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In a World without God Chapter 47

Armillo, Armillo... Edulis was deeply troubled by that name. Especially since he was the organizer of the protests...


"What's wrong?" Kishi asked, noticing Edulis' stern expression.


"The protests are large, but it's common for protests to arise from tax backlash. We don't have a history of harshly punishing protesters, so why can’t we proceed and move on to Rekabi?"


Edulis shook his head. "What kind of a man is this Armillo? Who is he that the people follow him so closely?"

 

"They say he is faithful and sincere. If he sees someone hungry around him, he sells what he has to feed them, and if someone is injured, he stays up all night to tend to them."


Edulis pondered on this. 


"Is there anything that bothers you?" Kishi asked.


Edulis couldn't put his finger on it, but something was bothering him. Like a fish barb lodged in his esophagus, or a rock in the heel of his shoe, an unidentifiable discomfort lingered in his mind.


"Can't we get through Lunia, even if it's a bit of a stretch?"

 

"Nothing is impossible, but...given the size of the protests, the Central Kingdom Army will be descending on Lunia soon to blockade it. If it takes a long time to get through the protesters, we'll be stuck there."

 

"How many days do you think it will be before the Central Kingdom Army arrives?"

 

"At a guess, I'd say two days."


Two days. Neither ample nor too tight. Unlike Kishi, whose travels have been limited to the wastelands around Kaldura, Bosha has traveled all over the continent, so he knows the southern terrain pretty well. 

 

It shouldn't be too difficult to get through Lunia before the central kingdom's army arrives, Edulis thought.


Armillo, incitement, protest, the words flashed through Edulis's mind as he spoke them. Blood spilled, soldiers rolling on the ground, the cries of an angry populace. It was like looking at a painting shrouded in a thin veil of smoke. A vague sense of unease swirled in his mind, a sense that he could almost grasp, but still out of reach. 

 

"I want to go to Lunia as planned. Murjana, what do you think?"

 

"You need not ask me, Edulis. I am subject to your will."

 

"Why don't you ask me, Edulis!" Aruru bounced up and down in frustration.

 

Then Kishi said. "Fine, fine. If it is your wish, Edulis, I will use all my skills as an Erabu to cross Lunia in two days."


With that, Kishi urged the Veloxes on, and they flapped their palm-sized wings in panic at the unprecedented insistence. Thanks to Kishi's urging, it took less than half a day to travel from the station to Lunia. 


Lunia was in chaos. Almost everyone in town had gathered in front of Lunia Castle. The guards in front of the walls were pushing people back with their shields, and people were throwing stones at the guards and the walls. It wasn't hard to recognize Armillo in the crowd. He shouted at the front of the crowd. 


 "Ladies and gentlemen, the goddess Lutea has said that we are all born the same and that we are to mingle and care for one another, but this man, the regent, has made thousands of people tighten their belts and locked the gates so that he can feed himself, which shows, first, that he has no will to care for one another, and, second, that he has no will to mingle. How can such a man hold public office in a world ruled by a goddess?"


He was a handsome young man with good looks. Blond hair like Forsythia, a lean body, and droopy eyes.... 


At the sight of him, a memory flew like an arrow and pierced Edulis' head. A voice from the depths of his memory rose to the surface. 


 - Money, honor, and fear drive men. Lutea is nothing more than a name for those three things. 

 - It's your fault for being fooled. You have only your own foolishness to blame, Armillo.


 It was Bosha's voice. 


 ***


Armillo was a priest in the town of Udavina. Udavina was a small town in the northwestern part of the Ur Empire, near the border of the Kingdom. 

Armillo was a kind-hearted priest. Whenever he had wealth, he shared it with others, and he made sure that no one in Udavina was hungry before he filled his own belly. He was also very humble. 


 "Armillo, you are a saint of Udavina,” the villagers would say. 


"No," he would reply, "that's not a title for me to wear; I'm just a sheep that wandered off the road."


All the people of Udavina followed and loved Armilo. 

 

One year, a great famine struck the empire, and old men, women, and children died for lack of food. Armilo comforted the villagers and said. 


"Taharka is a young emperor, and though it may be late, he will release his food reserves and provide for us."

 

But time passed, and no help came. All Armillo could do was pray. 


"Lutea, please guide us to the light."


