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In a World without God Chapter 14

Updated: Jan 18

Raghad surreptitiously stroked the tip of his baton under the tabletop. He felt like he had a heavy stone on his ribs, and his eyes were sunken in from days of no sleep.

 

"I heard you've been having trouble focusing on your training lately."

 

The voice was soft, but the hairs on Raghad's back stood on end as if he'd heard a dragon snore.

 

"I’m ashamed of myself, my lord."


"Here, take your tea."

 

Raghad's fingers trembled as he picked up the teacup. Seated before him was the Duke Kindatu, patriarch of House Fey. His eyebrows are arched upward like blazing flames, and his nose is as sharp as a bird of prey's beak. Though he speaks in a gentle tone before Raghad now, his temper is notoriously unforgiving and inflexible.

 

Duke Kindatu is the Chancellor of the Kingdom of Astania. Normally, he's too busy handling royal affairs to have time to spend alone with the youngest member of his family. He invites Raghad to his office for tea because the Festival of Saints is an important event for the Fey family, and Raghad is an important part of it.

 

"What makes you falter? Do you feel the weight of people's expectations on you? Do you have something you want but can't bring yourself to say? Or perhaps, have you fallen in love with a village maiden?"

 

Raghad didn’t utter a word. 


"Be honest with me, for I will solve any problem you may have."


"...My lord. My father, Ashur... is committing treason."

 

Tears fell from Raghad's eyes. Kindatu had executed his cousin and disowned him for taking a bribe. There's no way he'd let him off the hook for being his brother. Nevertheless, Raghad had to speak.

 

Raghad has been raised as a descendant of the hero Bosha. Whether or not Edulis bathed in white light, he still held doubt in his heart. Should a descendant of a hero who fought witches and saved the people be allowed to pretend he didn't see his father's corruption? A descendant of a hero must tell the truth. Only after telling the truth should one ask for forgiveness.


Forgiveness for not killing his own father.

 

"Treason? You mean my brother?"


"Yes. My father... burned the books in the library. He even erased the record of the existence of such a book from the library ledger. It's a book called the Astanian Racial Dictionary, and I know it was a grave mistake."


"Hmm... was it." Kindatu stroked his stubbly beard and sipped his tea. Then he said. “Yes. And why is that wrong?"

 

When Raghad looked back, Kindatu's response was not what he expected.

 

"Lord Fey, didn't the Lady of Fey say that books are a valuable asset, a barrier that keeps the truth from being trapped and clouded by fog, and so the Fey family library is a citadel of truth...."

 

He had broken down the walls of the Citadel of Truth. How great a sin was that? That's what Raghad thought.

 

“The truth... what do you think is the truth, Raghad?" Kindatu laughed, the corners of his mouth twisting. It was as if he was laughing at Raghad.

 

"What? Truth is... something bright and unchanging, like the light of the goddess Lutea."


"You're a fool, Raghad, you're fifteen years old, and you're talking so naively! Is it worth the truth to accuse your father, to have him executed, leaving you alone as the child of a sinner, an outcast from your family?"

 

Raghad's heart was pounding. He was afraid of Kindatu. A moment ago, he'd feared he'd kill his father, and now it seemed like he could bring his entire world crashing down. Everything he believed in!


"Truth is nothing more than a collection of facts that everyone hopes to be true. We must uphold that truth. Our fulfillment of that duty leads to the happiness of all. Your father, Ashur, has only fulfilled that duty. And yet you wish to accuse him of wrongdoing?"


Raghad was dumbfounded. No. That was not the value of truth in Raghad's eyes. Truth must be heavy. It must be heavier than life, for the descendants of Bosha have never been able to bring the descendants of Ygraine to.......

 

"Lord Kindatu…. The goddess Lutea is watching us. With eyes that pierce the truth."

 

"I know. Lutea blesses us. For we are making so many people comfortable with the truth."

