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There were many people like Aya, all fleeing for their lives, but she was lucky in that they had enough food. With nearly half the empire dead, the stored up food was more than enough.
Many times, Aya had to muster up her courage and enter dead villages to clear up some land. She then could enter the homes and find food, one of the primary reasons for staying within this group. After all, making contact with bodies and going into the houses of dead people was very dangerous. Few were willing to do this.
However, once all the reserves of grain disappeared, the famine that would follow would be a huge issue. There were no longer any farmers planting crops, the plague this time had caused immense damage to Sakartes’ societal order.
Of course, few of the natives considered this. They only hoped to live past the day.
“AH! Alosasner! Alosasner is here…” At this moment, there was an uproar at the front of the group. Aya could not help but grab her little brother’s arm, the two of them freezing upon hearing the word.
These people did not worry about the pursuit of the imperial army or dangers from outside the city. What truly worried them were attacks of the plague!
In the natives’ language, Alosasner meant ‘the devil unable to be fathomed and found everywhere.’ It also implied a bout of serious illness.
“Is there someone in front who’s gotten the plague?” Aya had seen quite a number of healthy people who’d just been walking suddenly cough out black blood and collapse by the road. It was the arrival of death.
The siblings passed the watching crowd and only vaguely saw a little figure falling into the snow. People avoided the figure like it was booby-trapped.
“It’s Adodole! I was just playing with him a few days ago…” Aya’s brother exclaimed with shock, and then lowered his head.
When sickness occurred, life seemed so very fragile. Aya could only hug her brother’s head and console him tenderly. These people were already numbed to death, and after moving away from the corpse the large group began to move along more slowly.
Aya recalled the figure that had fallen and sighed inside, ‘I hope we reach Hope Stronghold soon… It’s too much of a waste to fall here…
‘I definitely won’t let that happen to my brother. Once we’re past this mountain, we’ll have reached the territory of Hope Stronghold…’ she tried to encourage herself.
At this moment, another ruckus sounded from the back of the group. Voices began to spread, resulting in even more confusion.
“Did someone collapse? No, it’s…” Aya’s pupils shrank.
“The imperial army! Those darned things… Turn around and run!” A burly native stood out, brandishing a fish fork as other strong natives grasped their weapons. While the men were hard at work, the old and weak quickly dispersed and fled. Aya took her brother and ran with all her might as well, getting away from the army’s pursuit.
None of the bigwigs could tolerate losing citizens, even with the plague. They ordered the troops of each military base to stop these refugees. Of course, they couldn’t be bothered to worry about how to save these people who were stuck.
Originally, even the troops of the native empire weren’t willing to carry out such orders. They, too, were afraid of the spread of the plague. However, a divine order sounded and all the guardian and totem spirits joined hands to stop the refugees from entering the region of Hope Stronghold.
“GO…” The sounds of fighting could be heard behind her, causing Aya’s heart to clench. She could only pull at her brother and try to escape.
However, she felt a tug on her arm at this moment, and the dull thud of a heavy object hitting the snow.
“What happened? Did you fall? Get up…
“AAH!” Aya had turned back to find her little brother in the snow. She immediately turned him over, but soon found that her brother had lost consciousness. The traces of black blood stung her eyes.
‘He’s been taken by the sickness too…’ The instant that that thought flashed across her mind, two unstoppable streams of tears began to fall from her eyes. Aya did not care for the possibility of infection as she took him into her arms. “Please save him… Someone, please save him…”
The sounds of battle drew closer, but what Aya saw was hope, “The army has a priest. He’ll definitely be able to use divine spells to save him…”
“Be careful, he’s infected!” Soon enough, the imperial army had reached them. They watched the siblings on the ground, and didn’t dare to draw close. The infection was obvious, and it caused fear to arise on their faces.
“Please, save my brother!” Aya unconsciously went forward, but was forced backwards by numerous lances.
