༺ Clean-up (2) ༻
What I did was quite simple.
Thrashing the club in my hand toward the rats with all my might.
It was an action that required no thought or skill and was a simple movement that anyone could perform if they just had the strength to enact it.
That alone was enough to smash the head of the damned giant rat. I could quite clearly feel its bones crack under the weight of the long club.
It surprised me immensely that the output was so much stronger than I had expected it to be, even though I was the one who exerted the power to accomplish this very act. The giant rat looked very pitiful as it twitched and spasmed on the ground.
“The giant rat fell in just one shot!”
Like me, Luna also raised her voice as though surprised by what had just happened before us. However, I didn’t feel relieved with just one hit, so I smashed the seemingly dead rat’s body with my club several more times.
Smack— Smack— Smack—
“W-Why are you hitting the dead rat over and over again?”
“It could still be alive, you know…”
After dealing with that bastard called Schizo, the cultist warrior, I learned a valuable lesson from that harrowing experience. And that was to make sure that I had thoroughly killed my opponent.
This rat might just come back to life for some absurd reason like that damned cultist, so I believed that I had to ensure the complete destruction of its body so that there was no chance of resurrection.
Perhaps because of my thorough beatdown, the rat now lay motionless on the ground, sprawled about like how a dead body should be.
“It’s good now. It is completely dead.”
“Indeed, Samaritan people are really cruel. I’m glad we’re on the same side. But, Hassan, you’re now covered in blood.”
As Luna said, my body was covered in blood from head to toe. Splattered metallic blood was dripping from my raincoat and club in slow drops.
It was not an edged tool but rather a blunt club, so I didn’t really have to wipe off the blood or oil stains from it, right? I just loved how low-maintenance my new weapon was.
All of a sudden, my club began to swiftly absorb the blood that had splattered all over its body as if it was a sponge sucking in water. Holy hell! I was so surprised that I almost threw away the weapon for a second there.
“Wow, holy shit! Luna, did you just see that? This punk just sucked in all that blood!”
“It is a living weapon, Hassan. So, it can suck in blood, along with the Karma that is ingrained in the blood of your enemies. Still, this is my first time seeing this phenomenon take place in person, too.”
“Wow, that’s so interesting.”
The club vibrated akin to a soft heartbeat. That was when I truly realized that the club I was holding was an authentic living weapon.
However, while I was marveling at the club in my hand for a moment—
“But what is this—”
Luna came close to the completely dead giant rat’s body and spoke out loud.
“Do you have any dagger, Hassan? There’s something that’s bothering me about all this.”
“I have one. Here, handle it with care. This thing is used for sharpening tools, so it’s quite sharp itself.”
Luna received the dagger from me and then proceeded to cut off the flowers growing on the head of the rat.
Smelling the flower for some time, Luna then pulled off a leaf from its stem, chewed on it for a moment, and then spit it out while she mumbled something under her breath.
I approached Luna and asked her in a low tone.
“Do you know what that is?”
“Maybe it’s just my feeling, but this seems like the cannabis from Ideope. However, why is this here—?”
“It’s a forbidden plant used to create Nzambi… It’s used to punish prisoners and strip them of their willpower. It was forbidden to export it beyond the island. What’s going on here?”
I didn’t know what a Nzambi was, but Luna seemed to know a lot about the leaf she was inspecting. Also, based on her explanation, I didn’t believe that it was a good item.
“I think this rat had become addicted to this cannabis plant. That’s why its size became so big.”
“What? Does that flower have that kind of effect?”
Holy shit! It was the type of leaf that would make parents with short children go crazy when they hear about it. Wouldn’t I make a fortune if I just sold it in the right way?
Luna, as though she had read her mind, slightly clicked her tongue and explained more about the plant to me.
“It is also called the berserker flower because it takes away your reasoning and will. You could use it as an ingredient in the manufacturing of a strength potion if you grind it into powder, soak it in water, and put the right amount of it in a batch. However, it’s challenging to control the amount. Even I can’t do that.”
“I see. So, you’re saying that there are serious side effects of this cannabis plant, right?”
I thought it should be true since Luna, an expert in making medicine, said as such. Come to think of it, didn’t the cultist shaman Somnia also say that Luna’s elixir was terrific?
I thought she also said something about being the daughter of Ideope.
A great shaman from Ideope. Cannabis that only grew in Ideope.
Could she be the one behind this rat incident or the widespread grass growth in the underground waterways? I decided to ask her, just in case.
“Luna, do you know someone called Somnia?”
“Somnia? No, I’ve never heard of it before. Who’s that?”
“I told you a while ago that I was taken into the cultists’ hideout, right? There was a great shaman from Ideope there. I think her name is Somnia. She was also wearing a weird-looking voodoo mask.”
I tried to explain to Luna what I had seen and heard in the hideout. However, I didn’t really have a talent for explanations, so I felt like I was just talking in circles.
