༺ The Hero of Sodomora (2) ༻
The fog that had overturned Sodomora didn’t clear until the following morning. It was a very beautiful morning with the sun shining so clearly and brightly in the sky that it almost made me forget about yesterday’s ruckus.
Contrary to what was planned, the cultists’ attack didn’t happen.
We didn’t know the reason behind the abandonment of their plan, but the city that was once cowering due to the fear of the cultists had slightly returned to its usual lively self.
Merchants started roaming the streets once again and innocent children ran around the parks and even swung wooden toy knives at each other, playing without a single care in the world.
“I am Hippolyte, daughter of Mars! Have a taste of my sword, Altair!”
“Why am I Altair? I want to be Hippolyte!”
“You fool, you’re a man. How can a man play a female role—”
Anyways, it was clear that the city that was scared of the cultists’ machinations had now begun to come to life once again.
Based on my intuition as a modern person, I honestly thought they should be more careful, at least for a few days to a week. It was dangerous to be so careless like this.
“Everything that happened yesterday seems like a lie.”
Luna heard what I muttered to myself as she was standing next to me.
“I know right…! But that’s still a relief. It ended well without any injuries. To be honest, I didn’t think that you would be able to catch the cultist like that. Hassan, you’ve worked hard!”
“I did work hard, didn’t I?”
Luna’s overreaction made me feel somewhat proud. However, I thought that it was sheer luck rather than my own strength that enabled me to knock down the damned cultist yesterday.
However, now that I think of it, in terms of survival and fighting, it was not the strongest that survived, but the ones who were able to survive were labeled as the strongest.
So maybe I was stronger than that bastard called Schizo?
I am actually really fucking strong, aren’t I!?
After being unreasonably arrogant for a while, I remembered that my success was not at all because of my strength. Therefore a pang of embarrassment came upon me, and I spoke up.
“But still, I lost the elixir you made yesterday despite having tried to guard it with my all.”
I was sorry when I thought about Luna’s elixir from yesterday, which Somnia, the cultist great shaman, took away from me. Luna shook her head slowly after hearing my words.
“It’s okay. It’s not that expensive because it’s only a test piece. It’s more important that you survived that event. Hassan, you might become a real gold-tier adventurer if things go on like this!”
“You think so?”
When I heard the words ‘gold-tier’ an image of a glimmering gold necklace popped into my head. Honestly, that status seemed so out of reach that I was already starting to give up on the idea of achieving it in my life.
However, I could now visualize the goal in the distance, as if it was really possible to reach that monumental achievement.
It was when I was walking while chatting with Luna that—
“I can see it over there!”
When I looked in the direction Luna pointed her finger at, a towering statue came into view. The statue of considerable height was almost akin to the Statue of Liberty of my world.
Of course, this statue was only about half the size of the statue I was thinking about in my mind, but it was the first time after coming to this world that I’d seen such a tall statue.
It was the figure of a goddess wearing a helmet, moving forward with a shield and a long spear in her arms.
It seemed to be a sculpture of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and exploration.
“Why did the Minerva Guild want to see Hassan again?”
“Well, I’m not sure either, to be honest.”
I got a summons from the Minerva Guild earlier in the morning.
When I asked the errand boy, who visited me to deliver the news, what was going on for me to be invited like this, he only replied that he had to keep the reason a secret from the others even me.
“What is this? Are they planning to reward me?”
“I hope so! Hassan, you should get a lot!”
Since I had taken down the cultist, Actaeon informed me that I would be rewarded accordingly for this achievement.
Damn, getting rewarded in proportion to my efforts felt really good. It also motivated me to work harder in the future.
Anyways, the Minerva Guild’s guild building that I was now visiting with Luna had a lot of interesting aspects to it. The building itself was no different from the guild building of Mars Guild before it had been destroyed.
However, the atmosphere of the people roaming around here, or should I say, their personalities, were noticeably different.
If Mars Guild had a strong feeling of a labor force office where all kinds of Kims, Parks, Chois, and Lees gathered to form a crew, this place was filled with people dressed in neat and clean attires, as if they were in a government office or something of the sort.
Only a few people wore armor and an interesting thing to note was that most people were dressed in normal clothes.
“Are there no warriors here?”
“There is, but you are not allowed to enter the guild building wearing armor. Minerva Guild is a little stricter about discipline and standards.”
“Oh, I see. I get it now.”
Anyways, I could feel the people’s eyes fixating on Luna and me as we walked around the Minerva Guild’s guild building.
It was bound to happen since, in their eyes, something akin to black or pink monsters had appeared on their grounds. So, their stares were not surprising in the least.
