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In a World without God Chapter 35

Bam!

 

The ring of bonds is shattered. It was a signal that Edulis was in trouble. A sign that he was trying to escape. Murjana immediately jumped into her Velox and rode off. As planned, she threw a flare into the sandworm nest.

 

"Please be safe!”

 

The floor began to shake as she heard the flare go off. Murjana ran straight for the rendezvous point. She knew Edulis would make it. Hadn't he promised her that if he died, she would die as well?

 

"I'll tell you how well I did when we meet."

 

Taharka was not very familiar with the desert terrain. It was almost entirely Murjana who found the sandworm nest. She wanted Edulis to know that. And so he wouldn't be able to tell her to go back to Kaldura.

 

 - Such a cute thought.

 

"Who’s there?”

 

Startled, Muriana looked around but saw only sand and more sand, except for Taharka riding Velox in the distance.

 

- Look at me, I want to be your friend, Murjana.

 

The sound came from below. She looked down, and a blue snake coiled around her stomach. Murjana grimaced and grabbed the snake by the neck. There are no snakes of this color in the desert. Or any snake that talked in the first place.

 

"Go away, you sinister creature."

 

She flailed her arms, but she couldn't shake the snake off. It slithered up Murjana's wrist.

 

- You want to be loved by others, don't you? So do I. That's why I'm looking for a friend.

 

"This…" Murjana raised her sword, but the snake was already up to her shoulder.

 

- But your efforts are misguided. It means nothing.  Did your prowess with the sword make your father love you?

 

Hearing those words, Murjana's face hardened. Then the snake spoke in the voice of her father.

 

- "What’s so funny, Murjana? Are you so proud of embarrassing your family?

 

 It was a cold voice. A voice that lacked even a hint of warmth, like a winter frost that refused to melt. 

 

 - "...I'm sorry, Father.”

 

It was Murjana's voice. It was a hollow voice. She thought her father would be proud of her, that she would no longer be called Halfpenny. She trained every day, hoping he would be proud.

 

"Shut up. You are a servant of the witch! I am proud to be a descendant of the great Vala Ishtar. Do you think I will listen to you?"

 

With that, Murjana swung her sword. No, she tried to swing, but her hand would not move. Her hands moved of their own accord, and she sheathed the sword around her waist and grabbed the reins of Velox.

 

"What... what’s happening...."

 

- The world's version of love is a lie. Parents love their children, wives love their husbands, it's all hypocrisy. People trash each other at the slightest provocation. You know that, right? That's why you left Kaldura. You don't have any family that loves you.

 

Murjana wasn't supposed to be strong. She wasn't supposed to win over her relatives. She was supposed to be the butt of jokes.No one wanted Murjana, the child of a concubine, to be strong. Murjana realized too late that she was in that position.

 

"That's not why I left Kaldura! I left Kaldura to help Edulis..."

 

- To be loved by Edulis, I suppose.

 

Murjana felt isolated, like standing alone on a drifting ice floe in the northern sea, slowly sinking to the bottom of a silent, death-like sea, trapped alone in a narrow coffin.

 

 - But Edulis is no different from your family, no matter how hard you try. He'll turn his back on you at the slightest provocation.

 

Murjana couldn't find her voice. Something was lodged in her throat. Something sticky and nauseating and full of gunk. She wanted to spit it out, but her mouth didn't move like it was sewn shut.

 

- I'll tell you. How to get your hands on true love.

 

The snake coiled around Murjana's neck and whispered in her ear. Murjana knew this snake was something very wicked and dangerous. But... she couldn't resist, and it felt as pointless as trying to break a boulder with a pebble. The snake's voice was sweet, like sugar sprinkled on dates. Whenever she heard it, she felt relaxed like a baby in a cradle. Drowsiness washed over her.

 

 - What could be more perfect love than that? Luthea had said something similar, that love is about giving everything to the other person, that you have to take everything from them to be loved.

