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In a World without God Chapter 36

When he was about eighteen years old, Taharka slipped out of the palace with his brother, crawling under a hole in the fence while dressed as a commoner.

He and his brother looked around the marketplace with a twinkle in their eyes. People haggling, children clamoring for sweets, vendors loudly advertising their wares.

 

“Cute kids, where's your mom?” asked a fruit vendor, handing them both dried dates. Taharka grabbed them with both hands and tore into them, and they couldn't have been more delicious. The fruit vendor giggled, saying they were like children eating dates for the first time.

 

Taharka thought to himself that the Ur Empire was indeed a magnificent country.

 

Children frolicking in the marketplace, and a kindly woman offering them a snack. He vowed to keep it that way when he became Emperor.

 

But things didn't go as expected.

 

“Destroy the Dam!”

 

One day after becoming emperor, Taharka gave that order. As a result, a village was flooded. The villagers sank into the water alive.

 It was inevitable. The witch's army had to be stopped from crossing the water. If they had, many more villages would have been destroyed.

 

“You made the right decision.”

 

His brother said. All his servants said so too. Taharka himself believed it was the right decision. What else could he have done?

 

But there must have been children in the village. The children running around and playing, the women offering them snacks.

 

“He used his best judgment.”

 

Taharka was a smart monarch. He always made the most sensible decisions. To defend El Medina, the most populous capital, he called in standing armies from other regions. To ensure the retreat of his elite soldiers, he used the common soldiers as shields. When they could only defend one of the two areas, they defended the more populous one.

 

And then he wondered. If he’s always making rational decisions, calculating the costs and benefits, and making the most beneficial choices, why is it that when he looks back at his path, it's covered in blood? What did he do wrong?

 

One day, El Medina fell to a single person, Akale.

 

How does he describe what Akale did? Hell wasn't even close. Children swung knives and axes at their parents, who kicked and strangled them. People hiding in houses shot arrows at people walking down the street, and people walking down the street set fire to houses where people were hiding. Everyone was turned into monsters that bit each other. There were no lovers, no friends, no family.

 

Akale flew through the streets in a round ball, chuckling.

 

“Look, everyone, this is who you really are!”

 

Taharka watched the scene as she fled the palace.

 

Where did everyone go? People bargaining, children clamoring for sweets, vendors loudly advertising their wares, a kindly lady handing a treat to children she didn't know.... 

 

“Cute kids, where's your mom?”

 

Taharka led his elite soldiers out of the palace, only to be stopped by his brother. His brother told him that he had made the right decision and that he shouldn't be so heartbroken. Taharka noticed that his brother’s axe was stained with blood.


His brother had killed the Emperor, the Empress dowager, and the Empress. He had killed Taharka's parents and wife. 


A blue snake hung from his neck.

 

You made the right decision.

 

Taharka cut his brother's throat. He saw no other choice. He was going to leave the palace, join the elite soldiers, and fight back. But then the snake slithered out of his brother's severed head and spoke.

 

 - "My God, what a cold brother you have, he didn't even think about it for a moment. You must not have loved your sibling. Did you often fight?"

 

 Taharka swung his axe spear at the snake's body struggling to control his boiling heart.

 

 - Shut up. How can you understand love, how can you understand that I love my brother more than anyone else?


“Ah, lies,”

 

The snake was split in two by Taharka's strike, but it continued to speak even in pieces. "If you really loved your sibling, you would have let yourself be killed by them."

 

Taharka swung his spear at the snake and shouted, "I will kill you and revive the empire. This is also my brother's will! o do my utmost to revive the empire is my way of showing love for my brother!"

 

The snake's body shattered into pieces, but the voice continued. It was Akale's voice.

 

 - Hahaha! Everyone’s all the same, always finding reasons for everything. Saying “It’s for the sake of others,” and “I had no choice”.... It's hilarious! They're all the same at their core, killing others to save themselves!

 

Taharka decided it wasn't worth listening to and left the room. He ran out of the palace, leaving Akale's laughter behind him. He then went to a temple and used the royal family's secret techniques, sacrificing the lives of 700 monks.


Despite all this, Taharka failed to revive the empire.


 - Your Majesty, you are our only hope!

 - Akale...! Please kill her! Because of her, my family did not die as people!

 

All the dying called Taharka their hope.

 

Taharka thought. Hope is like salt. It doesn't satisfy hunger, it only adds to thirst.

What remains after endlessly chasing hope?

 

Death, death, and more death...After countless sacrifices, after chasing after hope, Taharka was the only one left. Akale's words echoed in his ears. They were all the same at the very core, killing others to save themselves. Was Taharka like that? No. If Taharka could have died and rebuilt his empire, he would have done so. But as it turned out…

 

It was Laotou who comforted Taharka. Taharka was wandering around, looking for a place to die, when he met Laotou, who was running away. Recognizing Taharka as he wandered alone, Laotou came to his aid and healed him.

 

 - Akale? Ugh... Her personality is really twisted, I should have killed her, but she's so good at running away.

 - You should never listen to anything that comes out of her mouth. When you’re anxious, only think about Luthea.

 

And then she said.

