~ Chapter 138: The horrors of Drakaros (Part 3) ~
The pulled drapes over my windows blinded me of the truth outside. I thought as I remembered the time when I fled Drakaros as well as the time of my return.
Not even once did I travel with the drapes open inside my carriage. The fear of being recognised by others kept me from seeing them as well.
A part of me was unwilling to move deeper into the slums, it wanted me to ignore the darkness that laid before me. I knew that if I dared to run away now, I would end up feeling as though I had failed everyone back on Illsyorea.
Thus, I steeled my resolve and stepped forward. I walked among those living here and barely hanging to their lives.
I will think of this as a test. Instead of having Illsy step into the darkness of this world, I will do so in his stead so that I will know what I am fighting to prevent. So that I might know what sort of world I don't wish my beloved children to see... I thought as I looked at the scene around me and allowed every detail to be ingrained in my memory.
To my left was an old draconian wearing nothing but a dirty loincloth to cover his shame. He was dirty, weak, and skinny enough to see his bones poking through his flesh. The injuries on his body caused by beating or accidental injure could barely heal themselves and were covered in puss. The light in his eyes felt as though it would fade any time now.
“A coin... a coin...” his hoarse voice called out, weak and fading like a whisper.
I looked into his eyes, and I could tell that he was wondering why was I given the luck to stand on my own two feet like so, while he was forced to crawl on the ground like that? Why was I the privileged and he was the unlucky one?
With my hands trembling and my chest tightened from the pressure of that gaze, I stepped forward, walking away from him.
There were a lot of draconians like him, begging on the streets and calling out for a help that would never come.
“How much?” a draconian asked two houses away from me.
Judging from his armor, he appeared to be an adventurer. The one he was asking was a weak woman wearing patched up clothes. Behind her was a young boy with trembling eyes.
“One silver...” she replied.
“Good. Get yourself ready.” he said and then entered the house.
The mother pushed her son outside and then told him with a gentle smile “Mommy has to work now. Be a good boy and stay here...” and with her gaze, she was telling him to survive, to live on no matter what happened to her.
She followed the adventurer inside and closed the door behind her. As I walked past the house, I met the boy's gaze.
He was begging me to save his mother from this fate. He was imploring me to do something to help him, just like all the gazes of the other children in these slums.
A trial... a test... a punishment for myself? I wondered as I steeled my heart and walked past him.
The deeper I went the more these sort of scenes become common place. Women forced into selling themselves, men forced to work for little to nothing, children living in a world that robbed them of their innocence far too early.
I remembered the scene in Rank Village with the noble who killed the village chief in front of his own daughter, and I realized that even if I had managed to save him, if I did save all those I encountered today, it would still be a drop in the ocean. Then again, it wasn't that hard for the nobles to then condemn these poor citizens to doom under their corrupt laws.
Becoming the ruler of this country and assuming the role of the savior of these people would also mean abandoning my family and Illsyore. As much as my heart begged me to do it, I couldn't... I didn't want to live in a world without them, it would have slowly broken me until I couldn't feel joy or happiness anymore.
The only reason I could feel so much pain, pity, and sympathy for everyone I came across was because I knew that at the end of this adventure, I was going to come back to Illsy's embrace. Without him there, I would grow far too cold to feel any sort of emotion and soon be no different than the nobles of this country.
A broken ruler with an empty heart was no ruler at all.
I wish to help, but I don't wish to be a savior for them, that's why I will remember the suffering of these draconians. I will take it to heart and make sure it won't happen in Illsyorea. I thought as I once again steeled my resolve.
“A flower, pretty miss?” a little girl, of no more than twelve years old, asked as she showed me a blue flower, an Albastrea.
Looking down, it was strange to see this one spot of beauty among so much darkness and filth. It was so strange to see the gaze of hope in her eyes when so much desperation surrounded her. My heart felt as though it was being clenched by a claw of steel and before I knew it, I had given her a copper coin.
“Thank you, miss!” the little draconian girl with pure blue eyes matching the flower showed me a warm smile.
The girl then walked past me to try and sell her flowers to someone else. I looked back at her and noticed how dirty and skinny she was. Her clothes were made up of patched up rags, and just as it was with everyone here, the dirt hid away the color of her scales.
“A flower, kind sir?” she asked a passing adventurer.
“Beat it, you dirty brat!” he growled at her and she pulled back in fear.
The draconian spat at her feet and then walk away grumbling curses.
I looked down at the flower in my hand and wondered Why can she smile... when she lives in a world like this? I then looked at her and saw her approaching another man.
Like that, she went from stranger to stranger, trying to sell her flowers.
