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In a World without God Chapter 43

Petra took a step toward Ishkur, and a memory flashed in her mind that was as vivid as if it had been colored with paint.

 

The sound of waves crashing against rocks howled from the distance. Young Ishkur curled up in fear at the sound, for it sounded like a monster roaring. Ishkur's mother patted him on the back as he cowered.

 

 - It's okay, even if a monster comes, I'll protect you.

 

With that, she sang him a lullaby, and before he knew it, the sound of the waves had faded away, and only her voice echoed in his head. Her soft voice, her warm touch.

 

"Edulis. What are you going to do?" Murjana asked, her grip tightening on her sword. "I think we must subdue her. The others are focused on maintaining the magic circle, so let's go while we can."

 

Murjana was ready to spring into action, but Edulis stepped in her way.

 

Petra moved closer to Ishkur and opened her arms, hugging him tightly. Ishkur did not resist the touch. Ishkur thought of his days with the Feys. The emotionless voice. The cold stares. The adults gave no affection to Ishkur, who was not of their blood.

 

Was he worth anything to them?

 

Ishkur thought of the public when he faced Tibea. People who could change their attitudes in an instant to suit their own interests.

 

Was he worth anything to them?


Perhaps none. His mother was right. The name Lutea means nothing. People wear it like a fashionable name, only to throw it to the ground and trample on it at any moment.

 

His mother was different. She hasn’t changed. Her arms are still warm and fragrant. For twelve years, no one has ever held Ishkur like this. Everyone has drawn a line in the sand and Ishkur was always outside of it. 

 

Let those of us who are inside the line love each other. Let us be kind to each other. Those outside the line don't matter. That's what she was saying, but is it wrong? Isn't that how we all live?

 

"Ishkur, are you okay with that?" Edulis asked. Ishkur did not answer. "If it's good for you, that's all that matters."


"Edulis?" Murjana looked at Edulis with a questioning look on her face. Edulis shook his head.


There were no horns on Petra's face, no butterfly tattoo. She genuinely worships Granadilla, and she intends to share that happiness with Ishkur.

 

There have been others like her before, humans who believe Granadilla is right, who stand by her side. Ygraine did not punish them. Instead, she held them close.

 

 - I love you. Even if you deny me everything.

 

People build fences around their hearts. After letting a few people into the fence, they tremble and start to let them out one by one. Then, one day, when they suddenly find themselves alone, they start to listen to the voice of Granadilla. 

 

“Everyone is engulfed in anxiety, trembling inside the fences that separate one from others. Crouched down, people can't see beyond the fence.  Ygraine said.

 

 - There will come a day when the space inside the fence will gradually widen and bring us all together.

 - Then we'll all realize that we never needed a fence in the first place.

 

All one can do is wait until they lift their heads and look outside the fence. Waiting for that day, Lutea would always be the closest to the fence. No matter how many hateful and resentful people pointed their spears at her, she treated them with love.

 

"But, Ishkur." Edulis said. "Even if you sided with Granadilla, Lutea would still love you."

 

Petra frowned at those words.

 

"I will wait for you according to that will. I will wait for the day when you look beyond yourselves and share your hearts truly."

 

Then Petra broke the embrace and covered Ishkur's ears with her hands.

 

"My son, don't listen to the hypocrite's nonsense. Lutea is always trying to hide how the world works."

 

 Ishkur stared at Edulis, dumbfounded. Edulis turned toward the circle.

 

 "Before that day comes, we must end the sins you've perpetuated.”

 

***

 

There are two ways to break a circle. One is to kill the caster who maintains the circle. The other is to break the circle's core. The core was floating above Elena's body, shining black, a dodecahedron. Elena lay asleep beneath it.

 

Edulis stepped onto the circle. Murjana followed.

 

Several of the Ascidians in the area raised their staffs at the sight of the two entering the circle. But they did not attack. Edulis and Murjana's choice seemed very foolish, trying to destroy the core without killing the caster.

 

"It is a circle drawn by Granadilla herself, and it is filled with her power," Petra said. As soon as Edulis and Murjana's bodies touched the circle, they were swallowed by a vague darkness.

 

 "Granadilla shows us what a true human being looks like. Let us see what hypocrites become."


Ishkur was silent. 


“And then, offer prayers to Granadilla. Pray to her, who embraces the ugliness of humanity with a loving grace." Petra continued. 

 

Ishkur watched as Edulis and Murjana were engulfed by the black form.

 

Edulis clutched Murjana's hand tightly. Her breath caught in her throat. It was as if their souls were sinking into a swamp. A black, sticky energy, like tar, eroded her insides. As if it would swallow him whole in an instant.

 

"Murjana, are you okay?"

 

"Yes."

 

But they managed to maintain their existence. The white magick swirling in their minds protected their souls. Even so, it was so difficult to stand inside. If they let their minds wander for even a moment, they would forget their names.

 

 "Where should we go?"

 

Murjana asked, unable to see even the smallest light. They couldn't even recognize each other's faces.

 

"Follow me."

