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In a World without God Chapter 41

Chapter 41

"Freshly caught mackerel! Freshly caught mackerel~!"


“Here's sea urchin roe that's so big, even three people wouldn't know if two people ate it! It's sea urchin roe that can only be found in Garug!”

 

The market was lively. People came and went, bargaining eagerly. There was no sign of sadness on their faces. They had been robbed of the opportunity to grieve.

They were unaware that their parents, siblings, and children had disappeared.


"Come here. Let me ask you a question." The old woman in the market said. Her back was stooped and her speech was slurred. A few people recognized her and gave her a sympathetic glance.

 

"Elena... have you seen our granddaughter? She's ten years old, her hair is golden, her green eyes are mischievous, and she's about this tall...."

 

"Oh... Grandma Laura, you're here again."

 

The old woman pulled out a thin board and charcoal from her bag. "She hasn't been seen since ten days ago. She's not the kind of girl who wanders around anywhere.... Have you seen her, and can you write here where you last saw her?"

 

After hearing the old lady's question, the fishmonger shook her head in confusion.

 

"No? You don’t know? But if you do, please let me know. I live in the second house down the hill."

 

With that, the old woman started walking toward the next store.

 

"It's really pitiful. She's been living alone for over 10 years, and now she's causing a fuss looking for a granddaughter who doesn't even exist..."

 

"She's deaf and now dementia too... It's a serious matter. We should at least make sure she gets her meals"

 

Edulis watched the scene from afar. Ishkur watched the old woman's expression wordlessly.


According to Edulis, Ishkur's mother was likely alive. She was alive and helping the witches with their experiments. She's kidnapping villagers and doing something with them. The mermaid hides the fact that she was kidnapped by singing.

"She must not have lost her memory because she didn't hear the song," Murjana said. Ishkur stared blankly at the ground.

 

"Oh, Elena... why is everyone pretending not to know her? Just a few days ago, she was running around the market excitedly...."

 

Grandma's voice was desperate. She wheezed whenever she spoke as if she had asthma. Nevertheless, she didn't stop asking passersby.

 

Ishkur had a strange feeling. He couldn't be completely happy that he had found a clue about his mother. If her mother was involved in the grief of that deaf old woman.... If her mother was doing something irreparable to a child named Elena....

 

When Edulis told Ishkur his discover, Ishkur thought to himself: my mother would never collaborate with a witch. He may only have memories of her from when he was three or four years old at most, but she was a strong and caring woman. Ishkur still remembers her saying, "Don't be a witch.

 

- "Ishkur, the fruit grown from other people's tears is poisonous.

 

Would a mother like that would collaborate with a witch? For what reason?

 

Sadly, Ishkur had a hunch. In the faint recesses of his memory, he could still hear Kindatu's voice.

 

 - "Petra, comply or this child will die. Do you understand?

 

Ishkur remembers his mother's face becoming lifeless. She staggered after Kindatu, unable to carry her husband's body.

 

Why would the Fey family come all the way to Ascidia and kidnap Ishkur? He wondered for the first time in decades. Ishkur was a liability.

 

"I am responsible for the misery of the people of this village.

 

While Ishkur was deep in thought, someone approached him.

 

"I haven't seen these kids before. Oh, how pitiful."

 

It was Grandma Laura. She thought they were beggars and gave them a few coins. Then she said.

 

"Have you seen a girl named Elena? She's about a foot shorter than you, and her hair is...."

 

Ishkur hesitated, not knowing how to respond to the old woman. That's when Edulis stepped in and accepted the thin board and charcoal from the old woman.

 

"Edulis?"

 

Edulis wrote in charcoal on the board, We will find her."


"Really?"


Edulis nodded.


"It's strange. The villagers I was close with all turned their backs on me, and now children I've never met before are offering to help me..."


Then the grandmother continued.


"If you do that for me... I'll give you the most valuable treasure I have."

 

Edulis shook his head, saying he didn't need it. As the old woman walked away, Ishkur said.

 

"Edulis, is it okay to say that? Do you know what happened to the girl named Elena?"


"The mermaid, Ramu, said the kidnapping cycle is a month. If she disappeared ten days ago, there's a high chance she's still alive."


"Is that so?"