 

Muryana's consciousness sank lower and lower.

 

"No, no. What I want is... That's what....'

 

She muttered to herself, but the sound was drowned out by the echoing voice in her head.

 

You deserve to be loved—you and I. 


 ***

 

"Are you still playing these kinds of tricks, Akale!"

 

Taharka shouted, his eyes bloodshot. His breathing was as ragged as an angry boar. Murjana, on the other hand, looked as relaxed as if she had just gone for a walk.

 

"I... have been waiting for you. For eighty years!" Taharka claimed. 

 

"What? Who are you?"

 

"I am the last emperor of the Ur Empire, the one you destroyed!"

 

"Really? Hmm...."

 

"I can still hear it... The screams of the people who died at your hands, the voices of my subordinates who died screaming for vengeance!"

 

The veins on Taharka's forehead bulged like they were about to burst. His hand gripping the axe spear trembled with rage. Regardless, Murjana shifted her gaze to Edulis.

 

"I don't care about that. I only prefer stories of love."

 

Then she smirked at Edulis.

 

"I look forward to seeing what you choose, Edulis."

 

Then Murjana's body went limp like a puppet, and she began to vomit.

 

"Ughhhhhh...."

 

It was snakes. Blue snakes. One, two, three.... it was endless. The volume of the snakes that Murjana spat out exceeded her weight. Each snake emitted an evil aura, similar to the aura that surrounded the false Luthea, Akale, when she revealed her true form, though the intensity was different. The snake slithered up Murjana's arms and legs, wrapping around her entire body. 

 

"Shit!"

 

Edulis quickly wrapped himself in magick and swung his sword. She was about to slice through the horde of snakes wrapped around Muryana, but...

 

Ting!

 

Murjana's sword blocked Edulis' sword. It was a strange situation. Murjana's sword had originally belonged to Edulis, and Edulis' sword had originally belonged to Murjana. When they switched swords, they hadn't imagined that they would come into contact with each other....

 

"How did I not notice?

 

Edulis rode the Velox side by side with Murjana but he hadn't noticed the evil aura emanating from her..

 

"It eats away at a part of your mind, latching, lurking until it takes over completely. That's Akale's method." Taharka sighed and said.

 

"It's happening again...."

 

"Is there anything you can do?"

 

"I killed my brother because of that snake."

 

That statement was answer enough. Suddenly, the snake's form was gone from Muryana's body. Instead, black, vile magick rose from her like soot. Then Muryana stomped on the ground. She struck the ground with such force that it rumbled, and then she leaped toward Edulis in a single bound, covering a distance of seven paces.

 

"Argh!!"

 

Edulis had never taught Muryana how to use the Black Fang Sword. What he had taught was Kaldura swordsmanship. Murjana knows nothing of the Black Fang and yet she was able to reach seven paces simply by using her energy!

 

Edulis spun his body like a top and parried Murjana's sword. Edulis's sword clashed with Murjana's, a blow he could not parry without exerting all his strength. At that moment, Taharka's axe spear slashed diagonally, supporting Edulis. Murjana leaped two steps backward to avoid the spear. Then she swung again. The sound of her sword slicing through the air was like tearing a sheet of taut paper.

 

Edulis stayed in place and parried the attack once more, but it was all he could do. It wasn't for lack of strength. It was because he couldn't bring herself to harm Murjana.

 

Then, a shadowy arrow flew toward Murjana's throat. With a flick of her hand in the air, Murjana deflected the arrow.

 

"What are you doing, Ishkur!"

 

"What do you think you're doing, kill the girl already!"

 

"No fucking way!"

 

Murjana's eyes flashed red. The black aura was growing like a forest fire. The speed of her sword grew faster and faster, and the sound of it resembled a typhoon.

 

"Are you kidding me? What other choice do we have? Summon Luthea?"

