Sandals are the best!!!
Feeling more at ease with my feet, I walked calmly in the shade of the fruit trees, conscious of minimizing the noise of my footsteps. Of course, I didn’t venture too far into the depths of the orchard, staying at a distance from the route I had come from while checking the path ahead.
If I moved leisurely on the road and there happened to be something frightening in the direction I was heading, they would easily spot me.
I stopped by several houses I saw along the way, but they were all silent with no sign of anyone around.
Were they all just sleeping?
I thought so at first, but all the wooden buildings looked far from soundproof, which made me doubt that possibility.
Despite all the buildings being boarded up, it was as if there was no one inside. It was abnormal to hear no sound or even breathing.
So I think that there are no people living in these houses, or at least not in the ones I checked.
I have no basis for this belief, but none of the houses were excessively dirty or dilapidated, and it appeared that someone was attending to the gardens and surrounding areas, so it seemed impossible that no one lived in these houses. The fact that there were two gruesome bodies I had already encountered made it even more suspicious.
I have a bad feeling about this.
Well, if I think positively, perhaps someone sensed danger and managed to evacuate the residents to a safer place.
That would be good.
Anyway, there is no doubt that something strange is happening in this village.
As I pondered this, I noticed a set of tightly packed houses beyond the fruit orchard.
That must be the center of the village.
As I approached, the wind seemed to shift, and a smoky smell began to spread in the air. I could also faintly hear a commotion.
I couldn’t help but become increasingly nervous.
As I carefully moved from one shadow to another, checking the situation in front of me, the sound of chatter grew louder and clearer.
Apparently, the place ahead was a large square where many people had gathered.
I crouched down and peered cautiously into the square from the shadows of a nearby house.
I saw an armed group and people tied up in a human chain, as well as a pile of corpses. A few houses facing the square were destroyed by fire.
(Huh!? What is going on?)
“What fantastic equipment they have,” the mai commented.
The armor of the armed group had a fantastic design that stirred my inner teenaged excitement. If it were in reality, I would only see such equipment in anime, games, and cosplay. No, this place is also real, so in my world, perhaps.
But that’s not what I should be focusing on right now.
The reason there wasn’t a single person on this road was apparently far from what I expected.
It seemed that the villagers had been conscripted by that armed group, and the chained villagers were being taken away one by one in the opposite direction from where I was located.
What was at the end of their destination?
Although I couldn’t count the number of the armed group or the villagers being taken away since they were continuously moving, roughly, there were hundreds of villagers and around a hundred or so armed groups.
Looking at the weeping children and the desperate faces of the villagers, I wanted to do something, but it was impossible to fight against such a large number of armed individuals.
What could I do if I left here?
If I caused a disturbance and somehow managed to help some villagers escape, I would eventually be caught easily afterward. At worst, I might cause even more deaths.
What’s even more worrying is that the group may not be a worthy one to save the villagers.
For example, this could be a hidden base for an anti-social group, and the fruits cultivated here may be the raw materials for illegal drugs. No matter what the villagers’ stance may be, it’s perfect for hiding.
The armed group, with its uniform equipment and coordinated movement, maybe a military or police organization. If they came to crack down on this village, supporting the villagers would be a foolish move.
So what should I do?
It’s going to be difficult to leave here and negotiate with the armed group to protect the villagers.
I don’t think I’ll be able to communicate with them.
I could think of so many hypothetical situations, but in the end,
The best thing seems to be to watch and wait.
“Yes,” the mai confirmed.
It’s a rather mundane answer, but considering the sight of the pile of corpses, I couldn’t take any reckless risks.
As I silently followed the procession, wondering where they were going and what was waiting for them there, I noticed that the last group of chained people was being led away.
Upon seeing the mountain of corpses, I can’t consider taking any risky gambles.
Now, should I go and see what’s going on?
While observing the situation from afar, I thought about where they were heading and what could be there.
Since I can’t possibly know the answer even if I think about it, I decided to follow them.
At that moment, only a dozen or so people remained in the square.
One of the armed soldiers approaches the pile of corpses.
He slowly raises his hand and…
Suddenly, the mountain of corpses erupted in flames with a deafening roar.
The armed soldier watched the flames for a moment before nodding in satisfaction and returning to the rear.
(What’s going on?)
“I don’t know.”
Although a little surprised, the ferocity of the flames was irrelevant at this point as it was within the normal range depending on the fuel source.
The question was about the ignition method.
It didn’t seem like a fire had been thrown in, and if an ignition device had been set up, that would be a surprise.
(Maybe they just waved their hand?)
(Could it be that this world has a system like HCS?)
“I don’t know. There is insufficient data.”
If it were on Earth, I could do something similar.
Depending on the object, devices under HCS control and household appliances can be operated with just a finger or even with your thoughts without speaking a word.
That’s why I was surprised.
Until now, all the buildings and towns I had seen were full of retro aesthetics, and I had thought it was a world with little civilization.
But if there is technology like HCS, it would be amazing.
If it’s just my imagination, that’s fine.
I won’t let my guard down.
As I was on high alert, the last person left the square.
It was time to track them down.
Although there were various things in the square that caught my attention, such as the destroyed object in the center, I couldn’t investigate it now since I didn’t know what was there.
I cautiously moved from shadow to shadow around the houses instead of cutting through the square.
When I reached the other side of the square, the road ahead sloped down gently with a gradual curve.
Unlike the mountain side, this side towards the village gradually turned into fields.
The scenery was nice since there were fewer trees, but it was also challenging.
Weeds about waist-high grew on both sides of the road, and if you stepped on them or tried to hide in them, they would make noise no matter what.
There was a risk of losing track, but I had to keep my distance from the rear of the group.
Even if I did lose sight of them, mountain paths tended to zigzag, and hairpin turns often had good visibility.
If I could reach such a place, I might be able to see where the group was headed.
As I advanced with that hope, I noticed that it was getting brighter around me.
Beyond the ridge, the sun must be visible by now.
After tracking for about ten minutes, I arrived at the hairpin turn.
I didn’t lose sight of the rear, but I wanted to know the local topography and the group’s destination as much as possible, so I peeked into the valley, trying not to make noise.
About a 30-minute walk from here was a winding road that led to a big lake.
People were gathering by the lake.
Fortunately, the place where the group was heading seemed to be visible.
But the sight didn’t give me time to savor my good fortune.
Could it be that thing was flying…?
For a while, I was speechless and stunned until the sunlight hit me.
The lake sparkled and shone beautifully.
It was enormous.
It was an incredibly fantastic and romantic view.