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In a World without God Chapter 34

The same face, the same voice, but Edulis could tell that she was something else entirely. She had dark hair and dark eyes, unlike Ygraine's, and she gave off a different aura. Her voice was similar to Ygraine's but overly sweet. It tickled the ears as if someone was speaking right next to you, even though they were far away. It was like painting the inside of the ears with honey.


"To have overcome the malice of the witch whose blood runs through your veins, and eventually reach my side is something that deserves to be praised a hundred times. It is something that everyone should know and bless."

 

"Thank you..."

 

Edulis' heart was boiling like a volcano about to erupt. How dare she call herself Lutea and impersonate Ygraine! But Edulis put on a face with all his might. Somehow, he managed to make his face look like he was happy to see the goddess.

 

"Rise, Edulis, and come to me."

 

Edulis did as he was told. As he rose and took a step, a sour, sweet smell hit his nostrils, like burning dried fruit.

 

"Look into my eyes."

 

Those eyes. Those eyes made Edulis' heart freeze. They were as dark as the bottom of the ocean, and he felt like he was sinking to the bottom of the sea— crushed by the pressure of the water, unable to float, suffocated by the water rushing into his lungs. Looking into those eyes felt like he would lose his mind. Edulis had felt something like this before. It was when he met the witch Granadilla in person. A normal person would go insane just by looking into her eyes.

 

"Do you swear, Edulis, that throughout your life you will seek good, hate evil, and act under the will of Lutea?"

 

The woman in the form of Ygraine said, placing her hand on top of Edulis' head. Then Edulis's head became hot as if she had set his brain on fire. His stomach refluxed, leaving a sour taste in his mouth, but he swallowed hard and answered.

 

"Yes."

 

"Do you swear, Edulis, that you are willing to give what you have to others, to be a strength to the powerless and the hungry?"

 

"Yes."

 

"Do you swear, Edulis, that you will always remain an army of light, even when the darkness tries to seduce you with sweet words?"

 

"Yes."

 

The question and answer went back and forth three times. She smiled wryly.

 

"Edulis, in the name of Lutea, I bless you. You will now be free from all the restrictions that come with being the child of a witch. The saints will give you every support for your growth, and on the day you come of age, you will be honored with me as a pillar of support for Astania."

 

"I am so overwhelmed with honor that I cannot contain myself; every hair on my head belongs to Lutea, and I will serve her with all that I am!"

 

Edulis said, looking as ecstatic as he could. He swallowed back gastric juices that came back up to his esophagus.

 

"Is this Granadilla herself? ...No, it's not that bad, but this overwhelming feeling of....”

 

Edulis wore nine-string bracelets on his left forearm. They were the Hair of the Seven Sages.

 

A long, long time ago, there was a wise man named Psunensis who grew seven heads to gain greater wisdom, but it is said that the seven heads couldn't stop fighting and eventually stabbed themselves in the chest. While he was too silly to be called a wise man, his hair had great value. It is said to be more effective at warding off curses and magic than any other talisman. Of course, there aren't many left who know its value, but...

 

At Edulis' request, Ishkur used all of his connections and resources to obtain it the hard way. But the moment Edulis looked into the eyes of the fake Lutea, one of the nine bracelets broke. Another snapped the moment the fake Lutea put her hand on Edulis' head. And two more broke as Edulis answered her questions. In total, eight out of nine hairs were cut while answering three questions! He knew it was going to be a trick, but he honestly didn't expect it to be this bad.

 

When he was Bosha, Edulis had once warded off a curse that would have caused his entire body to rot and turn to mush using the hair of a sage. Despite the high level of the curse, the bracelet remained unbroken. But in this brief moment, the fake Lutea had broken eight of those bracelets. What could that mean?

 

She must be something very strong and sinister. By undergoing a series of processes called the audience ceremony, she uses intense brainwashing and obedience magic. The current Edulis could not handle such a being. Just looking into her eyes made him dizzy.


Edulis slowly backpedaled, keeping his face in a state of ecstasy. As he did, the fake Lutea glanced at his fingers. On his finger was a slender glass ring. It was a bonding ring, popular among lovers because if one broke, the other would break as well. Edulis wore one, and Ishkur wore the other as a pair. Edulis hopes to be able to walk out the door without breaking the ring. He hoped the fake Lutea wouldn't notice that he wasn't brainwashed.

