Chapter 13: Chapter 13
The night went by, and the morning sky came. The village chief came looking for Su-hyeun, calling for him in front of the tent.
“Are you in?”
There was no answer. After he called out a few more times without hearing any response, the village chief opened the doors and stepped in.
“Until when are you going to… Oh?” It was empty inside.
He looked around the tent and came out. There was a vague sense of uneasiness. “Where did he go?”
He definitely said he was looking for a place to rest. The village chief came out of the tent and looked around in the village.
“Village chief, where are you heading to?” One of the villagers approached him. The village chief answered him, still looking around.
“I’m looking for the outsider who arrived yesterday. Did you see him?”
“No, I didn’t. What is it about?”
“He disappeared suddenly. I’m worried that he might be up to something in the village.” The chief’s worry was not just his own. Looting by outsiders happened quite often in the village. Many came as guests like Su-hyeun but looted the village through the night.
“It couldn’t be…”
“Shh! Lower your voice. Didn’t I say that we can’t help it?”
“But even so…”
“Just sleep and stay quiet. Got it?”
The village chief looked disapprovingly at the man who lowered his head. Right, he thought. We can’t help it.
The village chief looked at the small bottle he held in his hand. It was a powerful medicine that could make one sleep for over 10 days. Indeed, the village chief was hungry for the food that Su-hyeun had.
And the one asleep is… The village chief looked around the village quickly. At that moment, a woman approached the chief.
“Village chief, village chief!” The woman who was running helter-skelter stopped before him. She took a while to catch her breath.
“What is it?”
“At the village’s shopping district…” The village chief’s eyes grew wide as he listened. He couldn’t wait any longer and made his way towards the shopping district.
It was a central district that merchants used as a marketplace before the world collapsed. The villagers crowded around the area.
“What is this?!” The village chief’s roar drew everyone’s attention.
Fear and uneasiness could be seen on their faces. The village chief pushed through the huge crowd and found Su-hyeun amongst them. Su-hyeun raised his hand, greeting the village chief. “Did you just arrive?”
“I asked what this is!”
“By that, possibly…”
Su-hyeun poked at the gigantic snake’s head that was placed beside him. “Did you mean this?”
The village chief did not answer. The village chief’s mind got complicated, wondering what it was all about.
Su-hyeun spoke again with a grin. “Why are you so angry? I took care of the monster hidden in the basement.”
“What, what? That was uncalled for…!”
“It wasn’t unnecessary?
“Yes! That monster was protecting our village!”
Indeed. The smile left Su-hyeun’s face. “Why did you think that it was protecting you?”
“It wasn’t a thought, but the truth!”
“And for that…” Su-hyeun looked at the villagers and asked.
“Do you make human sacrifices one by one?” The village chief’s eyes widened at his question. He was so surprised that he took a few steps back, before gritting his teeth and asked.
“How… did you know?” It was the village’s secret. More accurately, it was something that Su-hyeun must not know of. From the chief’s point of view, it was incomprehensible that he severed the beast’s head.
“I know a bit about this monster.” The head of the gigantic snake was about a meter wide in diameter. Su-hyeun knew its name.
“It’s called the Predatory Snake. Except during meals, it’s lazy and spends most of its time sleeping.” As soon as the monster’s name was spoken, everyone’s, including the village chief’s, face visibly stiffened. In fact, they did not know the monster’s name.
“It doesn’t care about anything else besides satisfying its belly. It searches for a hunting ground and, until it leaves, marks its own territory so that weaker monsters can’t even come near.”
“Stop, stop it!” The village chief panicked as Su-hyeun spoke as if he knew everything.
His uncomfortable body walked towards Su-hyeun; however, Su-hyeun continued on. “Eventually, you will have to keep feeding it food. That way, it won’t run away. But you know what’s funny?”
“I said stop it!”
“This beast does not see the person who feeds it as its prey.” There it was: the truth that he did not wish to be known. His words stirred a considerable commotion.
“Is that the truth?”
“He said so?”
“So, then… the chief made us…”
“Wait, the monster did not even try to eat the chief, right? What actually happened?”
Here was what happened: One day, the village chief brought the Predatory Snake and said, “Listen to me. If we let it stay here, it’ll keep us safe.”
But there was a condition to it.
“This beast will only be full if it eats a human every three days. If we are to live, we have to make a human sacrifice every three days. Let’s draw lots. And… I’ll become the first offering.”
The village chief claimed himself to be the first offering, but the Predatory Snake did not eat him. They had no choice but to offer someone else.