Damn it, how should I explain this clearly to her?
“Her clothes were fluttering like yours, but the color was darker. Yes, that’s right.”
“Well, I’m not sure about that actually. In Ideope, after we reach adulthood, every one of us will leave our hometowns, so we don’t know each other’s faces. There are some differences between tribes because we live far apart, divided into different regions. But she is the most likely suspect behind this incident.”
“She calls herself a great shaman.”
“Really? If she refers to herself as a great shaman, it means she is a fairly high-level shaman of the voodoo arts—”
“Is her skill higher than you then?”
“…Uh, yeah. I can’t even begin to compare—”
Luna seemed to have lost all her confidence when being compared to Somnia, almost making the idea of her being a literal goddess’ daughter meaningless. If she felt so defeated with just being compared to her, that Somnia must really be something.
The ribboned rat, which had been ahead of us til now, appeared in front of us again. He squeaked at us a few times and then quickly disappeared into the shadows.
“Let’s hit the road again.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Some giant inflated rats attacked us as we followed the ribboned rat. I smashed each and every one of them with the club, right in the head, every time they showed up in front of us.
Whack—! Whack—! Whaaack—!
At first, it was very awkward for me to swing such a blunt instrument like that. However the strength and the feeling I got after hitting the rats with it was quite satisfying, so I felt a sense of attachment to the weapon already.
Still, I felt quite a bit horrified as I wasn’t able to get used to the bloodsucking ability of the club.
It felt like the club was in reality a cursed demon sword. Indeed, it really deserved that terrifying name— the Fear Smasher.
How far did we walk till now?
After following the rat for a while, a small opening soon appeared before us, and the grass in this place seemed to have been pulled by someone.
We could see a dirty tent standing tall in that place.
When I asked the question, there was a sudden rustling noise, followed by a person in rat-colored robes coming out of the tent. I was only able to remember her now after I saw her holding a flute in her hands.
“Are you Miss Oygayas?”
“Oh, right, Miss Hamelin.”
Fuck, I didn’t know why, but I could only remember that her name was Oygayas. She said her name is Hamelin, right? Okay, Hamelin. Now I have remembered the name. Surely…
“I’m here because someone told me that Miss Hamelin has some business with me. I have also received the advance payment for the work.”
Hamelin only responded in short concise words.
I remembered that she was someone who was prone to cut off her words like this. It felt like she had just gotten worse in the meantime.
It was difficult to grasp her complexion due to the robe covering her face, but judging from her faint breathing, I surmised that she might be feeling exhausted due to fatigue.
Hamelin then spoke up again.
“The grasses. They’ve grown a lot. Rats are suffering, too. A spell mark. Get rid of it.”
Hamelin had difficulty speaking, so it was equally arduous to understand what she was talking about. Is this a bug in her system?
I was going to ask what she was talking about, but Luna, quietly petting the rats next to me while listening to Hamelin’s words, asked before I could even speak.
“Are you asking us to remove the spell mark that is making these grasses grow in this place?”
“Yes. After finishing. This one. I’ll acknowledge your task. I’m exhausted now. Guide the way, Ronnie.”
Hamelin lowered the ribboned rat on her shoulder to the ground.
Then, the rat squeaked as if it had been waiting for a while for that command and disappeared into the faraway darkness.
“It’s enough. With both of you only. Still. Be careful.”
After that remark, Hamelin went into the tent without saying anything else. Her appearance looked so lifeless, like the faint stalks of grass swaying restlessly in the midst of the heartless desert.
However, it would’ve been ridiculous to expect someone living in this stinking underground waterway with rats all over 24/7 to have a bright and motivated personality.
Since everyone had their own lifestyle, I thought that it wasn’t something I should comment about.
Still, I was feeling pretty disappointed as I wasn’t even able to ask all the questions that I had in my mind and had to go after the rat first.
Fuck, it felt like something was stuck in my nose.
So I asked Luna instead.
“What does it mean when she said that she’ll acknowledge our task?”
“I don’t know either. Doesn’t it just mean that she will give us a good reward? We already got the Onyx as an advance. Then the rest of the reward should be something huge!”
Luna’s words made sense. She had really become quite quick-witted and smart these days.
“Heu, Onyx. I love it so much.”
Luna smiled as she looked into her pouch again and again. She was still a girl, so, of course, she would naturally have a fondness for jewelry.
Thinking till here, I spoke.
“How about we don’t sell any of these and just keep them instead?”
“Yes, 30% of it is yours anyways. There are five, so if we split 30% of it, you’ll get roughly one and a half of the Onyx beads.”
“Then, of course, I’d love to! I should make a new amulet mask with these! A jewel-encrusted amulet mask, holy shh! Just thinking about it makes me feel great already. Well then, let’s hurry up and go!”
Luna walked ahead vigorously as though she was brimming with motivation right now.