 

A cold sweat trickled down his neck. The hardest part was trying to keep a straight face in the face of something so ominous. Three steps away from the door. The fake Lutea is still smiling. The eyes of the guards and gatekeepers in the room were all glassy and lifeless.

  

"They must have been brainwashed by that fake.”

 

Edulis secretly bit the insides of his mouth. The knowledge that someone in Ygraine's form was controlling them, that he couldn't save them right now, made his stomach turn.

 

"One day, I will free you.”

 

When he was one step away from the door, the fake Lutea spoke.

 

"I look forward to meeting you again, Edulis."

 

Edulis smiled, trying to look as dumbfounded as possible."What a flattering thing to say! I will only look forward to the day when I can work for you, Lord Lutea.  Every night waiting will feel excruciatingly long.

 

With more useless flattery, Edulis finally reached the door. Hurriedly, but not too quick., Edulis reached for the doorknob. Then....

 

Cold sweat dripped from Edulis’s forehead. 

 

The door didn't open. Behind him, a voice resonated,  completely different from the one from a moment ago.

 

"Ahahaha!"

 

It was giggling, like a child who had heard a funny story.

 

The atmosphere had changed. The room looked and smelled the same, but it felt like he was somewhere else entirely. It was like being submerged at the bottom of a swamp. A sizzling, tar-like energy clung to Edulis's body. 

 

“What a glorious thing to say!” More giggling. “You're a funny kid, aren't you? You're so good at playing along even though you know damn well I'm not Lutea."

 

The chamberlains, monks, gatekeepers, and others in the room all mumbled and nodded. Some fainted, others shuddered with blood in their mouths.

 

Edulis turned and spoke.

 

"O’ Saint, I am young and know little, so I do not understand what you are saying."

 

"Wow, you're going to continue that act? A play is only interesting when it ends at the right time.  You have the hair of a seven-headed fool, don't you?"


Edulis sighed. "Yeah. It can't be that easy.”

 

The fake did not use any magic now. The fact that the Seven Headed Sage's hair was still intact was proof. It wasn't even wearing protective magic, it was just being itself. That's all it is, and still, the effect it had on him…

 

When Lutea walks, grass grows from stone floors. Her mere existence exerts a positive influence. Granadilla is the opposite. Where the witch walks, grass withers, and iron corrodes. People who come into contact with her fall ill or go mad.

 

The being in front of Edulis now spreads curses just by existing. In other words, it is very close to a witch.  Edulis was now bleeding profusely from his eyes, nose, and mouth. It felt like hundreds of bugs were crawling under his skin, eating away at his flesh. 

 

"But you're so good at facial expressions! You almost fooled me for a second. Have you ever worked in a circus?"


Edulis wiped the blood from his eyes with his hand and looked at her. Her resemblance to Ygraine was nowhere to be seen anymore. She was sitting on a sphere that looked like a blue soap bubble, hovering two feet off the ground.

 

"How did you know?"

 

The brunette giggled as she crossed her legs and covered her mouth with one hand. The girl looked to be in her late teens at best. But a horn the size of a child's fist sprouted from her left forehead, and a black butterfly was tattooed below her right eye.

 

"How do I know, umm... I can tell by the look in your eyes. When you're under a spell, your eyes die first. But your eyes sparkle, don't they?"

 

The blue orb she rode in began to move toward Edulis.

 

"I'm curious. You don't seem to know me, so how did you come prepared to counter my magic? How did you win the Festival of Saints, given that I made sure those with the holy stigma couldn’t do anything? And where did you get the hair of a seven-headed fool?"

 

Her robes only came down to her knees, revealing her legs. Her voice was brimming with curiosity.

 

"Not answering, huh? You know, do you realize how boring it is to be here every day? Same thing every day, same words, same meals...You can't even talk to the guys around here because they all have these rotten deadeyes. Well, of course, I made them that way but still…"

 

"You disgusting thing." Edulis glared at her, though the girl found even this amusing and continued to giggle.

 

"I haven't heard that in a long time! I think we could be good friends, especially since I'll leave your mind intact and only control your body. What would you say to me if I let you kill your family and friends with your own hands?"

