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In a World without God Chapter 26

"I really hate humans." Laotou sometimes said such things when she was drunk. "How dare they mock the Lady, she saved their lives!"

 

‘Everyone says that, once in a while, right??’ Bosha thought to himself, "Humans are shameless and disgusting. Selfish and ungrateful.” That was the kind of conversation Bosha had every time he shared a drink with Laotou.


Bosha thought. In Ygraine’s army of hypocrites,  there's someone who makes sense.

 

But Laotou fundamentally differed from Bosha. When the witch's army closed in on Rajastina, Bosha realized it.

 

"You fool!"

 

Laotou shouted. Someone was sprawled on the ground in front of a witch’s clone. A flushed-faced drunkard shivered, too drunk to escape.

 

The situation was urgent. Ygraine's army was running west, protecting the refugees. Only Bosha and Laotou guarded the rear of the army.

 

The drunkard was far from Boshaa. Even with Laotou, the witch's clone was too much to handle. There were too many of them.

 

And in the first place, Bosha had no intention of going to save him. It was his own fault for lying there, unable to run away after Ygraine had been running around the village for so long, trying to get people to evacuate.

 

"Let's go. Let's join the main force."

 

But Laotou ignored him and ran toward the drunkard. A fingernail protruded from the witch's clone and stabbed her in the chest. Blood flowed. For the first time, Bosha saw Laotou in her spider form. For the first time, Laotou had shown her true self.

 

"You stupid bastard!"

 

Laotou cursed, picking up the drunk and disappearing into the shadows.

 

Bosha knew the drunk's face. The day before, he'd been ranting in the bar about wanting to steal a kiss from Ygraine's lips.

 

Later, over drinks with Laotou, Bosha asked him about it.

 

"Why did you save him?"

 

Bosha didn't understand. Didn't Laotou say he hated humans? Even the drunkard had disrespected Ygraine, so why risk saving him?

 

"I hated him too!" Laotou said in disgust as if she had seen a cockroach.

 

"But the princess... the princess would have wanted me to...."

 

That day, Laotou drank more alcohol than usual. She could barely hold her head up without clenching her jaw. Her cheeks flushed like ripe peaches.

 

"Bosha, do you have any idea how lonely I am?"


"You are?"

 

Bosha hadn't thought of it. She was always laughing and talking with the others as if she were having fun.

 

“As long as I have the princess, that's all I need, but the princess wants something else. The princess loves humans. I don't care what happens to humans! But... if the Lady knows I'm thinking like this, she'll probably distance herself from me."

 

Laotou clutched her head with both hands. 

 

"I want to go somewhere no one knows about, where no humans and no witches come to visit. How I wish I could be with Princess Ygraine there. We could hunt for berries, give names to bugs... we could live like that...."

 

Bosha found dealing with such Laotou tiresome. "Bullshit. There's no such place in the world, so let's get up."

 

Bosha started to get up, but Laotou grabbed him.

 

"No, there is."

 "What?"

 

Bosha arched one eyebrow. Laotou kept his head down.

 

"Once upon a time... when I ran away from home......."

 

***

 

"What does the Fei family think they're doing, preventing us from watching the Festival of Saints?"

 

"Dozens of Erabu went into the Fey Family estate. They’re planning something. They're like a bunch of liars! Even if we go protest right now, it won't be enough. Why is everyone just standing still?!" 

 

Vaidor Tavern, people were talking about the hastily concluded Saint's Day.

 

"Protest... well, is that really necessary?"

 

"What?! Didn't you see the miracle that Captain Bosha performed?"

 

"I did, and that's why Captain Bosha... Edulis took first place in the Saint Festival, didn't he?"

 

"So what! The Fey family must pay for the lies they've been telling all these years!"

 

"Well.... Won't the taxes increase with a different lord? The taxes have decreased recently and I'm just trying to live day to day!"

 

Not many people could argue with that. A citizen must always put his own life first. Edulis had expected this.

 

The first place at the Festival of Saints would meet Luthea at St. Trisis. Luthea, who must be a fake. Edulis' trip to Trisis was scheduled for a month later. The orb demands its next sacrifice in a month as well, the same month when Edulis will be summoned to Trisis.Edulis would have to find Laotou in a month, one way or another.

