”Priestess, this way, please! ”
Mayas cry sounded so distant, even though he was running right in front of her. The sound of peoples frightened screams and buildings collapsing drowned her voice. It filled her head with terror.
Never in her life did she imagine that the village where she lived would end up like this. She was afraid to look back, but the urge was too strong. Eventually, she turned her head, only to find a path of blood, with red color as the prominent background.
Lost was the forests lustful green or the wheat fields golden. The only thing that remained was the bright red of flame as it engulfed everything on its way. People, buildings, and everything they had painstakingly built until this time.
She felt like crying when she looked at that devastating sight.
”Help! ” Please help me! ”
The scream of a woman made her instantly turn her head.
Not far behind them was a woman carrying a child in her arms. Her clothes were burned, and an arrow was buried in her back. She held her child in one arm while the other one reached out desperately for something, for someone.
”Maya, there is a mother and child there! We have to help them! ”
”Priestess! Now its not the time for that! We have to ensure your safety first, ” Maya responded without even sparing a glance at the mother and child pair. She pursed her lips with a pained expression as though she couldn bear to look at them.
The Priestess knew that Maya was bound by her duty, but she couldn sit still, knowing she could help a person in front of her. Her conscience wouldn allow it.
”Just a moment! Please give me just a moment! After this, I won complain anymore. I beg you, Maya! ”
The female guard bit her lips like she wanted to say something. Blood trickled from one of her arms to the ground, but the pain couldn be compared to the dilemma she was facing right now.
”Alright, Priestess. But this is probably dangerous, so make sure to stick close to me. Allow me to guard you. ”
”Maya, thank you so much! ”
They made a U-turn and quickly approached the woman who was already on the verge of passing out.
When they reached her, she was Ying down on the ground, soaking in a pool of blood. It was a miracle she could stay awake with so much blood loss.
Maya instinctively knew this woman wouldn hold on much longer, but she didn have the heart to tell the Priestess that.
The Priestess crouched on the ground, without caring how the blood dirtied her white praying attire.
”Madam, please hang in there! Can you hear me?! ” She urgently called out to her, hesitating whether she should shake her. That arrow pierced her flesh deeply; it looked excruciating.
”M-My baby… Please…. ” The woman said in between her labored breath. ”S-save him, I beg you. ”
Maya wasted no time and snatched the boy from her embrace. The boy was small and light. He looked around 3 years old and unconscious.
Maybe that was a blessing for him in a way. This way, he wouldn have to witness how her mother met her end tragically.
”Priestess, we got the boy. Those men would be here anytime now. We should go now. ”
”Madam, can you stand? Let me help you! ”
”P-Priestess? Are you really the Priestess from the Holy Shrine? ” The woman looked up at her with unfocused eyes.
”Yes, I am. Please hang on. We will bring you out of here. ”
The woman pushed her hand away. ”No need. Its already too late for me. Please just let my baby out of here. This is my only wish. ”
Maya grabbed the Priestesss shoulders urgently, ”Priestess, we don have much time. ”
Looking at the womans sad face, the Priestess felt helpless and angry. Just what do they do to deserve this?
This morning, everything was still as peaceful as always. Those people with uniforms suddenly came and attacked them out of nowhere. There was no room for negotiation whatsoever.
However, there was no time to get angry. Maya and that boy would be in danger, too, if she dilly-dallied any longer.
The Priestess clasped the womans hand in hers before solemnly praying, ”May your beautiful soul be forever by your childs side to protect him. I sincerely pray for you two to meet again in the next life. ”
The dying woman didn shed any tears until then, but after hearing the Priestesss heartfelt prayer, she couldn hold back her feelings anymore.
”My baby… Ah, my baby, you have to live. Please forgive this Mother of yours. Im sorry for leaving you alone! ”
Maya looked away, her lips trembling ever so slightly.
The Priestess slowly put down the womans hand. The ripple in her eyes disappeared as she stood up.
”I promise I will get your boy out of this safely. ”
”T-thank you very much…. ”
”Maya, lets go. ”
The female guard hesitated for a moment before following the Priestess steps, leaving the dying woman weeping by herself behind.
Every step she took felt heavy, but how could she be considered a guard if she wasn as strong as the Priestess?
Suppressing the guilt and sadness in her, she cradled the boy more carefully in her arm.
They ran through the mountain without stopping. Usually, people wouldn choose this route to get out of the island. However, the forest was burned to ash, while the main road was filled with the enemys soldiers. They had no other choice.
The Priestess suddenly stumbled and fell, but she instinctively protected the boy in her arms.
”Priestess! Are you alright? This road is a bit steep. Please watch your footing! ”
”Im alright, Maya. ” She smiled as she stood up slowly. ”And the baby seemed fine too. Thank goodness. ”
How could a sheltered woman like her have the strength to go through a difficult path? Even a trained guard would have difficulty, let alone her.
”Priestess, let me hold the boy. ”
”No, I just tripped on the rock. Besides, you are hurt while Im perfectly fine. Let me do this, at least. ”
Maya could see her legs shaking as she put on a strong facade. It made her heart ache in pain. She didn understand why a person as kind as her would be labeled a monster.
”Please hold on just a bit more. After this hill, we should be able to see the sea. A small boat is prepared on the back of the shore behind this mountain. We can escape using that. ”
”I see. But are we really going to escape alone? ”
”Priestess, there is a high possibility that these people are coming for you. Once you flee from the island, they will naturally leave the villagers alone. ”
The Priestess looked down gloomily. No matter what, there was still nothing she could do.