 

 - Why don't you and I wait and see if there's any hope?

 

He’s tired of hope. After his life was extended by Laotou, there was only one thing on Taharka's mind. Killing Akale! He condensed his magick relentlessly, thinking only of that. For eighty years!

 

Now, a white, searing orb floated around Taharka's soul. A sphere that had hardened to the point where it could not be marshaled.


If I blow this thing up, not even Akale will be safe. That's what he’d been thinking all his life.

 

But......

 

 ***

 

Red drops of blood fell on the white sand, and the desert wind from the west quickly covered them. The sound of the sword and the wind scraped against the ears. 

 

"Murjana, do you hear me?"

 

Edulis called Muryana's name over and over again. Edulis's silver hair was a mess of sand. Meanwhile, the horns on Murjana's forehead had grown long enough to span the length of a hand. The butterfly pattern on her cheeks had darkened to the point of ink. No part of Edulis's body was untouched. From the slightest scratch on his skin to cuts so deep you could see the bone. Despite his condition, Edulis smiled. In a voice as soft as milk, he called out to Muryana.

 

 - "Edulis, if we sacrifice this child, we can save many more. You know that, don't you? Why are you being so stupid?

 

Taharka remembered Ishkur's words from earlier. Once upon a time, he would have said the same thing. Because it seemed the most reasonable of the options.

 

Just then, for another moment, the Murjana stopped attacking. A third time. It may have been very slight, but it was definitely responding to Edulis's voice.

 

"I'm really running away alone, Edulis, you stupid bastard!"

 

That's the fourth time Ishkur said it. He paced back and forth on Velox, summoning shadow soldiers and using shadow knots to support Edulis. He says it, but he's pinning his hopes on Edulis, too.

 

"We can’t hold out,"

 

Taharka muttered. How many times can Edulis call Murjana's name? It's a miracle that Murjana responds to Edulis's voice, but the effect is tenuous. An insignificant miracle, like a match on the verge of going out, or a puff of charcoal emitting smoke. Soon to be buried in the sand and forgotten...

 

'But still.......' Taharka has never worked such miracles. He always thought only in terms of tangible options.

 

Which village to save, which soldier to sacrifice? To kill his brother, to be killed by his brother.

 

He thinks over and over again, and he chooses the best option. But who gave him that choice?

 

 - If you really loved him, you would have died at his hands, right?

 

"Taharka! Come here and run away with me! What are you doing there?"

 

After 80 years of thinking, he realized…he realized that one can't defeat a witch by choosing from the options she gives you. The only way to defeat her is to perform a miracle. Not to be swayed by a few words from a witch.

 

Taharka always wavered. Even a moment ago, he had considered attacking Murjana to save Edulis whom Laotou placed her hope in. 

 

But Edulis did not waver. She firmly believed that Murjana would answer her. That would be a miracle. Taharka thought. That's what a man who defeats a witch should look like.

 

"Taharka?!"

 

Taharka lunged forward, deflecting Murjana's sword with his axe spear. She didn't quite deflect it completely, leaving a gash on her body, but she didn't care.

 

"Akale, you are wrong. You were wrong then, and you are still wrong now."

 

Akale believes love is a lie. She believes humans are nothing more than animals. She believes that they will not hesitate to harm others for their own sake.

 

"I have known no miracles. I slipped through your fingers and did as you wished, taking the lives of countless people for your own amusement, becoming emperor of a ruined world. I could not even honor the dead."

 

Taharka remembered his brother. He remembered the bloody axe he held. He remembered the spear that had cut his brother's throat and the words Akale had spoken after his head had fallen.

 

What if he had called his brother's name then? What if he had told him he loved him? Even if a miracle hadn't happened, maybe he would have heard his voice.

 

"I don't know miracles, Akale, but you don't know anything! You don't know anything about humans, you don't know anything about love, you don't know anything more than a speck of dust. Behold, these children will not kill each other, and they will not be swallowed up by their hatred."

 

One hundred and twenty years of life flashed through Taharka's mind. It was a life as rotten and tattered as his body was now.

 

"Where did I go wrong? Yes, I shouldn't have broken the dam then. That's where I went wrong. The fruit vendor, the dates, my brother going through the opening with me....I ruined all of that. I did!

 

Murjana's gaze snapped to Taharka. Taharka looked into those eyes, which had lost their light, and muttered to himself, "Burn, Taharka, rotten ghost of the past. Be an ember for the future.”

 

"Woe to you, the witch who laughs at men. Know thy error!"

 

It was the first thing he had done in his 120 years of life. Kicking away the choice the witch had given him. 

 

Light began to emanate from Taharka's body. Faint at first, it grew brighter and brighter until it was a bright, clean light that rivaled Luthea's, and it enveloped Murjana. As the light bathed her, she stopped moving.

 

"Ugh...."

 

One step, two steps, Murjana took a step back, shivering like someone with a chill. Then she began to gag.

 

"Ugh... Ugh...."

 

How nauseous was she? Something black began to wriggle out of Murjana's body, forming the shape of a snake and falling to the floor. One, two, three...

 

“Murjana!” Edulis shouted, and then he realized.


Taharka's body was turning black.




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