Ishkur sincerely hoped so. That Elena was alive. If her mother had sinned, he hoped it could be undone. 


Edulis spoke. "The operation is tonight."

 

***

 

Ever since the rats had informed him, Edulis had thought Fort Mastaba was strange from the start.

 

The battle between Ygraine and Granadilla on Mastaba Hill had ended in Granadilla's favor. The tide of the war had already swung heavily in the witch's favor, so what was the point of building a fortress?

 

Fort Mastaba was too large for its location in the middle of nowhere. Besides, even now that the war was over, the outer walls were guarded by soldiers sent from the central. The rats who had sneaked in to investigate the fortress are blocked by an unexplained barrier, unable to get inside. It was a suspicious facility.

 

Edulis targeted Fort Mastaba for two reasons. The first was to investigate any traces of Ygraine that might have remained. Ygraine had met her end on Mastaba Hill. There might be clues where the rats couldn't get in.


The second is to kill something inside the fortress. If what the rats saw was accurate, it's something Edulis must kill.

 

But after meeting the mermaid and Ramu, a third reason is added.

 

 - Fort Mastaba is a laboratory, and the Witch's minions sneak down to the village at dawn, dragging people to it.

 

In the depths of the night, Edulis and Murjana leap from rock to rock, as light as water striders on the surface of the water. The rocky cliffs that separate the Tefnu rock formation from Mastaba Hill lead to one of the outer walls of the Mastaba fortress.

 

"Monsters.”

 

Ishkur muttered to himself as he watched Edulis and Murjana. Compared to them, Ishkur was slow. He was crawling slowly up the wall with a rope made of shadows. 

 

Edulis and Murjana reached the top of the outer wall first and crouched down. There were only two guards. They sat across from each other, torches in hand, talking.

 

"What's the point of life, really?"


"Why the sudden nonsense?"


"You know? I enlisted to protect Astania, but all I do is walk around this outer wall. It's a job without purpose or meaning."


"Hey, drop those useless thoughts. You won't last long in this job with that attitude."

 

By now, Ishkur had reached the top of the outer wall. The sound of his footsteps on the bricks echoed loudly.


"Did you hear anything over there? Maybe intruders?"


"Intruders? Ha, who would want to break into this place, unless they were bent on death?"


"Yeah, you're probably right."

 

The guards paid no attention to the source of the sound. Edulis and the others rode the shadow rope Ishkur had created and landed safely inside the fortress. It had been a deceptively easy break-in.


However, the real challenge was just beginning. Edulis's group moved towards the fortress's internal barracks.

 

"So this is what the rats were talking about."

 

The fortress was just a cover. All the important facilities are underground. There is only one staircase leading down to the basement. But....

 

"This is terrible. Are you sure... we can get through this?"

 

Ishkur said, as a sound like a child screaming, repeated over and over.

 

Edulis moved toward the sound.

 

And there it was. A repulsive creature. 

 

***

 

- Ugh! My leg, my leg!

- Ugh... Go on, go on, go on, boss!

 

An old memory flashed through Edulis' mind. This creature was the main reason Edulis had come to Fort Mastaba. It was supposed to have died by Igraine's hand, but how it was still alive was a mystery. Regardless of the reason, Edulis had to kill it.

 

"Huh? It's not mealtime yet. Is this a midnight snack?"

 

Mebaba, the witch's servant. But not many people called it by its name. When Edulis was a Bosha, people called it the Abominable Wolf Ant. It felt like it wasn't accurately described without the word 'abominable,' so that adjective was always used.

 

It has the head of a wolf and the head of a human at the same time. It has a wolf's snout to eat meat and a human head on top of its head to talk.

 

But from the waist down, it has a tail that is dozens of times longer than its head. It looks like a fertilized queen ant.

 

From this massive rear end, it spat out monsters that were half wolf, half ant. Creatures with the forepaws of a wolf and four ant legs.

 

"Damn, that thing is blocking the door," Ishkur said. It didn't matter to Edulis though. Blocking the door or not, he was going to kill it.

 

The Black Fang Mercenaries had one rule: never spare the weak. Captain or not, it didn't matter. If they were taken hostage, they would not be rescued. If they are seriously injured, they are abandoned.