 

With that, Ishkur continued to fire arrows at Muryana. The shadow spearman Ishkur summoned hurled spears at her, but none of them hit their mark. Taharka helped Edulis deflect Murjana's sword strikes and said,

 

"Ishkur has a point. Over time, the child will assimilate with the Akale's energy. That means she will grow stronger."

 

The corner of Muryana's forehead bulged and a tiny horn sprouted from it.

 

"What will you do? We can run away, leaving this child behind."


This meant going to the spider forest where Laotou lives. But with Akale inside Murjana, hiding in the shadows would reveal that Laotou is alive, and if Akale finds her, all hope would be lost..

 

Edulis chewed his lips. He cannot die. But he can't kill either. Killing Murjana and leaving is exactly what Akale wants to see.

 

Witches' coven was always like that. They make parents kill their children, wives kill their husbands, and friends fight amongst themselves. Then they chuckle at it. 

 

"See, this is what humans are supposed to be like. There's no such thing as love.” the witches would say. 

 

"Edulis, if we sacrifice that one child, we can save more people. You know that! Why are you being so stupid?"

 

Ishkur shouted, but Edulis spoke up.

 

"That's not what Lutea wants."

 

"You're crazy! Are you going to die here at her hands?"

 

"That is not what Lutea wishes either."

 

"You idiot..."

 

Ishkur climbed aboard Velox. Murjana has her sights set on Edulis. It wasn't hard for Ishkur to escape.

 

Edulris parried Muryanga's dagger with a sharp breath. Finally, a decision gripped him. Focusing too far ahead, like staring down a long road, only makes you stumble over the pebbles at your feet. Worrying about "what ifs" and fearing death like a specter - that's not Bosha's style.

 

One must only follow the will of Lutea. What else is there to worry about?

If he couldn't die, couldn't kill, couldn't run away, there was only one thing he could do.

 

To trust humans.

 

"Come back, Murjana Ishtar!"

 

"It's no use, Edulis. The horns have already grown..."

 

Edulis ignored Taharka's words. During the Etoile fever epidemic, Ygraine had traveled from village to village, trying to convince people to help their neighbors. Then Edulis had told her it was useless. To no avail. And what was the result?

 

"You say you are a descendant of the great Valar Ishtar, don't you remember how you came at me in the swamps of Varus, shivering?"

 

The horns were growing longer and longer. Blurry black butterflies appeared on Murjana's cheeks. The attack intensified. It took all of Edulis' strength to deflect the blow.

 

"You pushed me and I fell into a ditch and dried my clothes for a while, and then we switched swords. The one you're holding, it was mine."

 

"Have you lost your mind? The reincarnation of Captain Bosha is this stupid!"

 

Ishkur shouted as he mounted Velox. Ishkur was still hovering around, not leaving. Edulis ignored him and turned to Murjana.

 

"And frankly, that Sijian water buffalo jerky tastes like shit."

 

Murjana's sword sliced through the sleeve of Edulis's robe. Red streaks ran across his skin. Even with Taharka's help, he found it difficult to stop her attack.

 

"Come back, Murjana."

 

Edulis called Murjana's name. Over and over again. Even though she was out of breath from parrying the blows, she called out.

 

"Madman...." Ishkur muttered, still lingering around. He was sick of the sight of Edulis. His entire body was covered in blood, but he hadn't attacked Murjana once.

 

"Murjana."

 

Ygraine had always believed in humans; it always made a difference. But Edulis doesn't trust humans that much yet. There are enough scum in the world. There are some people you can trust and they won't change.

 

But Murjana. She's not one of them. If he can't even trust Muryana, how can he follow Ygraine's will?

 

 - If you die, I will die.

 

Murjana's eyes reflected Edulis. Where once there was youthful determination, now there was only murky darkness.


Edulis, looking into those eyes, said, "I'll keep waiting. Until you come back."


It was just a moment. A moment so brief, one couldn't even take a step. That's how long Murjana's hand paused. 


Taharka saw the moment clearly in his eyes.



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