 

On the wagon pulled by Velox, Edulis read Kurzina's report.

 

 - There seemed to be a limit to Laotou's ability to hide in the shadows. It does not seem to be able to travel great distances at once. The reason for this assumption is the abundance of sightings of Laotou. After disappearing from the Mastaba Hills, Laotou was spotted off the southwestern coast of Ascidian, then at the ruins of Rekabi in the southernmost part of Astania. They were last seen in the mountains of Karnak in the southeastern part of the continent. No trace of Laotou has since been found.

 

 - Granadilla sent troops into the Karnak region to search for Laotou dozens of times. As of recently, there is no record of any troops being sent to Karnak, so it seems that Laotou has yet to be found.

 

 - Was the disguising of Laotou as a war hero and displaying her in a memorial meant to provoke Laotou, who may be hiding somewhere on the continent, or was it just plain frustration?

 

"That’s Lady Laotou for you! She wasn’t caught by the witch until the very end!"  Aruru exclaimed, standing on Edulis' shoulder.

 

"But Edulis, do you think you can find Lady Laotou? Even the witch couldn't find her until the end...."

 

"Quiet."

 

Edulis was trying to remember. What Laotou had said at the bar.

 

Then the wagon stopped. The Karnak Mountains were a massive dormant volcanic field, the highest and most rugged in Astania. After getting off the wagon, Edulis began to run up the mountain. Leaping over sheer rock faces, weaving through trees that towered above him.

 

"Edulis! Edulis!" Aruru shouted.

 

"The spiders say go back! There's nothing here!"

 

"No, there is."

 

"The spiders don't lie to me! Everyone trusts and follows me as the leader of Laotou's army!"

 

"If they were Laotou's army, wouldn't they trust Laotou rather than you? Wouldn't they lie for her?"

 

Aruru bounced a couple of times on Edulis' shoulder. "Well... listening to it, maybe that's true! But surely, do you plan to search this vast place, Edulis?"

 

Edulis didn't answer Aruru's question but kept running up the mountain. It wasn't long before he reached the top, even though it was one of the most difficult mountains to climb in Astania.

 

A caldera stretched across the top of Mount Karnak. Karnak's caldera, called Lake Kebese, is as wide as a village. Once at the top, Edulis began to circle the lake. Step by step, he scanned the ground.

 

"Edulis, that's a waste of time! Spiders don't like water, and I'm sure Lady Laotou doesn't like water either!” Edulis remained focus on this task. 

 

"Edulis! Can't you hear me? Are you ignoring me because I'm a mouse?!"

 

"Hold still."

 

The climb up the mountain had taken less than an hour, but it had taken more than half a day to circle Lake Kebese. Even after half a day, Edulis had only walked along the shore of the lake.

Aruru was exhausted and had fallen asleep on Edulis' shoulder.

 

Edulis stopped walking when the sun had moved from the eastern sky to the western rim.

 

"Here it is."

 

"Uh, huh?! Did you find it? Did you find it?!"

 

Aruru jumped to his feet and looked around, but all he could see was the lake and the sun shining on it. Edulis took a step toward the lake.

 

"Edulis, you're not... going to…! No?!"

 

And another step.


"Edulis, let me down! I-I'm not going in! I don't like water!"

 

But Edulis would not listen to Aruru's pleas.

 

Splash!

 

Edulis and Aruru disappeared into the water.

 

***

 

“I wanted him to understand me. I wanted him to find me.”


“Do you know? Darkness can't understand shadows. It's the light that understands shadows.”


“And... it's the shadow that understands the light.”

 

"Avvvv, avvvv! Edulis! What? I can breathe?"

 

Where Edulis and Arulu woke up was not the bottom of a lake. Rather, a forest. The dark forest was filled with trees and conifers, many of which were not native to Karnak's climate zone. The trees and the spaces between them were covered in spider webs.

 

"We definitely entered the lake, why does it look like a forest?"

 

Aruru looked around for some time, clueless. He was right to be. Lake Kebese is an anomaly of sorts. It's a place where the lake and the forest overlap.

