He was wearing a black robe with a hood that hid his face, but the exposed lower part of his face was pale and devoid of any expression.
He was not an imposing figure that exuded an overwhelming presence. Rather, he was tall but thin, giving off a somewhat nervous vibe.
However, Oznia instantly recognized him as the leader of this army. She had never felt such ominous and evil energy before. Fear instinctively welled up in her, and her legs trembled before the powerful presence.
In front of him, she couldn’t even hear the whispers of the beings that always surrounded her. It was as if they had fled, sensing a vast difference in power.
Despite not wanting this power, Oznia despaired at the fact that it was of no help when she actually needed it. In that moment, she was simply powerless.
The man in the black robe smiled as he looked at Oznia being dragged out of the basement.
“Finally found you.”
The man in the black robe gestured to the knights around the cabin, giving orders. It was later that Oznia learned they were called Death Knights.
Oznia and her parents were apprehended by the Death Knights and led to the village square.
There, all the villagers who had hated and persecuted her, as well as the village priest who had pressured her to repent, had gathered with terrified expressions on their faces.
With his back to the villagers, the man in the robe spoke to Oznia. His voice was as gloomy as tree branches swaying in a harsh winter wind.
“Little human child. These are the ones who have tormented you for so long. Don’t you hate them?”
If she said she didn’t, it would be a lie.
She had desperately longed for their love throughout her life, but her sincerity had never been rewarded, not even once.
Oznia didn’t even have the courage to lie and slowly nodded her head in fear. The man’s smile grew even darker.
“I can kill them all for you if you want. What will you do?”
At the man’s words, the villagers cried out.
“No, don’t! Don’t kill us!”
“Please, spare us…!”
Oznia realized that she was desperate just like her parents, who were begging earnestly. However, for her, the love between family members was nothing more than an illusion described in the scriptures, and all that her parents had ever shown her was fear and hatred.
But that didn’t mean she wanted them to die.
She just didn’t know how this man would act depending on her answer. After hesitating for a while, Oznia finally nodded her head.
“Do you want them to live?”
Oznia nodded her head with a heavy heart and in fear.
Even if they were the people who tormented her, and even if they never showed her the love she had longed for, she didn’t have the confidence to bear the consequences if everyone died because of her choice.
The man in the robe sneered and said,
“You’re a coward, little human. Then let’s make a deal. I’ll spare all their lives. In return, you must swear to dedicate your body to me completely.”
Oznia looked around at the people gathered in the square.
“Oznia, please! Save us!”
“My daughter…! Mom was wrong all this time! Please save us!”
Her parents and many villagers cried out, begging for their lives.
Eyes filled with fear and desperation.
Those eyes were exactly the same as when Oznia had looked at them.
That’s why she couldn’t ignore those eyes.
It felt like betraying what she had desperately wanted all this time.
She didn’t know exactly what dedicating her body meant, but she knew it would deprive her of her free will. Nevertheless.
“…I’ll make the deal.”
In the end, she nodded her head heavily. The man, with a satisfied smile, pointed his staff at her.
For a moment, her vision blurred, and she staggered.
She felt a sinister mana enveloping her, and eventually, it seemed to constrict her heart. It was a contract, a vow, and a restraint.
But Oznia saw it as hope.
If the villagers could survive through her sacrifice, she thought it would be enough. Obedience and sacrifice. After all, that was the true way of repentance, as described in the scriptures that Oznia had been reading all this time.
However, the moment the contract was established, the man in the robe gave an order to the death knight with a deep hatred for humans in his tone.
“Now, kill them all.”
Oznia couldn’t understand the meaning of those words for a moment and repeated them in a dazed voice.
But the death knight faithfully followed the man’s orders, drawing his sword and beginning to slaughter the villagers gathered in the square.
“No! Save us! We begged for mercy!!”
“God! Goddess! Please have mercy!”
The villagers screamed in terror, their faces filled with fear.
Some tried to run away, but they couldn’t shake off the knight on his ghostly horse.
It didn’t take long for all the villagers to turn into cold corpses. Oznia’s parents also met a gruesome end.
Looking blankly at the pile of miserable dead bodies, Oznia spoke with a voice filled with despair.
“Why, why…? You said you’d spare them… We made a deal…”
“Yes, we made a deal. I said I’d spare them.”
The man in the robe raised his staff. Soon, a dark and sinister mana spread to the corpses of the villagers.
Then, Oznia could see it. The corpses of the villagers moved on their own, rising as living corpses.
They were, quite literally, ‘brought back to life.’
“Now, the contract is fulfilled.”
“Uh… Ah, aah…!”
Gazing at the horrible scene, Oznia didn’t even have the strength to cry out about how unfair the contract was.
Perhaps the villagers were right from the beginning.
Had she brought this destruction upon the village?
Was she truly a cursed being?
Oznia’s sacrifice, deceived by the man in the robe, ultimately did not help save her family or the village.
As she was dragged away by the death knight, Oznia doubted whether she was really cursed, and whether something within her had caused the destruction of everyone.
It was at that moment.
Piercing through the darkness of the pitch-black night, a crimson, sharp spear like a devil’s fang flew and impaled the man’s chest.
Oznia fell backward and landed on her rear. When she managed to open her tightly shut eyes, the scene before her was not the lifeless body of the man impaled by the spear.
“Damn it… They’ve already caught up?”
The man in the robe pulled the spear out of his body with a sickening sound.
Not a single drop of blood or piece of flesh fell from the hole. The man threw the spear on the ground as if dealing with something repulsive.
Then, heavy footsteps could be heard.
Someone was walking towards them.
It was a man in black armor, his eyes flashing a golden light, making him look even more demonic than the devil himself.
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