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In a World without God Chapter 27

Crackling sounds echoed as spiders gathered around. The spiders crawled into the cocoon where Laotou slept. It looked as if the cocoon had been painted black. However, not one of the many spiders touched the inside of the cocoon, Laotou's body. They were protesting against Edulis.

 

“Not a single finger can be lifted against Lady Laotou. Back off. Otherwise, you will die!’... Edulis...” Aruru said, his voice trembling. Terrified, Aruru hid in Edulis' arms. Edulis didn't respond to Aruru's words. With his hands on the ground, he stared at the man who had attacked him.

 

"Who are you?"

 

"I am the keeper of Lord Laotou's slumber."

 

The man's appearance was peculiar. His hair was graying, yet his face was younger than his years, giving no indication of his age. He lacked a right eye and right arm, and his face and half his body were covered in dark, sooty stains, entwined with black spider webs.

 

Edulis knew about the stains. No, he wasn't just aware of it. Because Bosha had died from that very stain! It was the witch's poison.

 

"O you tainted by the witch's poison! Do not stand in my way, for I must awaken Laotou to dispel the pervasive lies in this land with the light of Goddess Lutea. 

 

"You talk big for a child who rolls on the floor because he can't parry a single blow."

 

Edulis rolled his eyes and chewed the flesh in his mouth. The man held a long axe spear that was more than twice his height. Edulis recognized the spear. It was Laotou's weapon.

 

Edulis wondered. Who was this man? If Laotou trusted him enough to entrust him with his weapon, there was no way Bosha didn't know him.

 

"Get out of the way! I’m in a hurry!"

 

Magick sizzled from Edulis's body. Edulis lifted his right foot to just below his knee and slammed it down on the ground. Shaking the ground is Bosha's specialty. Edulis leaped upward at the same time. He swung his body vertically as if he were a saw blade cutting through wood.

 

Clang! 

Axe spear and curved sword clashed. The man stood unmoving like a boulder hit by a pebble, blocking Laotou's cocoon. Edulis, on the other hand, was flung backward, landing ten steps away from the man.

 

"How...." Edulis's pupils widened. His eyes widened and he glared at the man. The man wore pure white magi all over his body. Just like Igrainne and the Apostles! Of course, his purity was far from that of Ygraine and the Apostles but the very idea of a human operating a white magick was absurd.

 

Any human could accumulate white magick by refinement. But it cannot be used. You can't let it flow through your body, and you can't send it out. It can only be accumulated by monks as a measure of their faith, and compared to each other for the purity of its color. Even though he was born with a lump of white magick, Edulis could use no more than a strand of hair.  Yet, what was this man?

 

"Go away, child, you cannot disturb Lady Laotou's rest."

 

The man swung his large axe spear in one hand. It batted away Edulis's sword as easily as if he were swatting away a mosquito or a fly.

 

"If it is not with Laotou, I will not return."

 

"Then you will never get out of here."

 

Clang, clang, clang, clang!

 

Like maple seeds blowing in the wind, Edulis's body whirled in midair several times, drawing a black arc. It was an attack that could only be unleashed by someone who had mastered the Black Fang Sword Technique. He twisted his center of gravity in midair, unleashing a series of attacks.

 

"........"

 

But the man parried Edulis' attacks with ease. Edulis's attacks. Edulis was the one getting injured. The problem was Laotou's axe spear. The Apostle's weapon is at its best against white magick. Every time the man swung his axe, a sharp whirlwind of wind rose and engulfed Edulis. Edulis was torn to shreds and covered in blood.

 

He looked like a deeply wounded beast as he glared at him, dripping with blood. The man simply stared back at him in disbelief. 

 

"Eh, Edulis, let's go back, there must be something else!" Aruru said.

 

"Another way? There is no such thing." Edulis replied.

And indeed that was the case. No other clues were leading to Luthea besides Laotou. Could he defeat this man by backing down and bringing in an ally? No. Edulis, now stronger than when he was Bosha, was being overwhelmed by this opponent. What significance would numbers hold against such a foe? 

 

"This guy... who is he?” Edulis swallowed the question. All he could do now was fight back. Edulis poured all his magic into his sword.

 

"No way...." The man muttered.

 

The blade of Edulis's sword doubled and tripled in length as he channeled his magic, and it became shaped like a giant scythe. Though the blade's direction was reversed.

 

Edulis crouched lower and lower, his weight-bearing foot digging deep into the ground. This was a technique not passed down in the Black Fang. Bosha had developed it alone.

 

Ssheeak!

 

Edulis's movements were like a thunder dragon's when it raised its claws to snatch its prey. Faster than sound. The black-blue blade looked like a bolt of blue lightning.

 

"Uraeus’s providence…” Edulis looked back and muttered. "Do you hate granting me the chance to become Lutea's sword that much?"

 

The man's clothes were torn in half, and there was a thin, raw line across his stomach, but that was all. The man was still standing where he had been, wrapped in his white magick.


Edulis's remaining magick flickered like a candle about to go out. Then, the man spoke.

 

“No way, are you…Captain Bosha?"

 

Edulis narrowed his eyes. “Do you know me?"

 

The man nodded. "Do you not know me? I am Amer Taharka Ursmet."


