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In a World without God Chapter 33

Chapter 33

Growling, Kadesh glared at Taharka. Drool dripped from his elongated teeth, and his face showed no sign of humanity.

 

"Just wait a little longer, child," Taharka said. His voice was low and gentle. He looked like a grandfather caressing his grandchild's hair.

 

"I wish to forget my name, I wish to forget my existence, I wish to cross the fence that separates homes, I wish to cross the sea that divides islands, and I wish to give you what I have."

 

Then a white glowing crest appeared on Taharka's body and enveloped his entire body.

 

"Great Abramelin. Forgive my defiance in the pursuit of providence.."

 

A glowing crest also appeared on Kadesh's face where it touched Taharka's hand, and it too extended to his entire body as if a vine was growing out of his body.

 

"Uh... how is this...."

 

Kurzina muttered. Hathor looked frozen as well. He understood what Taharka was doing now.

 

Kadesh howled as he twisted and turned, in each twist, black sand from his body came crashing to the ground. With each spillage of sand, the cries changed from an animal cry to a human voice. Kadesh's twisted body began to return to normal. His forelimbs became hands, his knees detached from his hips, and his fangs became shorter. Soon, Kadeshi was standing upright on two legs.

 

"Bosha!"

 

Taharka shouted. The scattered ashes on the floor gathered and turned into a butterfly. At the same time, Taharka shouted, Edulis's sword clashed with a brick, creating a spark that lit up the dark crypt. The sword, covered in white magick, sliced the butterfly's body in two.

 

It was finished. With that, all the butterflies that had emerged from the black orb were gone.

 

"Ka... Kadesh?"


"You’re not dead, are you?"

 

The children cautiously approached Kadesh. Kadesh was lying on the ground with a calm face.

 

"He's alive! His heart is beating!"

 

One of the children shouted, and Kurzina turned to Hathor.

 

"Father, how could you do this? Kidnapping is a felony! This is so far outside of Lutea's will, and you must be held accountable."


"Zina... I had no choice as the head of the household. Can't you at least understand?"

 

"How many more times are you going to disappoint me?"


By then, Edulis was glaring into Taharka's face. Taharka looked at Kadesh and muttered softly.

 

"Thank goodness."

 

***

 

"Take off your robes, Taharka."

 

Only Edulis and Taharka remained in the main office. Kurzina had left to confer with the adults of the household about the kidnapped children, Hathor’s situation, and the repair of the building, which had been stripped of its floors.

 

"Are you going to laugh at my ugly molten bones?"

 

"Cut the crap."

 

"Well, I have nothing to hide…"

 

Taharka removed his robe, revealing a blackened half-body. The one-armed, one-eyed Taharka had been poisoned with the witch's poison. Only the threads of Uthu's robe prevented the poison from spreading...

 

"I see."

 

A line creased Edulis's smooth forehead. Taharka's condition was worse than before. Like the spread of mold in the rainy season, the black spots were eating away at Taharka's body beyond the area that Uthu had sealed with thread.

 

"There's no way a human can use that kind of magic and still be fine!" Edulis shouted angrily.

 

"What kind of magic is that? There's no way Lutea would tolerate such a thing!"


"Bosha, you are very clever indeed, and yes, Lutea would not approve, but it took me many, many years to realize that."

 

Taharka frowned and laughed as if laughing at himself.

 

"To give your magic to another in exchange for your existence, that is the secret of the royal family. Those who practice it lose their identity and become living corpses, but do you know how I, the practitioner of the sorcery, kept my identity?"

 

"Do I need to hear the answer?"

 

"Because I have devoured the existence of seven hundred monks."

 

Edulis just glared at Taharka.

 

"I believed it was the right thing to do, no doubt. I weighed the scales in my mind and decided that my life was worth more than the lives of 700 monks. I thought I could save more people than 700. But...... I couldn’t."

 

Taharka touched his forehead with his only hand.

 

"Bosha. Lutea does not hold a scale. There is no one in the world who can weigh human life against another. No one should.."


Edulis continued to listen. 


"I regret it. I regret all the times I weighed human lives, and I didn't save a single one of my people! If only I had focused on saving the humans in front of me, I might have been able to save some... and then…and then...!"

