With the purification of the miasma complete, I put a light slime on top of my head, then we entered the tower with the Emperor Scavenger Slime at the lead.
This tower looks just like a donut when looked at from above and is divided into four sections. From outside in, there’s the dormitory of the prison guards and the executioners, the waiting area while they’re on duty, the prison for the prisoners on death row, and the execution ground itself.
The passages have also been made complicated to prevent prisoners from escaping. The place was no longer in use and was quite dark, but the light slime on my head provided enough light for all of us, so we could move without problem.
The undead within the tower weren’t a problem either. With the entrance passage narrow, the emperor’s giant body could easily cover the entire passage, so any undead with a physical body had no way of escape. And the prison guards would approach, only to be pushed back as though they were swallowed by a wave.
The wraiths appeared to have been hiding within the walls to get away from the smoke, and they could be seen passing through the walls from time to time, but a Lightshot made short work of them. So long as I focused my Mana Perception, I could tell whenever the wraiths were trying to approach from the walls, so dealing with them proved to be no problem too.
“I thought we had our work cut out for us when I first saw the town, but now that we’ve gotten down to it, it’s not difficult at all.” [Reinbach]
“I did agree to use the slimes for help, but… When it’s this easy, it’s no fun at all.” [Schieber]
“Sebasu-san, water please.” [Ryouma]
“Leave it to me. ‘Water’” [Sebasu]
Sebasu-san conjured a huge amount of water, and the emperor slime happily drank. After some dozen seconds, the slime’s body shook as it told me that it was enough.
“Thank you very much, it’s okay now.” [Ryouma]
“Please feel free to ask me for help anytime.” [Sebasu]
We continued to walk after that too. I don’t know how it’s like for other towers, but this tower is quite big. But I suppose that’s a given considering there’s the execution ground and the living quarters for all the prisoners and the staff, as well as other necessary facilities.
“The Everlasting Darkness (Herb) is in the basement, right?” [Reinbach]
“Yes. It’s an herb that can be found in dark places without light like a cave. The Execution Ground of Hunger and Thirst meets the condition for them to grow.” [Remilie]
“That sure takes me back… In the past, I would accompany the new recruits in their training and would see it every year. Those stairs make for just the right tool to train your legs.” [Schieber]
“Is there a staircase there that’s long enough that it could train your legs?” [Ryouma]
“Hmm? Did we not tell you?” [Schieber]
“Well, I’ve heard about how the prisoners here are executed by starving them, but nothing about the structure inside…” [Ryouma]
“I see. In that case, let’s talk about it now. It’s a story that will make you feel sick to your stomach, though.” [Schieber]
After opening with that, Schieber-san started talking.
In the Execution Ground of Hunger and Thirst, there exists only a long spiral staircase and a series of shackles. Everyday, a prisoner on death row would be brought in to be shackled at the first step. The following day, the guards will check if he’s still alive, then they will bring him down a step. As this process repeats itself over and over again, the prisoner will gradually move further and further away from the surface.
Moreover, whenever they confirm that a prisoner is still alive, they will give him hard bread and water. When I heard that, I couldn’t help but wonder, wasn’t this the Execution Ground of Hunger and Thirst? Why would they give him food? Wasn’t this a place where prisoners were executed by depriving them of food and water? But apparently, they weren’t giving him that out of the goodness of their hearts. Of course, neither the bread nor the water were poisoned. They could be eaten normally.
But the rations were provided only once a day. And just enough for about two-thirds of the prisoners. Moreover, the guards would place them in front of those at the highest step. So there weren’t enough food, and the prisoners down below couldn’t eat unless they got their portion from the other prisoners above them via a bucket relay.
Given such circumstances, it wasn’t too hard to imagine what would happen. Obviously, the prisoners at the top would monopolize the food. Even if the rations were being handed out only once a day, they’ll be fine as long as they don’t share. It’s a trivial matter to secure three meals if there’s enough food for two-thirds of the prisoners. If you count one’s own meal plus two more, then that’s three meals in total. But of course, there are those who will try to get more portions than just that.
However, the people down below won’t allow that. Those at the top might be able to secure their meals easily at the start, but the amount that they can secure for themselves will diminish by the day. Before long, they too will begin to suffer and will desperately try to find a way to get food. In other words, they will fight for it.
The chains that shackled them indeed prevented them from standing up and fighting with each other, but it’s been designed so that they could still reach the prisoner next to them, so it was possible to make their neighbors drop the food from their hands, further stimulating conflict among them the prisoners; however, it wasn’t possible for them to fight to the point of death.
As they descended further down the stairs, eventually the food will no longer be able to reach them, and their body will weaken from hunger and thirst. Unable to quibble physically with the other prisoners, the most they can do now is to insult those that could still eat.
…But even then, such prisoners were still among the healthier ones. Those even hungrier would lose their sanity, and some would even dare encroach the taboo of cannibalism. They would wring out the last of their strength to try and eat the meat yet within reach.
It’s a difficult thing to eat another person due to the length of the chains, but they could still inflict a fatal wound on another person that would lead to their death if they were to desperately attack. They were chained day and night with no toilet privileges, after all. So they could only allow their excrements to drop on the spot. With their bodies starved and abused, it was only natural that their immune system would dramatically weaken.
Whether it was from up above, or down below, or right from the center, the voices of the inmates would fill the execution ground. From the moment a prisoner sets foot in the execution ground, insults, agonizing cries, resentment, and even madness would reverberate throughout the whole prison atrium to fill them with dread until the day they breathed their last. That was the Execution Ground of Hunger and Thirst.
“It’s kind of tragic. I know it’s normal to be punished according to the crimes they’ve committed, and I know it’s necessary, but… No wonder they became undead.” [Ryouma]
“Good. Make sure you don’t forget that feeling. Humans are creatures that are capable of unbelievably cruel and vicious things when they believe they are right.
At the time, all the atrocities committed at the Execution Ground of Hunger and Thirst were believed to be just. They were punishing sinners, so there was nothing to be ashamed of, and if anything they ought to be praised. It was for the same reason that the vigilantism of the prison guards was tacitly approved. It is said that those who stood up in protest received criticism from those around them and were themselves executed.
The knights use this place to train themselves not only to hone their physique and skills but also to teach the next generation about the actions of those that took justice too far, and that justice isn’t something that is absolute and unchanging. It is imperative for knights to possess a sense of justice, but it would not do for them to lose themselves in their justice. By then, justice will cease to be justice and distort into mere violence.” [Schieber]
Indeed, there are many such examples in my previous world, such as the popular ‘Witch Hunts’. Depending on the era, the executions were not only punishment for the guilty, but also a form of entertainment for the masses. As the saying goes, one man’s sorrow is another man’s honey. It appears that no matter the age or the world, it is human nature to delight in the suffering of others under the pretense of justice.
Knights, who hold great power in both substance and authority, and even those who aren’t ought to remember that, lest they find themselves astray of the human way.
“Anyway, our conversation appears to have wrapped up at a good point.” [Schieber]
From the sound of that, we must be approaching the Execution Ground of Hunger and Thirst.
Turning left on the T-shaped hall, the path that greeted us was much wider than before. There were probably guards lined up on either side here in the past. But presently, all that’s there was a heavy, deteriorated double door along with two similarly deteriorated armor standing on both sides.
“Well, it’s this kind of place, after all, so this kind of development is pretty much a given.” [Ryouma]
As a creaking sound resounded from the two armor, they raised their spears and pointed them at us.