“I don’t know what brought you guys here, but this is a sacred temple. We will keep your weapons and protective equipment with us.”
Then, a person who appeared to be the temple guard approached me. They were armed with armor, spears, and shields while warning me about this place being a sacred temple or something.
Seeing that the armor’s chest protruded in a streamlined shape, this guard seemed to be a woman. Wow, it was somewhat rare to see a female guard.
In fact, not only this woman but all the guards in this place seemed to be women, too. Was this also a kind of regulation to work here?
Anyways, I put all my weapons – the remaining long sword and the dagger – in the basket, except for the two long swords that were broken yesterday.
After the spider shell armor worn on the arms and legs was also removed, I felt quite a bit lighter, which was honestly not a bad feeling.
“You’ll get them back when you come out later.”
After the conversation with the strict female guard, I approached a certain place set up like a reception counter.
Amidst the bustling crowd, the only vacant counter was the counter where a beautiful woman with straight dark purple hair was seated.
“Hey, I’m here because I have something to do.”
“Of course, I’m sure you’re here because you have something to do alright… By the way, our guild can’t afford to deal with barbarians.”
Just like in Daphne’s case, when I first interacted with the guild receptionist, the response was so cold that it made me feel like tears were about to well up in my eyes.
“No, I mean, I’m Hassan of Samaria… Someone called me here to meet them. Perhaps—”
“Hassan of Samaria— Hassan… That Hassssaan? Actaeon’s—!?”
The receptionist interrupted me as her eyes became wide open in an instant.
“You should say that first! Do you want to see someone get fired, huh!?”
“Uh, I-I’m sorry.”
What the hell? I wasn’t sure if this was something I should apologize for. Dammit, I ended up apologizing due to the sudden overwhelming pressure I felt.
“Anyways, he is waiting for you in the underground. You can go there now. However, that pink-haired lady over there must remain here.”
“Hassan, I guess I have to wait here again.”
“I’ll bring some souvenirs when I come back.”
* * * * * * * * * *
I was looking forward to what the Minerva Guild’s underground prison would look like, but surprisingly, it turned out to be nothing much.
Rusty iron bars were lined up similar to the underground of Mars Guild and there were rats scurrying about making holes here and there while squeaking out loud.
Anyways, I felt intimidated by this familiar and unpleasant place because there was virtually no difference between this place and the Mars Guild’s underground.
“You’re here, my friend.”
Actaeon, wearing a red cape and high-exposure clothes, welcomed me with wide open arms.
I’d only met this guy a few times, but every time I saw him I couldn’t help but feel that it would have been better if I just left him in his deer form.
There must be a good enough reason for a person to receive a curse that would turn them into a deer, I idly thought. Anyways, I didn’t want to be hugged by a fucking man, so I pushed his body away hard.
“So, why did you ask to see me?”
“It’s because I have something to say about the cultist priest you subdued.”
My eyebrows slightly furrowed because he used the word ‘subdued’ instead of assassinate or execute.
When I turned my head toward the underground prison like that, I almost screamed out loud because I saw Schizo, the man in black armor, there, sitting cross-legged with his arms tied behind his back.
“Oh my gosh, you almost scared me to death!”
I actually screamed anyways. I was so surprised that I couldn’t hold myself back from screaming out loud!
Fuck, I was so sure that I had dug into his eyes and brain with my dagger back then.
I felt a little guilty about killing someone last night, so I prayed for repose, but now it felt like I repented for nothing. Fucking dammit!
How the hell was he even alive?
Was it just the same armor but a different person inside?
My head was full of innumerable thoughts, making me feel restless and agitated.
“It’s surprising, right? We’re also surprised by this. Well, I’ve managed to retain him. However, I felt like I should inform you of this matter.”
“Are you sure you retained the right person? It could be someone else with the same armor—”
Actaeon shook his head when I asked with clear doubt in my voice.
“It is unlikely to happen. That man’s armor is already a prison. No one can take it off, not even himself. The fact is still the same. He’s the guy you killed yesterday, friend.”
“What does that even mean…? Then, are you saying that he died and came back to life?”
I couldn’t understand what Actaeon was trying to say to me. I couldn’t believe that the man I thought I’d killed was still alive right now.
No matter how chaotic and lawless this world might be, people would still die if a knife pierced their hearts and this stayed true for everyone in the world.
Because of this universal fact, people valued their lives highly, and adventurers who risked their lives for money could make a lot of profit.
However, this black armored bastard was a fucking cheat.