 

Edulis took a step forward as if he were sure where to go. Murjana followed. Then the landscape changed.

 

 - Your Majesty, it is foolish to go to war to defend a small territory.


 Someone knelt before the king. It was a woman wearing a wide-brimmed hat, with silver hair and eyes.


 - Hand over the territory and buy the hearts of the people. Territory is easy to get, but hearts are hard to win.

 

 Edulis recognized her. It was Ygraine. No, she wasn't Ygraine, but she had a different name.

 Someone was watching the spectacle, and that someone's vision was reflected in Edulis' and Murjana's. That someone was staring intently at Lutea alone. 

 

 - Why is that?

 

Someone whispered. Hearing that whisper, a sharp pain surged in Edulis and Murjana's chests. A strange emotion flowed into them.

 

"Murjana, do not be deceived. Think only of your heart."

 

"...Yes."


Edulis and Murjana took another step forward, and the scene changed again.

 

- Abramelin, why do you hide your magic? Why don't you use it fully for the good of the Empire?


- What does it mean to serve the empire? Does going to battle and killing people serve the empire?


- It's a necessary evil for the prosperity of the empire!


- No, that's not what serving the empire is about. Enriching the crops and caring for the sick - that's what truly serves the empire.

 

 Someone was staring at Abramelin, mumbling. 

 

 - Why.

 

 Then, Edulis and Murjana felt as if a dagger had been driven into their hearts.

 

 "Ugh...."

 

 Murjana clutched her chest.

 

 "Murjana, this is not your heart."

 

Edulis wrapped his arms around Murjana with his own magick, and he thought of Ygraine. Ygraine's smile, Ygraine's voice. It was the shield that kept his existence from crumbling.

 

 - A toast to the saint!

 

- Are you sure you don't drink?


- Today is a feast for the saint. Let's have just one drink!

 

 Ygraine laughs amid the crowd. Something is looking at her again. Only Ygraine.

 

"We're almost there, Murjana."

 

"Almost there? I don't see anything."

 

Edulis could see it. A light, as small as a dot, but as bright as a star. And where the light was, there was Elena. Her golden hair disheveled.


A tiny mouth floated in Elena's ear, chattering incessantly.

 

 - Resent Lutea.

 - See, no one comes to your rescue.

 - Curse humans. Curse the world. Only I am your salvation.

 

Elena grimaced and looked toward the direction of the voice. On the opposite side was a white light. It was holding Elena's hand. However, Elena seemed bothered by it, constantly trying to shake it off.

 

Edulis approached the light and placed his hand on top of the back of the one holding Elena's hand. It gripped Elena's hand tightly as she tried to pull it away, and the white energy that swirled through Edulis's soul flowed along it as naturally as if it had been there all along.

 

The light began to take shape. Five fingers became clear, and then a forehead appeared. Silver hair brushed Elena's cheek.

 

 - Elena, the only thing that can save you is yourself.

 

The voice seemed to come from the depths of her heart. Elena turned her head toward the light.

 

Then the darkness came in waves: it became a sword, a spear, a bow, flying toward the light. The light did not resist. Swords, spears, and arrows pierced her body.

But she, undeterred, called out that name.

 

 - Granadilla, even if you curse me to no end— 

 

The mouth that whispered in Elena's ear made no reply.

 

- I still love you. 

 

The shadows scurried away like a slithering insect and the darkness around Elena lifted. Through the gap, Edulis saw an octahedron floating in the air.

 

 Edulis didn't miss it and swung his sword.

 

 ***

 

 The Ascidians surrounding the circle all turned their attention to the circle.

 

The circle uses humans as a solvent to imbue the Shard of Lutea with the power of Granadilla. If a human who does not possess a fragment of Lutea steps onto the magic circle, their soul is warped. In fact, even those with the fragment are eventually warped.


So far, all have failed. Before Lutea's fragment could be imbued with Granadilla's power, the human soul would shatter.

 

There was an internal expectation among them about what kind of monster Edulis and Murjana, those two children, would turn into. Since they passed the entrance, they were likely not ordinary. Yet, they moved across the magic circle shrouded in darkness. Even more, they never wandered, walking straight to where Elena was.


"...What's happening? Why aren’t they being swallowed by Granadilla's energy?"

"Everyone, add more power to the magic circle!"

 

No one could interfere inside the magic circle. It was shielded by Granadilla's power. All they could do was add more power to the circle.

 

But Edulis and Murjana were still not swallowed. Some of the Ascidians stared at them, thinking they could see a glimmer of light in the darkness that enveloped them.

 

Then, the core of the magic circle shattered. The circle on the floor disappeared, and the darkness surrounding Edulis and Murjana dispersed.

 

There was silence. No one spoke. They just stared at the sight from afar.

 

The power of Granadilla, the core of their worship, had been shattered. But disappointment was not the only emotion that filled their hearts. They had heard. The moment the core shattered, they heard a voice. A voice that spoke directly to their hearts.

 

 - I love you too.

 

 As they looked at each other, Edulis stood up. He was holding something in his hand. 







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