“You seem to have taken someone else as an offering before bringing it here,” Su-hyeun said after he listened to the villagers with contemptuous eyes.
“Lies! It’s all lies!” The village chief shouted in a fit.
Disbelief grew in the villagers’ eyes. The village chief had never been looked upon like this in his whole life. “Thank you, village chief. It was thanks to you that our village could survive,” someone said.
“It was thanks to you that we can finally sleep in peace. You are our village’s hero.”
Amongst them were people who made “inevitable” sacrifices.
“My son, not my son! Village chief, please!”
“It’s inevitable. Please understand.”
“Village chief, village chief!”
“That… bad guy…”
“He fooled us!”
“Wait, don’t get duped by the outsider!”
“No, we’re fooled! I wondered why the monster did not eat the village chief!”
“Calm down and…”
“He made my husband into that monster’s food! Why would he do that? Why?!”
The villagers were outraged. Su-hyeun’s words were reasonably trustworthy. Without his knowledge of the Predatory Snake’s habits, they would never have found out. Still, however, some people still believed in the village chief.
“My son, my son…”
“Oh my! Max, Max!”
Su-hyeun watched as they mourned loudly. An inevitable sacrifice. Must be endured. There were those who had pent-up resentment at those words.
Rescue the village. Survive.
Survive from what? The questions had already been answered by the gatekeeper. The village chief could not do anything more.
“From now on…”
Su-hyeun stomped the ground. The magic that accumulated on his feet spread into the ground. The commotion ceased in a flash.
“Everyone, please answer.”
“You can decide the deposition for your village chief. You can either wait until he becomes prey for the monster, or…”
Su-hyeun’s eyes met the chief’s.
The frightful village chief lost all strength and flopped onto the ground.
“Everyone will make the call.”
Suddenly a young man stood out. “Isn’t it too much to ask us to make a decision after you’ve killed the monster? We might be dying right now because of you!”
The young man was trembling. He was a coward. Even if he himself were a coward, everyone would be the same.
The chief was, so to speak, the much-needed evil. Although he shamelessly sacrificed others to save himself, it was evident that his role contributed to the safety of the village.
“So, are you going to wait until he becomes prey to another monster?”
“Also, there’s one more thing that you’re not aware of.”
“What else do we not know?”
“The Predatory Snake lays about six to eight eggs once a quarter.”
The villagers were not the only ones surprised at Su-hyeun’s words. The village chief’s eyes widened once more at this fact.
“If you keep offering human sacrifices every three days, the number would increase each time. Here is the problem.”
Su-hyeun asked, looking around. “How long will it take for everyone here to end up in the snake’s stomach?”
The villagers kept quiet. They had quite a number of people, despite being just a village, but what if the number of people they sacrificed increased exponentially? It wouldn’t be that way for long.
“There’s no need to know for certain. You could roughly guess. If you need verification, I could show you the eggs in the basement.”
Despair. The thought of being able to live a bit longer was actually a shortcut to death. A dark shadow cast on all of their faces, losing even the faintest trace of hope.
“There’s a method.”
“What is it?”
The villagers pricked up their ears. They thought all hope was lost…. But was there really a method? As they needed a more detailed explanation, Su-hyeun had more to say.
“There’s a way for everyone to live,” Su-hyeun spoke, looking at the villagers surrounding him.
“Will you listen to me?”
The villagers made a decision concerning the village chief.
Death. There was no other way of repaying his actions for fooling the villagers. He had already offered the villagers to the Predatory Snake as prey. The village chief, who could not endure floggings and beatings, shouted furiously.
“You lot are being fooled! All of you are being fooled by him!” Some were wavered by his screams. It was true that the village chief had devoted his whole life to the village, and Su-hyeun was an outsider who arrived just yesterday.
The anger of the villagers whose family had become prey to the Predatory Snake was not easily shaken by his play.
Su-hyeun brought six robust young villagers down into the basement.
“What is happening here?” One of them soothed his shivering forearm. The Predatory Snake lived in the village’s basement, which was connected to the chief’s house. Although Su-hyeun killed it, the young men did not wish to enter after knowing the truth.
“Didn’t you say that there’s a way for everyone to live?”
“Is the method right here?”
The basement was dark and humid. As they followed the stairs, they arrived at a huge cave. The sound of something crawling could be heard.
Their eyes were glistening in the dark. The young men who followed Su-hyeun down stepped back in astonishment.
The monsters were the babies of the Predatory Snake.