Episode 210. The Forgotten Ones (2)

After following Seon-Hyeok like a shadow, Najima suddenly stepped away from the procession.

Not long after she disappeared, Seon-Hyeok sensed the movements of a small group of demonic beings.

“Hm?”

Ever since Atiya’s disappearance, he had begun using the earth attribute to understand the situation around him instead. As some time had passed since then, it was now simple for him to visualize the surrounding area from the vibrations of the ground.

And thus, he was able to sense the movements of the demonic horde - it was as though the creatures were chasing something.

“Re…”

Worried that Najima happened to run into these demonic beings, Seon-Hyeok was about to hop on Redvern and fly out when he suddenly stopped.

It’s strange.

The scale of the demonic force was so trivial that he did not deem them a threat. Likewise, Najima was not so weak that she would be chased by such beings.

If she wanted, her arrows were strong enough to take out any normal demonic being at once. It was impossible that she would be fleeing from such a pathetic pack of creatures.

“It can’t be…”

After thinking about it, Seon-Hyeok froze at the sudden thought crossing his mind.

The demonic beings were not chasing Najima - rather, Najima was chasing them. They were headed in the direction of expelled refugees.

There were slight vibrations mixed among the thumping footsteps. However, those small movements were feeble and quickly disappeared.

Soon after this, Najima returned. Her body gave off the slight scent of the demonic beings’ blood.

So they died.

No, they did not just die. Najima had lured them in and ‘executed’ them.

“Najima.”

“Yes?”

Her voice was as refreshing as always as she casually responded, acting as though nothing of note had happened.

“Never mind. It’s nothing.”

He closed his mouth upon seeing her bright eyes.

Even if Najima had not taken matters into her own hands, the exiled men would have died sooner or later. She simply shortened the timeline for that eventuality.

He did not want to blame her now.

It was he who punished the men with an exile as good as death.

Neither Najima nor the demonic beings were responsible for killing them. It was his own decision.

He felt uncomfortable inside. He had cut down countless enemies in war, but this was the first time he felt burdened like this.

He did not have the excuse of fighting for his survival, nor was he caught up in the heat of battle. For the first time, he coldly sentenced others to death, and he felt sickened by his actions.

Nonetheless, he did not blame the others nor try to harmonize his actions.

Seon-Hyeok simply endured everything.

After taking a few deep breaths, his queasy insides gradually calmed down.

The feeling still lingered, but his wavering gaze became steady.

Since that day, Seon-Hyeok refused to leave the ranks.

It was in part because he had taken care of the black knight, the messenger of Chaos and the greatest immediate threat, but also because his mentality changed.

They were in the middle of the Dark Lord’s realm overflowing with the demonic horde, but as he preemptively blocked their access to the defenseless people, the refugees had been unable to fully appreciate their situation.

Their initial anxiety upon seeing the others being exiled disappeared, and they were once again completely at ease.

Seon-Hyeok felt a deep sense of incompatibility with the refugees.

The people of Adenburg were not like this. Despite suffering from the raids led by the fierce Noctein cavalry, the commoners there strived endlessly to secure their own livelihoods.

But what of the refugees in front of his eyes?

“I’m hungry.”

“Just wait a bit. There will be food to eat.”

Aside from staggering along with the others, the refugees made no effort to better their situation. Like baby birds waiting for their mother, they turned to the Qeishas whenever it was mealtime, and when they heard the sounds of demonic beings in the distance, they simply crouched in place and trembled.

They never acted of their own volition, always wanting someone to make decisions on their behalf and command them into action.

“Ah, how long do I have to walk?”

“I’d rather hide somewhere.”

It would have been better if that was the extent of it, but surprisingly, the refugees were always full of complaints.

Will things be okay like this?

Until this point, potential enemy attacks had been thwarted by his preemptive actions, but there was no rule saying the situation could not change.

If the demonic horde attacked all at once, he and the Qeishas would be unable to protect all of the refugees by themselves.

There were tens of thousands of them, and the procession was far too disorganized and extensive for the thousand Qeishas to properly protect.

In the worst case scenario, many Qeishas could end up being sacrificed to defend the refugees.

That was unreasonable.

The people he wanted to save were the refugees who actively fled to the distant forest of the Qeishas using their own strength to preserve their lives, not a herd of cattle moving mindlessly in a procession.

Asking the Qeishas to sacrifice themselves for such people was being too preferential to humans.

Even now, the Qeishas’ burden was too heavy.

They ran about all day, hunting demonic beings and procuring drinking water. They even had to borrow the power of the Eternal Flowers, the treasures left behind by their Mother.

“Halt.”

Seeing the busy Qeishas and the good-for-nothing refugees shuffling along, Seon-Hyeok stopped the group.

“From now on, the men will take turns helping the Qeishas find water and food.”

“W, what help would we be?”

“We’d only be a burden.”

“People like us will be snapped up by the monsters in an instant…”

He did not even ask for anything unreasonable. The refugees were only tasked with helping transport food and water, but they took it on themselves to complain.

“If you won’t follow, then leave.”

Only upon hearing his cold reprimanding did the refugees shut up and bow their heads.

“You do it first! I have blisters on my feet, so it’s hard to even walk!”

“What happened to you bragging about your strength?”

After he moved on, he heard the refugees bickering among themselves. They thought they were speaking with their voices lowered, but for Seon-Hyeok, with his sensitive hearing, it was as though they were arguing right next to him.

The Qeishas were likewise blessed with such sharp hearing.

Najima just stared at him. Her eyes, seen through her mask, seemed to be asking whether such people were even worth saving, and Seon-Hyeok’s face burned.