 

What started out as a sigh grew into something more like a scream. Edulis remembered Taharka's mutterings earlier.

 

- Thank goodness

 

Taharka, relieved to see the revived child. Taharka, regretting his irreversible past. How could Edulis not understand his feelings?

 

"Then why... why did you use your sorcery on me, Taharka? It was unnecessary. I could have succeeded without you!"

 

While Edulis fought with himself in his mind, Taharka breathed white magic into Edulis. Through the magic of the Royal Family. That, too, must have eaten away at Taharka's being, spreading the witch's poison.

 

Taharka did not answer Edulis's question, but spoke again.

 

"Bosha, are you worried about my death?"


"I'm concerned about owing you a debt! Haven't I yet repaid the debt for clearing the path in the Spider Forest?"

 

"You've changed a lot, Bosha…"

 

Taharka looked Edulis straight in the eye.

 

"It is alright, my friend. I still have another ten years to live."


"Ha! How can you live another 10 years, shortening your life like this? Is it even possible without sealing that accursed magic?"


"Yes. Because..."


Taharka bit his lip. "I've saved enough power to kill Akale."

 

***

 

With the Black Orb destroyed, Edulis had one more task to accomplish. The day had come for him to visit St. Trisis. At Trisis, he would have to recognize the Great Lutea.

 

When he first attended the festival, Edulis' goal was to find out who Lutea was, but now things were different. Now that he knows that the witch Granadilla is alive, he has a vague idea of what Lutea might be. He wasn’t certain, but he has a feeling it had something to do with witches.

 

"The one who secures the first place in the Festival of Saints has the right, and at the same time the obligation, to meet Lord Lutea... or rather, the fake Lutea. The inauguration is after becoming an adult, but you cannot skip it."

 

"That sounds suspicious. ."

 

"It is... isn't it?"

 

Before the ceremony, Edulis chatted with Kurzina. As they talked, Edulis realized something. He realized that there was a certain intention behind the Festival of Saints. Only the strongest of the children of powerful families are chosen to become saints. Once called, they are confronted one by one by Lutea and forced to serve in centralized positions.

 

This is very similar to the "hostage politics" practiced by the old Ur Empire.  It's a way to subjugate local nobility and power to the center by taking their children as hostages and keeping them under the Emperor's surveillance.

 

But that wasn't the only thing Edulis found suspicious.

 

"Are they really willing to give their lives for the fake Lutea?"

 

"Yes, they are the most loyal army in the kingdom."

 

In the case of the Ur Empire, those brought to the center as hostages were extremely discontented. Naturally, local nobles preferred wielding power in their regions over serving in the central administration. They enjoyed the freedom to set taxes and spend the revenue as they saw fit. 


The men who work for Lutea are some of the strongest in their families, but they have been denied the opportunity to wield power in their regions. And yet, not only are they not discontented, but they are also willing to sacrifice their lives for this cause? Every single one of them?

 

"Either during the audience or the inauguration ceremony... or maybe both. It's clear that this fake Lutea is up to something."

 

That was the conclusion Edulis had reached.

 

"What if they refuse and run away?"

 

"That is unprecedented, but.... acting against the will of the Goddess is punishable as blasphemy. A manhunt would be issued, and people from my family would be questioned to find the fleeing saint."

 

"Like a dog..."


"You may do as you wish, Saint. The holy city might be a den of devils. Rather than putting you in danger, we'd willingly endure questioning."

 

"No need."

 

Edulis had no intention of dragging the likes of Kurzina and Raghad into this. Who knows what might be done under the guise of interrogation? It was something Edulis himself had to resolve. 

However, going to the royal family and returning without achieving anything was not an option. Edulis had three tasks to accomplish in Trisis.

 

First, explore Trisis and discover the identity of the false Lutea. Second, figure out how the fake Lutea was controlling the children. And lastly, escape Trisis in one piece.

 

The third was particularly problematic.  The fake Lutea would surely trick Edulis. He had to avoid falling for it, finish the audience ceremony without incident, and then escape the holy city without being detected.

 

- I will be your refuge.

