PDM Chapter 51
We didn’t run into anyone on our way to the inn at the mouth of the village. Was it because it’s dawn? Perhaps Takan had the same thoughts as me, so he briefly fixed the reins.
The inn we arrived at was enveloped in pitch black darkness, with no light in sight. It wouldn’t be a surprise if a swarm of bats came out of the small, shabby inn with broken windows.
“Is this really the place?”
Takan confirmed the name of the inn and shook his head, looking doubtful.
At that moment, a figure left the yard of the inn and collapsed at the sight of us.
The startled villager looked like an inn employee. As he came out of the woods, he had three or four firewood in his arms.
When the stranger found his composure, he looked at us intently, his eyes meticulously observing us as if trying to figure out our identity.
He tilted his head to try to see my face covered by my hood, but when he failed, he straightened and asked, “Are you an outsider?”
The man dusted himself off and picked up the firewood he had dropped.
Thanks to the man’s surprise, the air became less tense. He no longer looked at us in suspicion. Takan and I eyed each other and sighed in relief.
The man pointed to a tree in front of the inn. “The inn doesn’t have stables, so tie the horse to the tree and follow me.”
“Why’d you have to scare people,” the man mumbled to himself with a click of the tongue and turned around.
Takan grabbed my waist to pull me off the horse. After setting me down on the ground, he grabbed the reins and moved to the tree.
The horse looked exhausted from running nonstop.
While Takan tied the reins to the tree, I looked around the village. It was early in the morning, but strangely, it was quiet and still. It felt rather gloomy.
For an instant, my body froze at the sudden ringing that pierced my ears. Takan let go of the reins and looked around the place.
Takan hesitated for a moment before pulling out his sword from the horse’s saddle.
“What are you doing?” The man looked back at us as if nothing happened and stared at us like we were the ones who were strange for reacting seriously.
Takan merely widened his eyes at the man, waiting for an explanation without letting go of his sword.
The man sighed and pointed his chin over the inn. “Don’t worry. That’s just the sound of the cattle being butchered. Today, the stench of livestock feces will sting your nose.”
The man waved his hand and turned to the inn carelessly before he stopped and looked back at us again. He asked, “Are you going to the forest?”
My heart dropped to my feet at the sudden question. How did he know that by just looking at us? I distanced myself from the man and took a step back.
“How do you know?”
With a flat tone, the man said, “If it weren’t for the forest, do you think outsiders would come here?”
The man’s gaze passed the bow in my arms and moved towards the sword Takan held.
“Especially those with weapons.”
I unconsciously adjusted the bow. In the end, the man eyes the barrel of arrows hanging from the reins and said, “Leave your weapons behind.”
“The inn is safe,” The man said in a low voice. It sounded like a warning.
“D*mn it.” Despite Takan’s obviously displeased look, he let go of his sword. He even clapped his hands to shake off the dust.
While being chased, he decided that he couldn’t afford to engage in pointless haggling.
As Takan put down the sword, I couldn’t help but be stubborn. I put the bow next to the quiver.
The man smiled contentedly and went to the entrance of the inn.
I followed him over the brick threshold at the entrance.
The man opened the wooden door with one hand while still holding onto the firewood with the other. Soon a loud noise burst in.
Was everything we saw a while ago just a facade? The inside and outside of the inn were distinctly different.
On the inn’s first floor, there was a dining room and a space to welcome guests. Contrary to the expectation that it would be quiet, the area was packed tightly with people.
It was too difficult to count them, so I wondered whether all the villagers and devotees were gathered there.
Without knowing why, my heart sank. The man approached the counter, gave him the firewood, and gestured at us. “Guests, manager.”
The so-called manager had a worse impression than Rin. His shaggy hair and beard were connected to sideburns, covering his whole face. A couple of glances passed between them.
“What is this place?” Takan looked around, doubt evident on his face. Honestly, I felt the same as him. Unlike the empty, quiet town, the inn was crowded.
My eyes narrowed when I found someone in the crowd.
A woman with black hair up to her waist and a white bandage around her eyes was carrying a plate. A red thread was tied to her wrist, but when I followed the end of that thread, it was hung on a hook hanging from the inn’s wall.
She seemed to move swiftly even when she relied on a single strand of thread.
It went against reason and morals. I couldn’t believe they left a woman who couldn’t see by herself in such a busy place. Then she climbed the steps, fumbling against the wall with the plate in her hand.
One of the men passed her and run up the stairs, bumping into her. The woman stumbled in surprise when the man hit her on the shoulder.
She fell and dropped the plate. Fortunately, she slumped down the stairs, leaning on the taut thread as she leaned against the wall.
“What are you doing!”
“You idiot! Can’t you do that?”
Other employees who were moving the plates scolded her with a screech. It was a skinny old woman and a boy who was nothing but skin and bones.
When one of the guests yelled at them, they fell to their knees and apologized. “I-I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
They were strangely submissive, even to guests.
I looked through the restaurant thoroughly. I couldn’t find a neat and healthy-looking person among the employees. Everyone was busy keeping an eye on the guests.
Sharp eyes wandered in the air.
With furrowed brows, I eventually swallowed the question that almost came out of my mouth.
The owner of the eyes was none other than the woman with a white bandage around her eyes.
Why did it seem like she’s looking at me? She had those bandages, so she wouldn’t be able to see me, but she had turned her head to exactly where I was.
Perhaps they noticed my thought because the man who had been grumbling approached me closely and blocked my view.
“Don’t worry. It often happens.”
The man couched once then gestured towards the restaurant. “Let’s have dinner first–”
“I want to meet the guide,” Takan cut him off.
For a moment, I had goosebumps. Everyone who had been eating stopped and looked at us. It felt like seeing the shapely eyes of a herd of beasts in a dark forest.
“Or is everyone in this place a guide? We’re in a hurry.”
Takan didn’t seem to care about the daunting situation. I had no idea when the deafening silence would end. But at that moment, I heard dry wood creaking.
I looked up and saw a man coming down from the top of the stairs. Then, the intense gaze on us fell, and everyone jumped from their seats.
Everyone held their breath and turned towards the stairs.
The man with the glasses looked sad. Unlike the appearance of a religious leader, he wore colorful ornaments all over his body that made his eyes frown.
The man stopped in front of the woman who had fallen. The man’s face contorted deeply with compassion and contemplation, as if he couldn’t stand such a situation.
“It’s messed up.”
The man reached out and gently cleaned the bandage that had loosened. When he tried to help the woman stand, she retreated to the wall.
A crack appeared on the man’s face. A moment later, he smiled softly again. “Don’t be afraid.”
The man gritted his teeth and twisted his shoulder to raise her. He then turned towards the crowd.
“Gentlemen, I can’t stand abusive remarks directed at sick people.”
When the man’s voice rang with dignity, everyone bowed their heads with a loud reply.
It was a sight to behold. As the man nodded and released the woman’s shoulder, the woman ran away, climbing the steps in a rush.
“What are these people?” Takan muttered to himself in annoyance.
While we knew they were a group, it was a shock to see how subservient they were to their leader. Just what was this crowd?
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