 

The conditions to enter were too complicated, and just hearing about it once at a bar wasn't enough to find it. To find this place, one had to walk along the shore of Lake Kebese, with their back to the sun. They had to continuously observe the shadow reflected on the water's surface. The point where the shadow disappears is the entrance to the forest.

 

Would it have been easier for Lutea? Since Lutea can produce her own light, it would have been easier for her to observe the shadows.  An army of light-hating witches would have had a hard time finding it.

 

"No, even so... To run away to a place like this? Please, grow up, Laotou."

 

Edulis muttered to himself

 

"Edulis, Edulis, the spiders are so angry, they're going to kill you if you don't get out of here soon!"

 

"Try to talk them out of it, Aruru."


"The atmosphere is more than just dangerous...."

 

Spiders swarmed around Edulis and Aruru. The swarming spiders made it impossible to see the soil. Aruru screamed in terror.

 

"Listen! This is Edulis a descendant of the Saint Ygraine and the reincarnation of Captain Bosha, and I am Aruru, the legion commander who leads the forces of Laotou!"

 

Edulis wondered when Aruru became a legionnaire but he didn’t bother to point it out. 

 

"We are the legions of the goddess Lutea, and the legions of the apostle Laotou and we have come to meet Laotou to seek help against the witch Granadilla, so make way!"

 

But the spiders seemed unwilling to move.

 

"Aruru, what did they say?"


"They say they don't care about that, and no one can pass through here. The spiders... aren't very flexible."

 

"Well, so be it."

 

Edulis wrapped his arms around himself, then shouted.

 

"Get out of the way unless you want to die."

 

Then he trudged forward through the spider webs, shaking off the spiders crawling up his legs.


 

The spiders that blocked his path were actually guideposts for Edulis. The more fiercely the spiders resisted, the closer he was getting to Laotou.

 

In fact, Edulis was having a tough time because he had to move without killing the spiders.

How could Edulis, an apostle of Ygraie, kill the warriors protecting Laotou?

 

After fighting his way through wave after wave of spiders, Edulis found himself in the center of the forest.


There were two large trees there. They were so thick that three adults couldn't encircle them with their arms. The two trees seemed to be holding hands, growing intertwined.  Something was stuck beneath the branches that intertwined. 

 

It was a cocoon. The cocoon was as big as a house, but it was shoddily made, with holes all over it.

 

Through the holes, they could see her.

 

"Laotou... all alone...."

 

Laotou was smiling, a smile as benevolent as the smile of a mother tending her sleeping baby, as innocent as the smile of a baby in its mother's arms.

 

"...You've been guarding it all by yourself."

 

Edulis looked at what was cradled in Laotou's arms and chest.  Only part of its form was visible, hidden by Uthu's chest and arms, but Edulis could tell what it was. Seeing it, Edulis remembered Laotou's wish.

 

“Do you know how lonely I am....”


“I don't care what happens to humans, as long as I have the princess....”

 

Now, like a badly assembled toy, Laotou's wish was twisted and turned and fitted together.

 

The spider part of Laotou had lost four of her eight legs, and her back was riddled with countless slash marks. A deep stab wound ran down the human's side. In Laotou's arms was something he could hardly call Luthea.

 

Could that be called being together with Lutea? Was that really what Laotou wanted?

 

'How can you smile? How can you....'

 

Edulis's hands shook like someone with a cold. He knew what was going through Laotou’s mind behind his smile. 

 

Laotou had given up hope. She weaved a coffin-like cocoon and closed her eyes, satisfied with his twisted wish. Her smile was tinged with resignation and despair.

 

Edulis wanted to bang his head on the floor, angry with himself. Laotou the drunkard, Laotou the fool. Bosha had done nothing until then. For Laotou, who had run away alone, there was no hope.

 

- Captain Bosha, be the hope of all.

 

Edulis must be different from Bosha. He must bring back all that Bosha failed to protect.

 

"Wake up, Laotou. Be my hope. Then...."

  

Edulis took a step toward Utu.

 

 "Then... I will be your hope... this time... for sure!"

 

It was that moment.

 

"Get lost."

 

Edulis hastily drew his sword, but he was unable to fully parry the attack. Edulis' body rolled across the ground.

 

A voice called out. "No one may disturb Laotou's sleep."





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