 

For a moment, her blue eyes sparkled. Edulis quickly lowered his head to avoid looking at them. But at that very moment, the rest of the Seven Headed Sage's hair snapped. 

 

"Edulis, look at my face, will you?"

 

Edulis closed his eyes. Was it over by now? Or not?

 

"If you thought closing your eyes would get you away with it...."

 

As she approached, Edulis felt a small vibration beneath his feet. He realized that this was the moment he had planned.

 

All of the Seven Headed sage's hair had been cut off. There was no room for failure now. The slightest opening of his eyes would turn him into a puppet of the witch. If the timing was off, the end would be the same.

 

Providence of Uraeus! Please be on my side! Edulis closed his eyes tightly, gathered his magic, and slammed his fist down on the floor.

 

Boom!

 

The ground shook. Normally, it would have been just a brief vibration, but not this time.

Part of the synagogue floor gave way The ground beneath them was empty.


Then, Edulis's body plummeted downward.

 

 ***.

 

As Edulis remembered, Trisis was a place dotted with waterways. This was because the city needed to collect as much water as possible during the few, short rainy seasons of the year.

 However, the water system is now completely different. It is supplied by long underground aqueducts from other villages. What happened to the old aqueducts? The aqueducts in Trisis are very deep and large or else the water would evaporate quickly. Did Trisis fill them in?

 

Edulis thought it unlikely, so he got a map of Tris from Ishkur and checked his guesses against his memory. He was right. Trisis had left the underground aqueduct alone, building a minimal foundation and then placing a lid on it. One such place was the Holy Synagogue, where the manifested Lutea resides. Edulis walked around the halls and checked them out.

 

"Wow, this is interesting!"

 

The child pretending to be Lutea's cheer echoed through the underground chamber.

 

"Edulis, hurry!"

 

Ishkur shouted. Beside him stood an empty Velox. They heard a rumble and the ceiling shook. Edulis quickly hopped on top of the Velox and threw a small box behind him.

 

Laughter spread through the halls like a giggle box. It was a toy that giggles when opened, an unfortunate product that was never sold because the laughter was too loud. It was available for pennies at the second-hand market.

 

"I don't really like noisy things."

 

It was at that moment when…

 

Boom!

 

With a loud crash, the wall collapsed. A wormlike creature as large as a mammoth burst out of the crumbling wall and wriggled around. Not just one, but four!! They burst out of the wall and lunged for the crate.

 

Trisis's proximity to sandworm nests had long been an accident waiting to happen.

 

Sandworms— the top predator of the desert. Who knew more about their ecology than Edulis? Sandworms are unintelligent, so mental attacks don't work on them. They are so insensitive to magic that they don't even flinch, and their pit-like mouths will devour anything.

 

Depending on the person, it can be even tougher than a dragon. Can they at least grab the fake Lutea by the ankles?


Edulis and Ishkur rode off on Velox. Taharka and Murjana roamed the desert, searching for sandworm nests and throwing flares at them.

 

It was an escape tactic that capitalized on the sandworms' aversion to light and their tendency to move toward sounds.

 

"Edulis, what the hell is she? Two Sandworms are down now...."

 

"Run, don't look back, the exit is just around the corner!"

 

He was right. Edulis and Ishkur found a tunnel leading upwards and quickly ascended, while the Sandworms continued their assault.

 

"It worked, she’s not coming after us!"

 

"Don't slow down until we reach the rendezvous point!"

 

On the outskirts of Trisis, in the northern dunes, Murjana and Taharka joined them. After running through the desert for a while, they finally stopped when Velox could run no more.

 

"A day's ride northwest. But we must turn around to avoid detection. I know the way."

 

"Velox needs to rest, too, so let's quench our thirst here. Grab this."

 

Ishkur took out a water bottle and passed it around. Ishkur and Edulis drank from it and handed it to Murjana.

 

"Mmm." She began coughing.

 

"Murjana?"

 

Murjana didn't take the water bottle and started giggling to herself. Then, she spoke in a completely different tone than usual.

 

"Wow, what a nuisance you guys are! I almost gave up chasing you. I've always hated playing tag."


That wasn't Murjana's voice.


"Instead, I played a little prank. I liked this kid; she's cute."


Hearing that voice, Taharka's face twisted.


"Akale!!!"




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