 

Laotou said, but Edulis had no intention of relying on her. The false Lutea is a witch's force, and if he is seen moving into the shadows before them, Laotou's presence will rise to the surface. Laotou has been sapped of strength by guarding Lutea's heart. She cannot fight enemies or flee as quickly as before. It is best to keep her presence hidden whenever possible.

 

Edulis prepared for various contingencies with the help of Ishkur. Ishkur contacted the Ascidian trading company and acquired the items Edulis needed.

 

"When this is over, we're going to find my mother, you know that, right?"

 

Edulis agreed.

 

Then, finally, the day arrived for the journey to Trisis. He had three companions. The first was Ishkur. He was to travel with him to Ascidia after finishing their business in Trisis. The second was Taharka. He and Edulis, whom Laotou trusted, would share the action for now. And finally....

 

"Go back now, Murjana."

 

"No."

 

"If I'd known this would happen, I shouldn't have sent the letter."

 

Edulis had sent a letter to Murjana since he didn't know when he would be able to visit Kaldura again. In response, Murjana came to Vaidor, insisting on joining.

 

"Do you think I can't help you? I'm used to desert terrain. Will all the desert in Trisis,  I'm sure I can be of help."

 

"No, it’s not that,"

 

"Then I see no problem."

 

Seeing the looks of Murjana, Taharka said. "That hair color... you are... a descendant of the Empire."

 

At that, Muryana frowned and replied.

 

"What do you mean, I am a descendant of Vala Ishtar, the Protector of Kaldura!"

"Then this Vala Ishtar must be from the Empire. Ivory hair, white skin, all the hallmarks of a Northerner."

 

"No, that's not possible!"

 

"Well... is that something to be so upset about?"

 

"Of course! To call a defender of the kingdom a descendant of the empire!"

 

"I see... I see... If that's what you say..."


"It's not about 'if that's what you say'!"


Murjana snarled at Taharka. Murjana did not know what it meant to be a descendant of the Empire, and what it meant to Taharka, the last Emperor of the Empire. Then the Erabu and the chariot to carry them arrived. The Erabu was a familiar face to Edulis.

 

"Oh, you're the one I bet with, I'd forgotten. What was your name?"

 

"Kishi."

 

Kishi's expression was completely different from the one he'd used to look down on Edulis. He dropped to the ground as soon as he saw him. Then he spoke. "I don't know how to thank you, Edulis. For saving our daughter from Tibea, I will repay you for a lifetime, in the honor of Erabu! 

 

***.

 

The appearance of the holy city was completely different from what Edulis remembered.  Tris wasn't even originally called a holy city. The soil is not suitable for farming, and transportation is difficult due to its proximity to the desert. Buildings were hard to come by, and the town functioned only as a stopover for the Velox.

 

Today, the streets are paved with marble, and tall buildings line the streets. In the center of the city stood a statue of the goddess Lutea.

 

"Ha! If Ygraine had seen this, she would have gone crazy.”

 

He knows what Ygraine would say. 'What were you thinking building such a thing? Melt it down and make farming tools, make bowls and utensils and give them to the people...' She'd probably say something like that.

 

Edulis was not pleased with the sight of Trisis either. How much money must have been spent to pave this barren soil with marble, and how many people must have suffered?

 

Swallowing hard, Edulis entered the temple. It was the home of the manifested goddess, Lutea, and was the largest and most ornate building in all of Trisis.

 

“What a joke,” Edulis frowned as he walked through the doors. The atmosphere inside was strange. There were many people gathered, priests, monks, and worshippers, but none of them were looking at him. Not even the acolyte guiding him.

 

"This is the audience chamber, in front of the goddess herself. Please show the utmost respect." The acolyte’s eyes were lifeless as he spoke.

 

Edulis cautiously advanced step by step, not letting down his guard. Between him and the fake Lutea was a single beige curtain. Then, a voice came from behind the curtain.

 

"Welcome, Lord Edulis.."

 

Edulis's heart sank for a moment. The voice was so familiar. The voice he'd missed so much. A voice he had hoped and prayed to hear again.

 

He glared at the shadows beyond the curtain. When he stopped, an acolyte motioned his hand and drew the curtain away, revealing the person from within.

 

"Thank you for your service to the Saints. I was looking forward to meeting you." She smiled. Her face was identical to Ygraine's.





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