But that motivation didn’t last very long.
Luna trembled after shrieking out loud as if she saw a ghost.
Of course, I was feeling just as scared as her.
“Luna, what’s this? I don’t think that’s something normal now, is it?”
“T-That is a spell. It’s a very high-ranking and difficult spell—”
Eerie pieces of wood were reflected in Luna’s frightened emerald eyes.
Rats, snakes, and birds were nailed to the logs, about the size of a human body, while being covered with blackened blood.
There was no way to discern the expressions those animals had, but it was safe to say that they had all died in terrible pain.
The decaying flesh was infested with maggots.
“Holy shit! That’s so fucking terrible.”
Immediately, what came to my mind, that could relate to what I was seeing right now, was shamanic totems.
However, unlike the cute and adorable totems that Luna made, these were simply screaming that they were either meant to be used for a curse or a sinister type of voodoo sorcery.
“T-They were nailed alive… It’s such a cruel spell. Look here. There are a lot of scratches caused by their toenails and beaks. It’s the traces of them struggling frantically before slowly falling to their deaths.”
“What’s the effect of this cruel sorcery?”
“It’s a terror statue. It’s made with the sole purpose of inducing fear and breaking the morale of whoever sees it.”
Indeed, if someone saw something like this, their morale would surely plummet to rock bottom.
“I heard that such a terrible spell was only used during the ‘War of the Titans’ 50 years ago… Anyways, we’d better break this.”
Soon, Luna took out the silence totem she was carrying on her back. Then she swung it at the terror statue as hard as she possibly could with all the intention of breaking these accursed totems.
Bones, wood, and dead animal remains clattered down to the ground. I thought it was over with that, however—
Luna took something like an empty sack out of her arms and put the dead body of a mouse inside it. I couldn’t help but frown at what she was doing.
“Why are you taking that?”
“Items used for casting curses must be crushed. Especially so, if it’s a spell of hatred and malice like this; everything must be destroyed. I’ll burn it outside later.”
“You should do something to break this, too!”
Thus, Luna and I wielded our clubs and smashed the terror statues in the underground tunnels.
It was not until Luna’s sacks were filled with the bodies of the unfortunate victims that our destructive spree was somewhat over.
“There is a very high chance that the cultist great shaman you mentioned before is related to this situation. Even though I had already more or less confirmed it when I saw the Cannabis plants outside, now I am sure of it as no one could use such sorcery except for the people of Ideope.”
Indeed, the attack of the cultists was not over yet as I didn’t hear anything about the adventures managing to arrest the rest of the cult members except for Schizo who I had subdued.
Having infiltrated Sodomora, they may be plotting some evil schemes in the shadows.
“So where did the ribboned rat go?”
We were too distracted by the totems that we lost track of the ribboned rat.
It had dashed away relatively fast earlier; as expected, it didn’t seem to know much about directions since it only had a tiny brain.
Then I heard a familiar sound coming from inside the dark hallway.
Of course, all rats sounded the same, but to me, it looked like it was responding to someone’s call. Now that I think about it—
Indeed, as expected, a rat with a red ribbon bound on its tail appeared from the dark hallways.
It was inside someone else’s hand.
The sound of someone walking in the underground tunnels with their bare feet spread loudly in the surroundings. A huge mask soon emerged from the darkness. It was a strange mask with pointed fangs akin to the totems of a village guardian that also slightly resembled the face of a goblin.
Also, I remember seeing that mask before.
If I remember correctly, that person was definitely Somnia, the cultist great shaman. Holy fucking shit! I didn’t know she was here!
We either had to run away or pounce at her with the intention of defeating her, but my body seemed to have no intention of moving anymore, as if it were stuck to the ground. Wait a minute, I was really not able to move even if I tried to. What the fuck was going on here?
“I came here because some fucking bastards broke the statues I painstakingly made.”
At that time, the ribboned rat held in Somnia’s hand was pressured by a strong grip and burst into a messy gore of flesh and blood, dying a painful death. Holding the blood and intestines of the poor rat in both of her hands, Somnia murmured a spell underneath the mask.
Luna grabbed my arm as though she was utterly freaked out by that scene.
“H-Hassan… w-we have to run! Come on!”
Only then did my body regain its strength and was able to start moving again.
“It’s too late. Now, rise up, all of my Nzambis.”
Soon after, something began to rise from the remains of the dead bodies, and hardened blood scattered all over the ground.
“What the fuck is that!?”
It already looked pretty disgusting as is, and now it even made such a terrible sound. Seeing this chilling phenomenon, I almost completely lost it. Holy fucking shit! That bastard is so grotesque and nauseating!
“Get up, spirits of the dead.”
“…D-Don’t get up!”
Luna swung her silence totem at the grotesque flesh. Then, a lump of fat popped down on the ground.
“Huh? Who are you to interfere with my spell? How did you do even that?”
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