51 – Plans for Captivity Accumulated.
With the help of Juliana, Noah managed to survive in the cruel forest. Sharing body warmth with the children in the dark and damp cave, they struggled through each day.
Hunting small creatures and finding mushrooms or fruits they could eat, barely filling their hungry stomachs.
Their precarious daily routine came to an end when some of the children were attacked by monsters.
Although no body parts were severed, the wounds were deep, requiring proper treatment. Noah, with thoughts of the lost Lian, decided to leave the forest in search of a village. It was a risk of being captured as a slave, but it was better than staying still and losing the children.
Was it the desperate plea that reached the heavens? Noah and his group discovered a small village. There were no specialized healers or priests in the village, but there were quite a few hunters.
The village on the edge of the forest of death survived by hunting monsters and living off the land. However, it was not a gathering place for the strong. It was a place where not strong enough to survive in the cruel land of the demon king but still formidable individuals gathered.
They made a living by hunting the surrounding monsters, making it easy for them to treat the children’s wounds. However, it was not for free.
“Since we used valuable herbs, work for the village until you repay the value. It’s better for you to work safely in our land, isn’t it?”
As the price of treatment, the village chief demanded that the children provide labor. With no other viable options and unable to survive in the cave forever, they reluctantly accepted the chief’s demand.
And so, Noah and his group lived in the small village, working as laborers.
Children with no strength or parents received treatment no different from slaves. They could barely receive the leftover food and had to spend their nights in a place like a beast’s pen, with not even a proper roof over their heads.
Despite all this, it was still a much safer place than the forest of death, so the children worked hard to survive each day.
One day, when they began to feel somewhat accustomed to their work, an incident occurred.
“Noah… Noah, help!”
“Let go of this!”
Upon hearing screams while moving a hefty pile of firewood, Noah abandoned the wood and rushed to the scene. There, Lily was being held by one of the hunters, and Nero was clawing at the hunter’s wrist.
Without hesitation, Noah charged at the hunter. Thanks to the training he had undergone with Juliana, he was able to easily subdue the hunter.
“We need to leave.”
Noah held the trembling Lily in his arms, realizing that he could no longer stay in this village. He had hidden the unconscious hunter in the woods, carrying valuable items and provisions, sneaking into the village, and fleeing.
The village chief had never imagined that the children would escape to the forest of death, so he didn’t bother to keep them under surveillance. Consequently, they could easily leave the village with all the children.
As Noah rolled through the forest of death, he became stronger and faster, but at the same time, he grew weary. The children’s bodies accumulated wounds, and sometimes their lives were in danger.
Including her, the children’s bodies were covered in small and large wounds.
Whenever Noah felt like he would crumble in the face of the cruel reality, he thought of Lian. Remembering his gentle laughter, warm words, and presence allowed him to grit his teeth and stand up.
They survived tenaciously, finally completely leaving the forest of death. The children who survived the forest of death no longer hesitated to wield weapons.
Moving as discreetly as possible for days, they hid in the forest, following behind a merchant caravan. The top of the long procession passed through a small castle wall and entered a large city. Noah could immediately recognize it upon arriving in the city. This city was the one where Noah and Nero had been sold as slaves.
The city’s name was ‘Cardyshan.’ It was a city dominated by a massive criminal organization. The city, teeming with beggars and corpses like summer bugs, was a city where Noah and the others could stay without worry.
Thanks to the poor security, they could stay in the city without any identification. Although they barely found a place in the alleyways where beggars were abundant, at least there were no people trying to kill or exploit them, which was satisfying enough.
But that didn’t last long.
“Looks quite useful, doesn’t he?”
“One, two, three… with this many, we won’t have to worry about alcohol for a while.”
The frail children were nothing more than prey in the alleyways. Noah drew his sword to protect the children. The children, with the skills they had developed during their time on the streets, also fought back against those who attacked them.
There were casualties during the process, with some people getting seriously injured. Noah treated the injured children with the little money they had and clenched his teeth.
‘I need more strength.’
To protect myself and everyone, I needed more strength.
‘I can’t do it alone.’
Becoming strong on my own wasn’t enough. To survive, everyone needed to become strong together. They had to form a group.
While living in the alleyways, Noah began to realize the “way for the weak to survive.”
Afterward, Noah started rescuing the marginalized children in the alleyways. Those who had endured the streets, from children to adults, had already lost their humanity, so he embraced the children who still had a chance for a future. Of course, he didn’t take in the children only for such intentions.
‘If it were you, Lian, you would have made the same choice, right?’
He had tried to emulate Lian, who had sacrificed himself without hesitation to protect the children.
The children who survived in the forest of death had various skills. They shared the information they had learned with newcomers and trained together.
Noah, with talents in leadership and swordsmanship, began to teach the children more systematically. As he did, their skills grew surprisingly fast.
Along with training, Noah quickly understood the ecology of the alleyways. Watching the fights among the little rats dominating the alleyways, he found hiding spots wisely.
And so, Noah’s group gradually grew in size.
One day, as Noah diligently struggled to survive, he found Lian’s name in a newspaper lying on the ground.
[The Emergence of a New Star Beyond Imagination!]
Despite its grandiose title, the article was tucked away at the very end, smaller than the palm of a hand. Even with a photo accompanying it, the picture was so small that recognizing the fact that it was Lianne would be difficult for anyone but someone with eyes as sharp as hers.
Noah, with wide-open eyes, examined the crumpled newspaper.
“Lianne… she’s indeed alive!”
He had thought she was alive, but after living a harsh life in the back alleys, he couldn’t help but have fleeting thoughts like, ‘Could it be? Perhaps -.’ Her anxiety turned into joy without her even realizing it.
“Lianne, I will definitely rescue you.”
Noah immediately began investigating the arena. Since it was just a group formed by children, gathering credible information proved to be challenging.
The most he could gather was, “There is a slave with amazing skills and white hair.” Yet, with just that information, Noah could muster a surprising amount of hope.
To rescue Lianne from the arena right away was Noah’s fervent desire, but he lacked the confidence to survive and reach the land of Jisoo, let alone the strength to snatch Lianne away.
The talent of the ‘leader,’ nurtured while commanding the children, quickly pointed the way for her to go.
“To protect Lianne, this won’t do. We need greater strength.”
Increase the size of the group, and enhance the strength of each individual. In doing so, create a nest that can protect everyone, including Lianne.
Noah began moving fiercely to achieve his goal. Julianna keenly noticed that Noah in this state was anything but normal. However, she didn’t comment on it.
Surviving in such a cruel world required madness; that was the only way.
Julianna thought that, rather than Noah becoming intoxicated with blood or drugs, it would be happier if he went crazy about turning people into paradise.
No one stopped Noah, so the weight of Lianne within him grew larger day by day.
To the extent that her life goal became ‘Lianne.’
As time passed, people around Noah began to notice his obsession with Lianne. Those who noticed, much like Julianna, didn’t point it out.
“Since it’s dangerous here, when Oppa returns, let’s stay inside the building as much as possible.”
“It might be frustrating, so how about making a garden?”
“In that case, we’ll need a big building.”
Noah, the leader of the group, always talked about Lianne, and naturally, the children didn’t forget her; they longed for her. Thanks to this, instead of criticizing Noah, they were even more supportive.
In a place without Lianne, plans for her imprisonment piled up steadily.