Aetheria – Chapter 3

Chapter 3 – Hexenjagd

The relationship between Setsura and Lucianus remained with her unremitting visits and days passed. At a blink of an eye, it had reached autumn.

Brisk air engulfed the atmosphere and the once greened leaves had turned reddish brown, whisked slowly by the incoming wind. Autumn may be the season of harvest where farmers finally get the taste of their sweat and tears; it did not seem to be the case for Setsura’s village. In fact, the bad harvest was probably the worst one they had experienced.

“This is bad; we won’t be able to last through the cold at this rate!” The farmers cried, desperately trying to salvage any almost-edible crop for the approaching winter.

“It’s a curse, something must have angered the land!” the elders of the village wailed and continued to blabber, causing crowd to gather. At first, the thought was dismissed for being superstitious but as time passed by, more and more people started to believe in it and the mood of the village became tense.

“Luci, everyone in the village are getting weird,” Setsura frowned in front of Lucianus and was responded by a gentle pat on her head.

Setsura’s words were not entirely senseless because every now and then, everyone in the village would be forced to gather in front of the shrine to perform mass praying rituals, firmly believing it would calm the wrath of the land.

Not before long, the rumour of an evil spirit was sighted among the hills spread throughout the village.

Setsura’s thumping footsteps broke the stillness of a moonless night as she ran in the dark with all her might towards the usual spot.

Faster, I must reach him faster!! Setsura’s mind was only focused on that. After all, she would never forget everything that she heard and saw in the village.

Apparently, an elder woke from his nightmare of which he believed to be a precognitive dream and started bawling that the evil spirit is now at the nearby hill and they must hold a hunt to capture it.

The call of elder did nothing but provoked every villager’s deep suppurated mental, and everyone started to assemble with weapons such as fire torch, hay fork and et cetera. Setsura, who witnessed the scene, knew she had to warn Lucianus and rushed to the hill on her own.

“Run, Luci! People are coming to get you, thinking you’re some evil spirit!” Setsura cried while struggling to keep up with her breath.

She knew that they do not have much time left since the burning flames of the torch can be seen approaching their area. Without giving Lucianus time to react, Setsura pulled his hand and started running.

The waterfall! If he hid there, no one should be able to notice it! Setsura thought of it in her heart since she never told anyone of it before.

Unfortunately, Setsura’s anxiety and stamina did not manage to keep her balanced from all the running and she fell on the ground, making a loud noise.

Lucianus, who Setsura did not released her grip from during her fall, fell simultaneously. The sound alerted the villagers and they rushed towards it with mixture feelings of fear and anger.

By the time Setsura managed to get a hold of herself, it was too late. The villagers had surrounded them and they gasped in shock when they saw Setsura was with the ‘evil spirit’.

“Listen, he is not an evil spirit! You guys got the wrong one!” Setsura stepped in front of Lucianus with her arms wide, confronting the adults.

“No, don’t believe in her! The spirit tainted her and we must capture both of them to relieve the wrath of lands,” the elder yelled at the top of his voice followed by mutters among the villagers.

“Capture them, capture them, capture them…,” the mutters began to haunt Setsura’s ears and they approached the couple.

“Wait… no! You guys got the wrong one,” Setsura took one step back but she got nowhere to run.

The villagers dragged Lucianus and Setsura down and forcefully pushed their face against the ground, successfully capturing them. Contented with fear, Setsura’s eyes skimmed through the adults helplessly until she saw a familiar face.

“Mom, help! Is me!” Setsura cried in distress towards her mother.

“No, you’re not Setsura! She had been spirited away and it’s your fault! Give me back my daughter you demon!” Setsura’s mom shouted coldly, refusing to recognise her own child. Utterly surprised by the respond of her mother, endless stream of tears started to dribble down Setsura’s bruised cheeks.

Setsura and Lucianus was tied and brought back to the village by the villagers and thrown to the ground upon arrival. Bruises can be seen forming on their skin, hinting they have been roughly handled along the journey.