“Have you ever heard of a Holy Warrior?”
“No, what the hell is that?”
“It may seem like a distant story now, but merely 30 years ago, the gods who resided atop the high peaks of Mt. Olympus had a lot of communication with the humans. The Holy Warriors were said to be the remnants of that time. They are the cursed great warriors of the gods.”
I also knew a little about the great warriors of the gods.
The entity known as gods in this world bestows grace or blessings upon the humans they favor.
And those who were even more pleasing to them were taken in as their great warriors who carried out various tasks as if they were the gods’ limbs. In a way, they were like the gods’ servants in this world.
However, there was not much sense in the words ‘cursed great warrior’ of the gods. If you were a great warrior, then you were a great warrior. How could a warrior like that be cursed?
“From the look on your face, you don’t seem to understand what I am saying. It is said that the gods do not bless only those they care about and make them great messengers. Sometimes they curse the objects they hate with a passion and make them solve impossible tasks for the entirety of their lives.”
Actaeon crossed his arm defensively after saying the word ‘curse.’
Because of the curse, this man almost gave up his humanity and turned into a deer. It was uncertain whether people held a very serious view on the consequence of the word ‘curse’ in this world.
Of course, I also once suffered a terrifying curse called the Curse of Impotence for about two years. Damn, curses were really fucking scary.
Actaeon spoke again.
“Those who are cursed like that must live like slaves of the gods until the moment they die. That’s the fate of the Holy Warrior. They are in an endless holy war. Therefore, I think this man is probably Pluto’s Holy Warrior.”
“Do you mean that not being able to take off his armor and not dying has something to do with it?”
“Yes, it’s good that you understand things fast. Of course, coming back from death is something no great hero can do. I’m sure there will be a condition or repercussions for that phenomenon.”
It was what Actaeon, the gold-tier adventurer, said, so I trusted him. The black armored man couldn’t just die and be resurrected as he wished.
“Anyway, I have many questions, but he never opens his mouth. So, I think maybe he will open his mouth if you are the one who questions him. Do you mind if it’s just the two of you here?”
Leaving Schizo and me alone in this dungeon? To be honest, I was terrified of that prospect. Even if his hands and feet were tied up, I thought that the cultist would attack my neck by firing a laser beam from his eyes.
“Then you can call me if something happens. I’ll come running in a jiffy.”
Actaeon didn’t even wait for my answer and just left the underground prison like that. Suddenly, I was left alone with this monstrous bastard who seemed to be impossible to kill.
It was very awkward and disturbing.
He originally was a quiet guy, but he wasn’t mute. However, he didn’t open his mouth even though I was right before him.
Was he really that mad? To be honest, I would also be furious when I met the bastard who drove a blade into my eye socket.
“Uhm, what I want to say is that— Don’t blame me. You came at me with the intention of killing me so you must have been prepared to die too, right?”
I scurried around in case that bastard broke out of prison and took revenge on me. Soon, that man’s shoulders trembled, followed by a rattling sound.
Was he laughing?
It was scary to hear him laugh so silently.
That monstrous punk laughed silently for a while.
Several seconds passed like that; many many several seconds, in fact.
I seriously wondered if something was wrong with this guy’s head after getting attacked by my dagger.
When I watched him laugh for a long time—
“…I’m Schizo, only a storyteller. I didn’t even get permission to tie the shoes of this esteemed person.”
He spoke in a terrible voice. It was like someone grating the iron floor. But I couldn’t understand what he meant by those words.
“What? What do you mean by suddenly talking about tying up shoelaces?”
“You slaves of the 12 high thrones are so foolish… You probably think that we’re fighting a losing battle. But we have received a prophecy. Soon, very soon— Choke—”
He suddenly coughed like he was about to vomit blood.
“…Two eyes for the first death, nose for the second death. And my tongue for the third death. All right, come on.”
At the same time, blood spouted out from his dragon-headed helmet. He didn’t stop laughing even though he spewed blood like that.
“…In no time, he will come to this land. No one can stop him.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant by those words, but there was something about his demeanor that made the hair on my body stand on end. I thought he was just a crazy cultist but was there some part of me that might have believed in his words?
“What is this, who’s coming? Is it Pluto, the one who is residing in the underground labyrinth?”
“The Son of Death— the descendant of the Demon God Pluto. The herald of a new order presided over by Chaos. You, too, are tied to this fate.”
He kept his mouth shut after that, leaving nothing but a shitty analogy behind.
I kept asking on and on and threw stones into the prison cage to get him talking again, but he just stood still like a machine that had stopped functioning… Just like that…
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