Anthem of the Homeland
The night watch room, Gomag Public Treatment Facility.
“Oh yeah, have you heard the rumors about the singing?” A doctor wearing a worn out white coat asked as he shuffled a deck of cards. “I heard a little of the voice. It felt kind of… nostalgic in a way. The feeling you get when you hear an old song for the first time in a while.”
“Then it’s gotta be someone nearby humming. Probably went to school with you or something,” another doctor said as he threw a card on the table. “Personally, I don’t like these rumors of ghosts so close to these patients. Even though they don’t wake up, they’re still alive. One ‘tank’.”
“It’s not that big of a deal yet. Two ‘knights’.”
“That means it’s just a matter a time. One ‘aristocrat’ and one ‘servant’.”
Cards piled up on the table. One of the doctors cursed under his breath with a scowl and tossed in a coin.
“Do you think they’ll recover? The patients.”
“I doubt it. There’s something strange about them. Usually, people in comas that long show signs of deterioration and their bodies get dirty, but those patients don’t exhibit any of those symptoms at all.”
One of them had a sudden realization. “… aren’t the adventurers out on patrol a little late?”
Heavy security had been placed around the building in anticipation of an attack by a dangerous group. Adventurers patrolled the areas in shifts and checked in at the watch room every thirty minutes. The doctor looked at the clock. Almost a whole hour had passed since they last showed up.
“Who knows? Maybe they got diarrhea or something. Anyways, next game.”
“No, if they had diarrhea, you’d think they’d at least come get some medicine.”
“Whatever, just deal the cards. I need to get my revenge.”
The doctor, who had half stood up out of his chair, sat back down with a sigh.
Meanwhile, a group of adventurers, including a certain woman in red leather armor, lay collapsed on the ground outside in a patch of darkness, out of reach of the moon and the watchfires’ illumination. None of them bore even a single external scratch, yet none of them retained even a sliver of consciousness.
Also at the same time, a group of men, all wrapped in dark cloaks which blended in with the night, silently infiltrated the hospital ward.
Wait. Without a sound, one of the invaders signaled to his comrades using lip movements and hand signs. There might be someone hiding.
Why do you think that?
I hear singing.
The men listened carefully.
I hear it. But, I don’t think it’ll be an obstacle to our mission.
I agree. We don’t have much time. Let’s hurry.
The man who first stopped them thought for a bit, then nodded slightly.
They dashed through the darkness, unlocked the door to the patient’s room, slid inside, walked up to a particular bed, and confirmed the face of the sleeping middle aged man.
There’s no doubt. This is the first target, Odle N Gracis.
The men took out a black body bag and spread it out. Just as one of them lifted the patient up and was about to stuff him in the bag–
Odle opened his eyes.
“Eh?” A startled voice slipped out of the man carrying him.
With a loud thump, Odle’s body dropped to the ground.
What are you doing!?
Sensing an emergency situation, the other men entered a cautious stance. Before their eyes, their comrade who had been carrying Odle’s body now lay collapsed on the floor. A puddle of dark red liquid seeped out of his body. The smell of iron began to waft throughout the room.
Odle stood up. He stared straight at the men with his bloodshot eyes. Then, with his mouth stretched open as wide as it could go, he started to project an inaudible voice.
Odle’s body shook back and forth as his mouth continued to move.
These unexpected developments were not enough to faze the intruders. They had a mission they needed to carry out silently, and just a little noise had mixed in. But no one in the hospital seemed to have noticed yet. Even if their target showed resistance, their job remained the same. Perhaps they would need to get a little rough, but that was it.
They saw it.
That strange sight which suddenly seemed to cover their entire field of vision.
That ashen plain.
Devoid of humans, devoid of towns and cities, a world in which only the sun and moon circulated around and around, giving birth to an endless cycle of day and night.
At that strange and foreign scene, for some reason, the men felt a powerful surge of nostalgia. An inexplicable, overwhelming sense of homesickness came over them and strained their hearts.
Amidst the confusion, they only just realized: they couldn’t move. They had lost the power to even lift their tongues, much less move an arm or leg.
Not only could they no longer tackle the slowly approaching Odle, they could no longer even dodge to defend themselves. They couldn’t even scream in terror.
Odle continued to sing in that voice which didn’t even register as sound.
Then, one after the other, the intruders collapsed to the floor with a thud.
Streams of dark red poured out from their bodies, tainting the neatly cleaned hospital room.