“Don’t come over…” Countless soldiers circled her, as if defending against a monster.
“Get the priest and officer. There’s a source of infection here!” This iciness and resolution in that voice immediately caused the girl’s heart to sink.
Horses trotted along, and an officer and priest wearing bright feathers arrived quickly. Seeing the black bloodstains on the ground and Aya’s unconscious brother, the two of them immediately frowned.
“Kill them quickly! Toss dried wood here and then burn it!” Aya’s last hopes were dashed ruthlessly.
“Brother… I’m sorry…” The girl’s tears fell on her brother’s cheek and neck one by one, and she then closed her eyes.
*Whoosh! Whoosh!* The sounds of arrows being shot could be heard, but there was strangely no pain.
Aya quickly opened her eyes, and then saw that there was an arrow in the officer’s neck. The tail of the arrow was still vibrating, like a little snake trying to dig into the ground.
“Enemy attack! Enemy attack!” Sounds of fighting could be heard again, and numerous figures emerged from the surrounding jungle.
“It’s the army of that foreign god…” The priest’s expression quickly changed, and he urged his horse along to leave. The rest of the natives quickly abandoned the lances in their hands, looking like they were about to fall apart.
‘It’s people from Hope Stronghold!’ Aya held her little brother and headed towards the group of priests that had just arrived, “Kind… and benevolent ones… please save…”
*Thud!* Having expended too much stamina, Aya who’d also been infected fell.
Right before everything went dark, she could hear distant voices, “It’s a pair of commoners! Saintess Barbara…”
Warmth spread through Aya’s body, allowing her to feel some strength in her limbs. She slowly opened her eyes to see a warm bonfire, a huge tent blocking the cold air.
“What’s your name? How do you feel?” A native woman sat by her bed. She had long black hair and black pupils, with a golden mark on her forehead. She was radiating a sacred light.
“My name is Aya. Thank you for saving me!” Aya expressed her gratitude while blushing, but her expression quickly changed, “What about my brother? Where is he?”
“Don’t worry, he’s here as well. He was just infected for a longer time, so he’ll need more healing…” Saintess Barbara stopped Aya from struggling further, “This is Hope Stronghold… you are safe…”
Three days later, Aya, who had regained much of her strength, elatedly walked out of the tent her brother was in. Gazing at the large Targaryen sculpture in the town, she could not help but kneel down sincerely and begin to pray.
“O great god, thank you for saving my brother. I am your devout follower from now…”
Similar things like this happened in every corner of Hope Stronghold. Waves of resolute and zealous power of faith unceasingly entered Leylin’s grasp.
‘The number of worshippers has increased again! Looks like sending the army to the surrounding regions to rescue the refugees was a good choice!’ A divine will was extracted from the threads of faith, allowing Leylin to see the general situation.
Due to the hope to be cured as well as gains from various areas, the region with Hope Stronghold at the heart gathered a population of over 300 000 natives. And since he was their ‘saviour’, the faith these people provided, and their gratitude, were all true.
Tiff and his acolytes had put in a lot of work as well, to solidify these threads of faith and have them become devout worshippers who would pray to him regularly.
‘Seeing the situation, it won’t be a problem to ignite my godfire as long as we take care of all these people. It might even be enough for me to ascend to godhood…’ Leylin looked agitated.
With the expansion of Hope Stronghold, and especially with the tribes nearby dying away, Leylin had managed obtain the divinity of quite a few totem spirits. With their help, the power of massacres in his body had risen to its peak, to the point that he felt like he was on the verge of igniting his godfire.
Anyone could see the divine golden lustre on his body. This power of divinity had completely fused with his body and grown to the extreme.
That was not all. With the deaths of nearly a million natives, Leylin had now made contact with the domain of death. While he had only obtained some information about it, and the A.I. Chip could not analyse it yet, it was already quite fast.
‘The phase of taking in refugees is done. Next is the war…’
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