***

Every day, a commotion broke out among the refugees as they decided who would help the Qeishas. They swore and even raised their fists in an attempt to avoid responsibility and leave the others with the dangerous - at least according to them - task.

Unable to disobey, the refugees somehow followed Seon-Hyeok’s decree after these uproars.

However, Seon-Hyeok’s sympathy waned as he realized how selfish these commoners were through their actions.

And not long after, a crisis struck.

Countless demonic beings attacked the procession of refugees.

Though Seon-Hyeok was strong enough to overwhelm even the Messenger of Chaos, he was unable to protect all of them alone. After all, he was but just one person.

The Qeishas were in a similar situation, and there were significant casualties among the refugees.

“Ugh…”

When the battle ended, Seon-Hyeok grew dejected to see more than a thousand empty spots in their ranks. The losses from a single raid were even more significant than he anticipated.

But his despondency did not last, as he shouted out with a furious expression.

“And you call yourselves human?”

The majority of the victims had been children and the elderly. These powerless people were pushed aside and trampled to death by the refugees running around to survive.

Seon-Hyeok held the body of a young girl stomped on by countless people and glared at the survivors.

They did not even feel remorse. They only hoped that his anger would be targeted at any other person but themselves, and waited for this horrible ordeal to end.

Seon-Hyeok was truly enraged at the sight of the lowly and selfish commoners.

“Ahh!”

But right now, there was no place for him to vent, as the battle was already over. He dropped down and pounded the ground with his fists.

Crack.

The blackened, rotting land split, and it rose again. The world trembled as though experiencing an earthquake, and the area quickly turned into chaos.

His anger, now that he was a dragon knight wielding the legacy of the Earth Spirit King, was calamity incarnate.

“Ahh!”

“Save me!”

The refugees screamed and cried out. However, his fury did not abate, and the ground continued to wail.

How much time passed since then?

Everything in this world was destined to come to an end, and even the seemingly endless earthquake gradually subsided and finally stopped.

There were some minor injuries among the people, but no lives were lost. It was rather miraculous that there were no deaths in this terrible natural disaster.

It was all thanks to Seon-Hyeok’s redirection of his power away from the survivors, even despite his rage.

“Damn it! Damn it!”

Dejected, Seon-Hyeok swore as he watched the refugees trembling on the ground.

If they had shown strength and resistance, he would have handed down stronger punishment, but he could not even bring himself to do so now.

“Re-form the ranks. Protect the weak and those with limited mobility first.”

At his command, the procession scattered by his earthquake began to re-form.

“My Lord, there is something you do not understand.”

Someone came to visit Seon-Hyeok that evening. It was John, the man punished with hard labor after his previous selfish act of defiance.

“What?”

Seon-Hyeok could not help but respond coldly, as John was saying something incomprehensible while he was already in a foul mood.

However, perhaps because he had already once been resigned to his fate, John continued on with an unwavering expression.

“We have never lived as humans in the first place. We were always treated and survived like livestock.”

Seon-Hyeok already knew. He knew how the western nobles treated their people, and he could get a sense of what kind of lives the common people lived.

“No. My Lord, you do not know.”

John insisted that his realization was wrong.

“We are little more than slaves.”

John’s words were scathing. Seon-Hyeok wondered what point he was trying to make.

“So why are you trying to treat us like human beings?”

“Ah…”

Belatedly understanding John’s words, Seon-Hyeok let out a groan.

“There are separate ways of dealing with slaves.”

John continued as he looked at him.

“The most effective means of getting slaves to move is not the carrot, but rather the stick.”

Having said this, John looked around at the refugees. However, there was no sign of camaraderie or sympathy in his eyes as he looked at those in the same predicament as him.

“If there is anything you need, just give the command.”

John explained that it would be no different from a magic spell.

“They will never be able to disobey you.”

John spoke the truth.

“If the demonic beings come back, do not leave your spots no matter what.”

After that day, Seon-Hyeok lost all affection for the refugees, and he placed restrictions on each and every one of their actions. Every time, he put fear in their hearts with absolute commands without room for objection.

It was shockingly effective.

Even when the demonic horde attacked, the refugees obeyed his decrees and did not break ranks.

It was as though his command even dominated their spirits.

“Your dignity has been imprinted on them as something to fear more than death itself.”

John explained that this was all thanks to the terrifying anger and show of force from that day.

After that, John began to resolve all of Seon-Hyeok’s concerns. Thanks to the assistance of someone more familiar with the refugees’ mentality than anyone else, Seon-Hyeok was able to ensure that they remained orderly - it was as though the commotion and chaos common before never existed.

Tyranny imposed through force and fear. In any other situation, Seon-Hyeok would be disgusted by such means, but there was no other option at this point.

He pushed the refugees hard, and the more he did, the less they complained.

It seemed contradictory, but thanks to this, the evacuation became much easier.

The demonic horde attacked again and again, but there were never as serious of casualties as they endured the first time. It was in part because the refugees obeyed his commands well, but also because he grew more adept in utilizing his earth attribute abilities.

A new skill had blossomed to take the place of his long-favored and masterfully-controlled wind attribute.

“Nudar!”

When he gave the command after piercing a demon with his spear, the highest-tier earth spirit appeared before grabbing the giant creature and entering the ground.

The demonic creature did not crawl back out of the earth.

“Is it over?”

Seon-Hyeok sighed quietly as he watched the Qeishas rain arrows on the remaining demonic beings.

At that moment, a message popped up in his head.

- Attribute control (Earth) has reached 100.

- Your attribute control has reached its maximum value, and the corresponding earth spirit, Nudar, is undergoing a transformation.

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