Release that Witch - Chapter 672: Hero
All the coachmen worked for Hill, who were said to be former employees of the acrobatics troupe. After transporting slaves with the caravan for several times, they had known the retreating route by heart. The fleet did not slow down until the sun completely disappeared behind the mountains. They still, nevertheless, continued with the procession for about two hours after night fell with the help of an oil lamp before pitching their tent in the wilderness.
The coaches arrayed in a circle around a bonfire. A young man who called himself Clown quickly fetched some water and started to make porridge. A tall guy named Rockhill went to feed the horses. The magician was responsible for patrolling and putting out sentries and Chom Brothers setting up booby traps… These people were more like members of an army than of an acrobatics troupe.
Yorko found he did not need to do anything other than waiting for the delicious porridge to be served to him.
Apart from the porridge, he also got a plate of bacon and an apple.
He now understood why Hill had decided to include wheat and fruit in their cargo.
The food in the two wagons, the so-called “goods for sale”, would suffice to feed all of them throughout the journey even if they had to commute for one to two months.
Yorko wondered if Hill had prepared to flee the Kingdom of Dawn long before, for it had not taken him a considerably long time to load all the food. He had heard from his guards that Hill had kept in touch with Black Street Rats. “Jesus… Is that guy really just an acrobat?”
Yorko resolved to ask his old friend about it after he returned to the Kingdom of Graycastle.
All the coachmen strode off with their porridge and stayed at the outer-ring respectfully, leaving Yorko, No. 76 and the four witches in the circle.
“I apologize for what I said and did the other day,” Annie said cordially. “You didn’t hand us to the King of Dawn, but I still can’t fully trust you.”
“Why?” Amy looked confused. “He doesn’t look like a bad man.”
Yorko blushed at this compliment, as he had never considered himself a good man. Fortunately, the flush was so faint compared with the light of the bonfire that nobody perceived it. “Ahem, I reckon that Miss Annie still feels suspicious of the simplicity of the witch organization in the Kingdom of Graycastle.”
“For example, some powerful nobles love to keep some witches and use them as their playthings…”
“That’s just one of my concerns,” Annie interrupted. “Whether it’s in Wolfheart or Graycastle, all such organizations will be essentially the same if they intend to lure and abuse witches with lies. If the one in Graycastle does operate in the way you claimed, I’ll certainly make a formal apology to you.”
“It doesn’t matter to me.” Yorko shrugged. “My task is to bring you to King Roland. What happens next doesn’t have anything to do with me. Even if you want to apologize to me, you may not have a chance to see me in the future.”
There was an awkward silence. For a second, no audible sounds could be heard except the “crack, crack” of the bonfire.
Yorko was usually very good at socializing and making conversations. He did not feel like talking, however, with these witches. They had not only disturbed his peaceful life as an ambassador but had also put the emissary delegation in a risky position. There was nothing wrong about being cautious, but the fact that his every single act was under scrutiny really irked him.
In the end, No. 76 broke the silence.
“Are you all from the Kingdom of Wolfheart?” she asked. “Amy told me that you’ve known each other for quite a while.”
Annie nodded. “You’re correct, although… we weren’t born in the same city.”
“Wolfheart is now taken by the church. You’ve certainly suffered a lot on the way to the Kingdom of Dawn.” No. 76 stooped over and touched Hero’s dangling pants. She asked in a low voice, “Did she lose her feet during her escape from the church?”
Hero bit her lip bitterly, head lowered.
“They were chopped off by the people she aimed to protect.” Annie’s answer surprised everyone. “Hero stood out when Wolfheart City encountered the biggest crisis in the history of time, but all she got was hatred from its people.”
“Hurt by… the people she protected?”
Annie nodded. “I can explain to you if you want to know. But it isn’t a happy story.”
No. 76 gazed at Hero for a moment and replied in a serious tone, “I want to know.”
Yorko pricked up his ears, though he pretended to be fully absorbed in the bacon he was eating.
“When the church army attacked Wolfheart City a year ago, they threw a large number of bodies infected by the demonic plague into the city, in an attempt to bleed off the strength of the king’s city, just like what they did at Broken Tooth Castle,” Annie added two more twigs to the bonfire, which soon splintered up into glitters of sparks. “But Hero stopped the demonic plague from spreading with her ability. She could transfer the disease to other living creatures. That was why the plague got under control.”
“What kind of living creatures?”
“Rats, cats, dogs, cows, sheep, etc… also including human beings,” Annie replied slowly. “Citizens dug a huge hole at the slum. People who got infected would gather there and ask Hero to transfer their disease to animals. They would then burn the animals in the hole. Gradually, people started to view Hero as the lifesaver of Wolfheart City and began to call her Hero. Amy and I also received her treatment.”
“But things turned for the worse. A large animal was enough to bear the disease from five or six patients, whereas cats and dogs could only bear one or two. As the church continued to spread the demonic plague, even if people of Wolfheart could catch all living creatures, it would not be enough for all patients. They just couldn’t save everyone.”
“As the war prolonged, people started to lay their eyes on men.”
The word made Yorko feel chilled to the bone.
No. 76 drew close to Hero and gently pressed the witch to her bosom. “That wasn’t your fault.”
In the flickering light, Annie’s face was masked with ice. “Of course it wasn’t her fault. Those people never gave her a chance to choose from the beginning. First, they burned prisoners, criminals and volunteers. Then they started to burn the elders, wounded soldiers, and captives from the Judgement Army.”
“But Hero didn’t do what these crazy men asked her to. She just couldn’t kill innocent people, especially those soldiers who yearned for life and minors who had yielded. So, the attitude of the public toward her changed. People started to believe that she colluded with the church and were protecting their enemies. The saver had thus become a traitor. Hero was later imprisoned. If it were not because of her ability, she had probably been sent to the gallows long before.”
“Afterward, the church launched another attack. It only took them one day to seize the city wall of the king’s city. On the day the city fell, the jailer, who had once been treated by Hero, chopped her legs off with an ax and then set the cell ablaze. He argued that the fall of the Kingdom of Wolfheart was the result of the collusion between Hero and the church. He said as a traitor, Hero couldn’t go anywhere but should be burned and destroyed together with the city.”
At these words, Annie fell into a short silence. “But the jailer never anticipated that Hero, who lost the ability to move, would be saved by captives from the Judgement Army in the cell.”