 

Raghad's gaze shifted to the portrait behind Kindatu. It was large enough to fill an entire wall. It was titled Portrait of a Goddess, and it showed the goddess Lutea dispelling the darkness with her bright light. Raghad asked.

 

"So, my Lord... is the content of that painting 'true'?"

 

"Yes, it is. It is the truth. One that we, the Fey, must uphold."

 

Raghad dropped his head toward the floor. He realized that there was a huge gap between what he said and what Kindatu said.


The Portrait of the Goddess— a painting purportedly by Limousin Le Fey, the founder of House Fey.


In the painting, the goddess whips her black hair around and looks at Raghad with ebony eyes.

 

 ***

 

The Festival of Saints begins with a prayer to the goddess. When the head of the Fey family presents the Portrait of the Goddess, a painting kept in his office, the crowd prays to it.  


Limousin Le Fey is said to have met the goddess in person and painted it after seeing her in action. It is said that the goddess Lutea personally blessed the Fey family, so the people of the Fey family have the same hair and eye color as Luthea.

 

It's a story Raghad loved, and it filled him with pride as a descendant of a hero blessed by a goddess.

 

'It was all... it was all a lie.

 

Late at night, Ragad slipped out of his bedroom and ran. It was the night that everything that made up his world came crashing down. The Duke Kindatu, strict and just, and his father Ashur, kind and caring... They were no longer in his world, so who was Raghad as a man?

His mind wandered aimlessly, and then he remembered Edulis, the pure white light he emitted, and the words he had spoken.

 

- Ygraine is the name of the body I took to defeat the witch Granadilla. 

 

 Raghad ran and ran through the grounds of the Fey manor, arriving at the mansion at the western end of the estate, and then he saw the sight.

 

“What in the world….”

 

In the clearing in front of the wooden building, there were six silver-haired boys and girls. Standing in the moonlight, they held curved swords that curved like eyebrows. The arc of their swords caught the moonlight and shimmered like a  crescent moon. Their footsteps were like waterfowl shooting across the water.

 

'Are they the offspring of witches... Does this beauty really belong to a witch....'

 

As Raghad stood dumbfounded watching the drill, Edulis approached. Raghad turned to Edulis and asked.

 

"If you are a saint, answer me. Who am I?"

 

Edulis replied.

 

"That is a question you must find the answer to."

 

Raghad shook his head.

 

"The black-haired, black-eyed race does not exist in Astania. The elders of the House are hiding that fact, and they don't seem to care what the truth is. But how can that be, when the descendants of Ygraine are oppressed for life, and we don't even know we're killing innocent people!"

 

Raghad knelt on the floor, face covered in tears.


"Why do these kids like to kneel so much?” Even as he thought this, Edulis did not dislike Raghad; he was not corrupt; he at least knew what the truth was worth.


Edulis put his hand on his shoulder and asked him what he had seen and heard. Raghad recounted everything that had happened as if he were confessing a sin.

 

Edulis listened, but something caught his attention.

 

"Wait, the portrait of the goddess painted by Limousin Le Fey... you still have it?"

 

"Yes…"

 

Edulis had seen the Portrait of the Goddess when he was a Bosha. At the time, the painting had been locked away in the Fey family warehouse. Ygraine hadn't wanted to show it to anyone.

 

“It was a worthless painting. Outward beauty is not a virtue a god should strive for.” she once said. 

Later, when Bosha sneaked a peek, he realized it was Ygraine herself who was painted there, a beautiful image that stirred his faith where it hadn't been. If he were trying to cover up the truth, he would have destroyed it immediately, but it was still there.

 

"He has probably painted over her hair and eyes," Edulis muttered.


"Of course…"

 

Raghad's voice was pensive. Even a roadside bum would look more cheerful and hopeful than Raghad right now. Edulis, on the other hand, twitched the corners of his mouth as if she'd thought of something funny.

 

"Aruru, are you asleep?"