It was sad and painful to look at her, and at the same time, I was overtaken by the strength and perseverance she was showing me. So young she was, so little she had, yet she continued in this harsh world to sell her fragile flowers.
I absorbed it in my Storage Crystal and decided to plant it back at Illsyorea as a testament of a draconian's strength.
Then, after not taking more than ten steps away from that place, I witnessed another scene.
Up on top of a three story building stood a draconian woman whose clothes were like rags that barely hanged from her willow body. There were tears streaming down her cheeks, and she held a dagger in one hand. With her gaze at the sky, it looked as though she was asking the gods for questions they would never give her an answer to.
What is she doing? I wondered, but I couldn't move.
Several other draconians around me spotted her and not even one showed worry about her state. A few of them were even calling out to her to jump or undress and give them a show.
I watched as she stood there, on top of the rooftop, looking into the horizon like a ghost yearning for its freedom. The sadness in her eyes, the pain in her heart screamed out at me, yet it was ignored by all those around me.
Then, she took up her dagger... and plunged it into her heart.
No... I thought, yet the shock of witnessing this scene was so great that it froze me in my spot.
With her life draining away with that last beat, she fell forward right in the middle of the street.
That sound was one I would never forget my entire life, the sound of the lifeless body of a woman at wit's end.
So much was the shock that I felt that I couldn't even take a step forward, and around me only a few draconians expressed a sign of pity for her poor soul.
“NO! Mommy!” someone called out from behind me.
As if I saw it all in slow motion, my head turned to the right, and I saw the little girl from before running past me. Tears streamed down her dirty cheeks, sadness and grief having taken the place of that spark of courage and strength she had left. The blue flowers she carried flew into the air, falling on the muddy road.
She ran and didn't stop until she reached her mother's side. From where I stood until there, only a trail of blue flowers of an ephemeral beauty had formed. Around her draconians gathered to watch the poor girl cry, yet no one was moved by her tears.
The little girl begged, pleaded, and asked for help with a broken voice, yet no one could offer it to her. No one wanted to help her with her pain for they themselves had suffered just as much. In a way, seeing her suffer was their own way of relieving their own pain.
In the middle of all of this, while she was crying for her mother and begging everyone to help her, she met my eyes.
My breath was cut, and that one moment felt like an eternity.
How was I supposed to answer to her call?
How was I supposed to help her?
What could I have done?
How many others felt what this poor girl had just felt?
Question after question bombarded my heart and soul, but the one that landed a most devastating blow was the last one.
I felt weak in my knees, but I forced myself to keep standing up. The little girl's eyes were calling out for me, they were begging me.
'Help me!' they said.
'Save my mother!' they begged.
I gulped, but I didn't look away, I couldn't allow myself to. This little girl, her cries, the death of her mother, this entire scene was something that could befall Illsyorea if I didn't do something about it.
Illsy was powerful, but he was not Almighty and All-knowing, he was just my foolish perverted husband with a big dream.
Half an hour passed as she kept weeping and no one did anything to help her. With every moment that went by, I felt like a piece of my heart broke and turned to ash, yet it was so hard to move closer to her.
I wanted to help her, but I didn't know how. I didn't know what I could do without raising the attention of the nobles and having them stop me. To my shame, I lacked the knowledge I once prided myself with. There was still so much I didn't know and so little I had yet to try.
If I'm afraid to act, will Illsyorea end up like another Drakaros? I wondered when I finally found myself walking towards the sobbing little girl.
Unsteady on my feet, I approached the scene of the woman's death, and as I did so, a draconian man approached the girl and grabbed her by her hair, lifting her up with one arm.
“Stop! It hurts!” she cried out.
“This little shit will pay from now on for her shikak of a mother! If anyone has a problem, they should...” at this point, his words stopped because I was right next to him and our eyes met.
“Let her go.” I said softly.
“Huh? Who are you? Another whore?” he asked as reached his dirty hand to grab me.
“I said let her go.” I filled my glare with killing intent.
“She owes a debt... 2 Gold Coins. Her mother was paying us with her body. Now it's her turn.” the draconian man showed me a smirk.
“Here's the money. Take it and don't bother this child ever again.” I spoke to him in a commanding tone of voice as I tossed him the money.
The man dropped the little girl and grabbed the money.
“Tch! It matters not. Sooner or letter she'll come to us begging for money just like her mother did. Be it for opiates or something else, they all do.” he spat on the woman's corpse and then walked away.
Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!
I know some of you are troubled by my typos and at times grammar mistakes. I do edit it to the best of my abilities before posting it, but some things just slip through for various reason (mostly because before editing it, the whole chapter is a mess). However, if you have fun looking for them, go ahead and let me know where they are. On my discord server, there's a special channel just for that: help_author_edit
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