Edulis frowned, unable to remember whose name it was. Only when he heard the man's next words did he nod.

 

"The last emperor of the Ur Empire."

 

***

 

Taharka had been on the battlefield with the Black Fangs, led by Bosha. It was back when he was still a prince before the witch had devoured the Ur Empire.

They were defending the port city of Luxor in the southeastern part of the imperial capital, El Medina. The empire planned a pincer operation: the main force led by Prince Taharqa from the north and the Black Fang mercenaries led by Bosha from the south to repel the invading monster army.

 

They were to wait until morning, when the demons would be weakened, to ambush them... However, Bosha broke this agreement. Before the morning dawned, he leaped out and attacked the demons.

 

Upon receiving the report, Taharka hastened to mobilize his army, for otherwise there would be no point in a pincer attack. Just then, Taharka saw Bosha use the technique.

 

The soldiers marveled at the sight. They were excitedly proclaiming that a man named Bosha had created lightning from the ground. But Taharka was not amused, and he went to question Bosha.

 

"Hey, mercenary, why are you acting spontaneously? Don't you know there's such a thing as a plan?"

 

Bosha scratched his ear and said."What's the big deal, the results are good, no one died."

 

"Operations exist to increase the survival rate of soldiers, but you put countless soldiers in danger! How can you do that as a captain?"

 

"Oh dude, you’re so damn loud."

 

Bosha blew on the finger he had used to clean his ear. Only Bosha could dare call the Ur Empire's prince 'dude.'

 

"Soldiers' survival rates? Fine. But don't you see the civilians dying before your eyes? The longer the monster army stays, the more civilians die."


"I know! It's sad! Tragic! But... a leader must see the bigger picture, to minimize casualties!"


"By weighing the lives of civilians against the lives of the soldiers?"

 

"We must! One soldier can save more than one person. As a leader, shouldn't you prioritize the life of a soldier?"

 

"Well said. So who minimized the damage, you? Or was it me?"

 

Taharka gritted his teeth. What Bosha is talking about is consequences. Taharka does not rejoice in the deaths of his people. Taharka even travels to the graveyards to pay his respects to the dead. That much love for his people makes Bosha's behavior all the more unacceptable.

Bosha turned to the sulking Taharka and said.

 

"That's what you get for putting on a good front. Unable to do it yourselves, so you criticize mercenary tactics...."

 

"What?!"

 

"I'm stronger than you, and my mercenaries are stronger than your army. That's why we saved civilians and didn't lose soldiers. That's all. Why make excuses?"

 

Taharka's stomach churned. Leaders must balance scales, inevitably facing tough decisions. Taharka always struggled and struggled to make a decision, deliberating to himself, considering the best outcome for most people.

 

"You don't know, Captain Bosha, what kind of heart I live with!"

 

***

 

"You're such a fool, Bosha. To think that you, who used to flaunt your strength, are now bleeding in front of me."

Edulis was quiet. 

 

"So, what excuse do you have?"

 

"I have no excuse."

 

With that, Edulis knelt on the floor. "I'm sorry, Taharka, I got cocky with you when I’m so weak." Edulis shook his head, his voice trembling.

 

"I didn't realize I was weak until it was too late when I was dying without being able to say the things I wanted to say to the people I cared about, without being able to see them in my eyes....... It wasn't until I realized that I hadn't protected anything and that someone I cared about had suffered terribly, that I truly understood. That I was weak."


Taharka stared at Edulis. 

 

"I am weak. So weak that my gut twists and my eyes water with rage! But Taharka.... There is only me. I am the only one in the world who knows that Granadilla's lies have covered the continent, the only one who still believes that the light of Lutea still lives!"

 

Taharka made no reply but merely stared down at Edulis, who, with his forehead pressed to the floor, spoke.

 

"If there is anyone else, tell me. Someone who can bring Luthea back to life and end the darkness on the continent. Someone who will drive a sword into the heart of the force of the witch that stirs in the darkness! If there is such a person, I will stand down. No, not just that? I would even eat dirt instead of food here, apologizing to you for the rest of my life. Then I'd be happy to be scattered into the void as dust.” 

 

Taharka still did not speak. Edulis continued.

 

"But if you know no other.... then I will struggle as hard as I can, like a dog whose ass has been kicked, like an earthworm whose head has been crushed! I will illuminate the continent with the light of Lutea!"

 

"Ha...."

 

After staring at Edulis for a long moment, Taharka laughed and snorted.

 

"Funny."

 

"Taharka!"

 

"You flaunted your power, and now you lie prostrate. I, who proclaimed my love for my people, failed to save them and am left in this sorry state. Isn't it laughable?"

 

Taharka stared down at Edulis for a long moment, then lifted his feet off the ground. He raised his axe spear in front of Edulis and set it down in front of Laotou's cocoon.

 

"Spiders... please laugh at us."

 

With that, Taharka took a step to the side. As Taharka stepped back, the spiders surrounding the cocoon moved away. Edulis' eyes caught sight of Laotou, and now no one stood between her and him.

 

Edulis crawled on all fours, afraid that Taharka might change his mind. He approached the front of the cocoon and cleared his throat. 

Then, from Edulis's mouth came a voice so soft that it surprised even him.


"Wake up, Laotou."


Edulis stroked Laotou's forehead.



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