 

 Edulis said, and a small field mouse scurried out of his arms.

 

"I was just... trying to... sleep, but... it's okay, Edulis!"

 

"You told me you were good at picking locks and stealing."

 

"Don't make it sound like I'm doing something bad! I only stole from the Fey for revenge!"

 

"Anyway, why don't you come with me to see the painting now?"

 

"Paintings?! I don't know how to look at paintings!"

 

"That's okay, I'm sure it'll be fun."

 

Raghad's eyes widened.

 

"Seriously, you can't be... it’s in the Oval Office? There’s no way. Security is tight in the Oval Office, and if you get caught, you'll be...."

 

Then Aruru shouted.

 

"Descendant of Lies, are you insulting me?!"

 

***

 

Laotou was the goddess of laughter, but she was also the goddess of art. Before paper was made, people drew pictures on tightly interwoven fibers and wove them into clothes to show off.

  

As the goddess of art, Laotou was a genius at discerning the authenticity of an artwork, so she and Bosha would have conversations like, What? This is a fake? Laotou, are your eyes okay? I received this painting from the royal family of the Ur Empire!


- Who do you think you're talking to?! The Uru Empire is 80% grassland, but this red dye is made from the dried entrails of the Kashiba Desert Scorpion, as evidenced by its distinctive rough pattern. But it was made in Uru? Uru has plenty of red sorghum for dye, so why use scorpion entrails?

 

After hearing Uthu's explanation, Bosha couldn't help but be convinced.

 

-...Damn it! A royal family scamming mercenaries? How do I get revenge on these bastards?


-Putting revenge aside for now, why don't we go to the market and buy some pottery? There were a lot of earthenware pieces used by Astania's first royalty lying around. They'd be worth a fortune if we sold them.”


-Is that true? Where are you going? Come with me. I'll buy you a drink.”


-Just one?”


-No, as many as you want!”


-That’s the spirit!”

 

There were dozens of times they’d gone out together like that. Of course, 80% of the time they've gotten in trouble with Ygraine.

 

“Laotou! Get a grip! Have you forgotten who you are?


“Oh, um.... I’m sorry, Lady Ygraine.”


“Bosha! Please stop giving Laotou alcohol! You're spoiling her!”

 

Anyway, after hanging out with Laotou for so long, Bosha has become quite knowledgeable about art. He never thought he'd get to use that knowledge.

 

It was the day of the Festival of Saint. It was early morning, and the cool air settled on the floor of the amphitheater. The building was normally used for athletic events, plays, and speeches by statesmen.


About a thousand people had gathered. Considering that there were less than two hundred members of the Fey family, it was a large proportion of the general public. As the descendants of a hero, the attention the Fei family received was enormous.

 

People knelt around the Portrait of the Goddess, a painting slightly taller than a man. The members of House Fey knelt in the front row, followed by the citizens of Vaidor.

Edulis, having fasted for two days to portray the crucified figure, had squeezed into the crowd.

 

Then Kindatu, the patriarch of the Fey family, rose to speak.

 

"The goddess Lutea personally manifested herself on this earth to save humans and defeat the darkness, and we gather here to repay her for her great mercy, courage, and love. Citizens of Vaidor, people of Astania. Give thanks with all your hearts and give thanks again...."

 

But the atmosphere was strange. People began to stir, especially those seated close to the Portrait of the Goddess.

 

"The painting! The painting!"

 

"That... that's....!"

 

“What is this, a disturbance during a time of reverent prayer? Everyone, can't you be quiet!" After shouting,  Kindatu turned around to follow the gaze of the others, and his mouth fell open in surprise.

 

In the painting, Portrait of the Goddess, the goddess's hair and eyes were melting. No, to be precise, the black dye on her hair and eyes was melting down.

 

Like soot from a chimney in the rain, the black dye was dripping downward. Now, the goddess's true form was revealed.


With silver hair and silver eyes, the goddess looked exactly like Ygraine.






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