She might be a priestess, but her power was useless in situations like this.
She had no choice but to follow Mayas advice.
”I understand. Lets continue then. ”
The road after that became rougher, and by the time they could finally see the sea, her attire was already drenched by sweat and stuck to her body.
”Priestess, look! We are almost there! ”
She raised her head, and her eyes widened, seeing a vast crystal blue water unfold before her eyes. It shone like a brilliant gem under the sun.
It was her first time seeing such a magnificent view, yet she had no time to admire it. But at least it sparked more energy in her to go on.
In the next hour, they arrived on the shore. Maya couldn hide her relief and smiled widely. ”Priestess, we made it! ”
However, the Priestess couldn smile. Because she knew they weren alone.
Through her clear violet eyes, she could see them. A restless and unfortunate soul. And that could only mean one thing.
”Maya, be careful. There are— ”
”Catch them! ”
Before she could finish her sentence, a loud voice could be heard, followed by a thunderous cheer from all directions. She could see many soldiers come out of nowhere, brandishing their weapons as they charged toward them.
”Priestess! Run! ” Maya shouted while taking out her swords. She was clearly outnumbered but looked as fierce as a tiger as she took them on.
The sound of fighting erupted as the Priestess quickly turned back to where they came from.
She ran as fast as her tired leg could bring her. Her shoes fell off in the way, but she didn bother to stop and kept running.
There was no time to think or hesitate. Even if she couldn escape, at least she had to bring the boy somewhere safe first!
”Haah…Hah… ” She panted hard while taking out a dagger from inside her wide sleeve.
It was something that her old friend gave her before she escaped the shrine with Maya. If push came to shove, she had to fight for her life.
Her hands trembled just imagining that. However, Maya was risking her life out there for her. She couldn back down just because she was scared.
Suddenly, a man appeared in front of her. He probably used another route to get ahead and ambushed her from the front.
”Got you, woman! ”
He closed in on her, and as adrenaline pumped blood to her head, she unsheathed her dagger and slashed the only opening in his iron-clad uniform. His neck.
Everything happened in a split second; she didn have time to second-guess herself. Blood splattered and got to her face while the man cried out in pain. His action aggravated his injury and made blood gush out from her neck even more.
She felt horrified and nauseated just by looking at the gory scene. The dagger in her hand suddenly felt ten times heavier; she wanted to let it go so badly.
However, she gritted her teeth, jumped over to the fallen soldier, and kept running. Holding the dagger tightly, she didn look back even once.
”Chase after her! Don let her escape! ”
The Priestesss lung felt like it would burst anytime. She stopped briefly to catch her breath, but the sound of her chasers footsteps spurred her to move again.
She tripped on the tree roots and fell to the ground. She wanted to get up but found herself unable to do so. Meanwhile, those soldiers were getting closer.
Is this the end? I couldn run anymore.
She looked down to see the boy in her arms, and a sad smile adorned her tired face.
No, she couldn give up. Not like this. She promised the boys Mother she would get him out safely.
She beat her trembling legs before forcing herself to stand up. It worked a bit, but she would get captured if she kept running.
She had to hide.
Looking around, she found a big rock not far from where she stood. She dragged herself and hid behind the rock while trying hard not to let out any sound.
Soon, her pursuer arrived, and she was too nervous to breathe properly.
”Did you find her? ”
”Its no good. We lost her! ”
”Are you serious? We will lose our heads if we return without her! ”
”But how could a woman like her run so fast? This unfamiliar terrain brings disadvantages for us! ”
”At least we got the other woman. Do you think the Emperor would be pleased? ”
”Stupid! How can you compare the Holy Priestess with a mere guard like her? Don play around and search for her! ”
The Priestess prayed inwardly for those people to leave quickly. And as though God listened to her prayer, those mens voices slowly faded away.
They were finally gone.
She slumped forward as her tense body gradually lost its strength. Now what?
From their conversation, it was safe to assume that those people had captured Maya. She was worried about her, and it frustrated her because she couldn do anything to help.
The road was blocked from every direction, and she couldn escape through the sea anymore. She was doomed to die there. Mayas sacrifice would be for nothing.
The Priestess stared at the sleeping boy, and a bitter smile adorned her face.
”Even if I die today, I will ensure those people won find you. Im sorry, little boy. Its sad, but we have to part here. May Gods protection always be with you. ”
She carefully caressed his head before kissing his forehead to give him her blessing.
Then, she put the boy down carefully in the most hidden spot. Her heart felt heavy as she used the bush behind the rock to cover his body.
”Please survive, no matter what. ”
The boy would be implicated if she stayed there too long, so she slowly came out of her hiding place and cautiously looked around. Those soldiers had long gone, so the coast was clear.
”If I surrender myself, I wonder if they will let Maya go? ”
While her head was filled with various thoughts, the road suddenly cracked beneath her feet, causing her to lose her balance.
Ah. I will fall. Why am I so careless? Even though Maya had warned me repeatedly.
She could see the bottom of the cliff as gravity pulled her below. She shut her eyes and was ready to give in to fate when a strong arm suddenly enveloped her waist from behind.
Maya? Is that you?
Her mind spun, and the sight in front of her was hazy. She tried to look at the face of her savior, but the sunlight behind that person blinded her.
A pair of bloody red eyes was the only color she saw before her consciousness drifted away.
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