Setsura coughed roughly, unused to the sand that went into her throat during her fall. Her eyes were fully swollen from the excessive cries earlier. On the contrary, Lucianus remained calm, cool and collected although it was visible from his eyes that he was highly irritated to a certain extent.

The villagers started to fence up the area in square shape where four wooden sticks were put at the corners, connected with a thick white rope. Along the rope, ribbons made of white cloth and amulets written in red ink could be seen dangling on it.

At the same moment, a few villagers started to dig a deep pit on the ground. From the sight of it, it was obvious that it will be used to bury both Setsura and Lucianus.

I am innocent… Setsura murmured to herself as the elders of the village started to chant holy words from the sutra kept within the shrine. The villagers surrounded the outer square, kneeling and performing various hand gestures in a unified form.

Setsura could barely understand the meaning of the chanting words but she knew that both Lucianus and she would be used as life sacrifice by the end of the ceremony.

During the ritual, Setsura and Lucianus were occasionally splashed with holy water but neither one of them attempted to repel.

However, the patience of Setsura ran loose right after the elders ended their chanting ceremony.

“I have not done anything wrong; I do not want to die! Release me,” Setsura struggled violently as she tried to break loose despite knowing the effort would be futile.

“No! We’re innocent, we’re…!” Before Setsura had the chance to finish her sentences, her vision turned fuzzy in an instant and it began to dye in red.

Being confused on the sudden situation, she turned her focus to Lucianus.

“Luci…,” Setsura muttered and her body fell to the ground.

She eventually remembered; few moments ago, her head was heavily struck by a hoe from a villager who panicked during her struggle and the warm liquid which she felt over her forehead was nothing but her very own blood.

Taking advantage of Setsura’s helpless state, one of the villagers cruelly kicked her into the pit.

“Setsura… Setsura!” Finally breaking his calm, Lucianus screamed Setsura’s name repetitively with his eyes widely dilated upon watching Setsura’s body fell into darkness.

I heard you, Luci… Why is this happening to me? What did I even do to deserve to die? Someone… save me! Setsura continued to mutter by herself, weeping on her tragic fate.

She was unable to move and her body grew weaker from the loss of blood. Gradually, she lost conscious of herself and fainted.

When the villagers started to splatter sand into the pit, Lucianus struggled furiously and attempted to get near the pit.

“Setsura!” Lucianus mindlessly continued to call for her name as if he intuitively knew Setsura’s deteriorating life force.

Astonished by Lucianus’s sudden wild-like behaviour, few villagers pulled his body away and once again pushed his face to the ground.

“No! You..! How dare you, filthy scums!” Lucianus scowled. His anger reached his limit and he clenched his fist.

Frightened by the uncontrollable Lucianus, the villagers grew tense and tightened the grips on their weapon. One of them, apparently the same man who hit Setsura, approached Lucianus. His motives were clear; he wanted to collapse Lucianus with his hoe.

“Burn,” Lucianus threw out the word coldly and immediately, the man was lit in fire.

The man screamed his lungs out and fell to the ground. He tried to roll around in attempt of extinguishing the blaze but it was useless. Within seconds, he stopped moving and his body proceeded to burn endlessly.

“… Monster! He’s a monster!” The villagers panicked and started to scream. Some ran cowardly while some stand rooted to the ground out of fear.

“Thou, whoreson ill-breeding lout who hast sinned; thine action shalt not be forgiven! May god hath mercy on thee; for I, Lucianus, will burn every inch of thy body and soul even in the gates of hell,” Raging blaze engulfed Lucianus in a sudden and sprung through his surroundings while his sapphire blue eyes have long shifted into blood red, seeking revenge.

The inferno swallowed everything along its path, be it humans or buildings. Hysterical cries of the villagers could be heard as they flee helter-skelter and trampled among each other.

None of them were spared by the wrath of conflagration. As the pandemonium of terror aggravated by the hunger of annihilation, the fire raged on endlessly, mimicking a living hell.

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