Bosha lived by those rules.

 

"It's been a long time, Mebaba,”

 

"What? Kid, how do you know my name? Knowing my name means you've met me, and if I'd met you before, I wouldn't have eaten you."

 

As the wolf ants chewed on his subordinate's torso, Bosha left with the others. Because that was the rule. Mebaba was an opponent who could not be defeated with the full power of the Black Fangs at that time. As captain, Bosha had to keep the rest of his men alive, so he ran and didn't look back.

 

But Bosha did not forget.

 

"Ladhak, the drunkard, Dudu, the sleepless one, Natimu, the one who sang about his hometown on a fictitious day... They all died at your hands."

 

A white aura enveloped Edulis' body. Murjana did the same.

 

"Mmm... I smell a disgusting odor coming from you."

 

With a wiggle, Mebaba's tail began to move. A wolf's head with the jaws of an ant emerged from the end of its tail. Then the wolf's front paws and the ant's body poked out. Then another, and another. In no time at all, Mebaba had given birth to four wolf ants.

 

Edulis wasn't just here for revenge. Mebaba is the communications backbone of the witch's army. She uses these wolf ants to do just that. Edulis realized that in order to rid the land of the witches, he would have to destroy Mebaba first.

 

"Ugh... who's calling who disgusting?" Ishkur summoned four shadow archers and four shadow shieldmen. The shieldmen bounced off the gills of the charging wolf ants. But that was all; the shadow archers' arrows failed to pierce the wolf ant's carapace.

 

"Crazy. What are we supposed to do with this?”


 

At that moment, a beam of white light sliced through the air. It looked like the blade of a guillotine had fallen. The wolf's head fell off and rolled across the floor, black liquid pouring out of the cut. It wasn't the blood of a living creature, but a black, sticky liquid.

 

The situation on Edulis's side was even more remarkable. A black circle was drawn horizontally on the ground, and the body of the wolf-ant was cleanly bisected. The cut was so clean it was embarrassing to even call it an exoskeleton.

 

"I see. You must be Edulis, the reincarnation of Bosha!"

 

Thud! Crash!

 

The walls of the barracks collapsed. Mebaba gave birth to no more wolf ants, for she had seen them die too easily at the hands of Murjana and Edulis. From Mebaba's wolf head grew a jaw as long and sharp as the Reaper's scythe.

 

"I remember you, Bosha. You used to run like hell away from me!"

 

It was true. Bosha did not defeat Mebaba. Bosha's sword could not pierce Mebaba's armor. If it had, Ladhak, Dudu, and Natimu would have still been alive, and their screams would not have echoed in his head.

 

"If I kill you, I will be praised by Granadilla, and maybe she will give me more blood."

 

Mebaba swung its large, sharp jaws at Edulis. Ishkur deployed his shadow shieldmen to block it, but they were reduced to ash by the blow.

 

As Mebaba lunged for Edulis, Murjana aimed for Mebaba's rear, her sword bathed in white light, drawing a clean full moon in the air.

 

Fragments of the broken exoskeleton fell to the ground. But it was a shallow cut. Only a small scratch appeared on Mebaba's rear end.

 

“How annoying!”

 

Mebaba swung its massive tail and Murjana's body flew off and slammed into the wall.

 

Edulis watched the anger flowing through his mind. The anger towards Mebaba was overshadowed by the anger towards himself. Why was the human strength of Bosha so feeble? Everything Bosha wanted always seemed to hang on a high branch, out of reach no matter how far he stretched his arms.


He needed a power like Ygraine's. An overwhelming light that sacrificed no one!

 

The anger flowed. Sadness flowed. Regret flowed. Edulis just watched them go.  Flow, flow, flow until it became the sea, become the clouds, and the rain.

 

The flow of magick quickened. The magick that once flowed like a river now rushed like a waterfall. The white aura swirling around the sword resembled a spinning saw blade.

 

"Should I kill the flies first?"

 

Mebaba's jaw turned toward Murjana. At that very moment…

 

Edulis's sword, shrouded in white light, soared into the sky.

Is that what the legendary thunderbolt looks like when it returns to the sky?

 

And shortly after, one of Mebaba's jaws fell to the ground.




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