One day, a man named Bosha, the leader of the Black Fangs, came to Udavina, offering dried fruit and meat to the people. Armillo thanked him, bowing almost to the ground. 


"Thank you, sir. This will allow us to survive until food aid arrives."


Then Bosha said. "Food aid? Do you think that will come to this small village?"

 

"What?"

 

"Taharka is a smart emperor. He has his priorities straight. The food aid has already been distributed, starting with the most productive villages. You are not among them." Bosha said as despair colored Armillo's face.


"Are you going to die here praying, leaving the dying villagers alone?"

 

"There's nothing else I can do."

 

"No, there is," Bosha whispered to Armillo in a low voice. "Armillo, your good reputation is well known around here, and you are a good speaker. When you open your mouth in public, people are willing to follow your lead."


"What are you suggesting I do?"


"Gather the people, take up arms, and march toward the royal granary. There, the land is still fertile, and there will be enough to feed the people of Udavina."


Armillo narrowed his eyes and shook his head. 


"Are you asking me to lead a rebellion? No, no. I can never do that. Lutea told me to speak with faith, not the sword."

 

"Armillo, Lutea said to be the strength of the weakest. Taharka has forsaken Udavina, and Lutea's will is with you, not with Taharka. Will you not fulfill that will, and watch your people starve to death?"


Armillo was in anguish, but his struggle was short-lived. He could no longer watch his people die of famine. 

 

Armillo did as Bosha commanded. He chose some of the youngest and healthiest men from Udavina to go with him to the border of the kingdom and the eastern Parva Gorge, proclaiming that the emperor had defied Lutea's will, and that they should take up arms and go to the royal granary. 

 

The people raised their fists in support of Armillo's words. They successfully raided the western granary and obtained food. Despite many sacrifices in the fight against the guards, Armillo consoled himself that they had saved many lives.


Armillo and the Udavina youth returned to the village with five carts full of food. But no one was there to greet them.


 "........"


Armillo couldn't even open his mouth. Bodies lay everywhere in the village. They were all old men and women, and the children and young women had apparently been kidnapped, as there were marks everywhere where they had been dragged. 

 

Armillo knew this was the work of the Eastern Barbarians, but he had doubts. The eastern barbarians were so low-tech that they still used stone tools. How could they have overpowered the Eastern Guards?


Armillo went from village to village appealing. Please save the kidnapped people. But for some reason, no one responded to his pleas this time. 


Armillo traveled to Kaldura to find Bosha, the leader of the Black Fangs. It was his last hope. Bosha would save them, he thought. When Armillo found the Black Fang base, Bosha spoke. 


 "You've come to the right place, traitor." With that, he pointed his sword at Armillo. 


"What... what is this, Captain Bosha?"

 

"There is a bounty on your head. A very large one."

 

"Captain... didn't you tell me to obey Lutea's will...."

 

"You idiot," Bosha sighed heavily. 


"Ha... Armillo, do you think these people who are going to follow you to the food storage have any idea of Lutea's will?"

 

"What the...."

 

"The borders of the kingdom are taxed at a higher rate than the rest of the country, so there are many poor people. There are a lot of veterans living around the Parva Gorge, and they're starving because they've been discharged and can't find work. Your words are but a small trigger and everyone is following their self-interest."


Armillo's face went white. Part of him understood why no one responded to his pleas. It was because there was nothing in it for them to demand that the kidnapped be rescued.


"Lutea can't move anyone. What moves people is money, honor, and fear. Lutea is just a name for those three things."


 Armillo asked. "Bosha. What did you gain by using me?"

 

"I sold you weapons. It's a lucrative business."

 

"Did you sell weapons to the barbarians as well?"

 

"Well, maybe. We didn't discriminate."


Hearing Bosha's words, Armillo's body shook with anger. Blood trickled from the corners of his mouth as he chewed on the flesh in his mouth. 


"You deceived me, Bosha."

 

"You know too little of how the world works. It is a world of deceit and deception. In this world, the one who is deceived is always at fault."

 

"Be damned, Bosha. Your soul will fall into a bottomless pit!"

 

"You have only your own foolishness to blame, Armillo."


With those words, Bosha slit Armillo's throat. 

This happened shortly after Bosha had taken over the leadership from Karayan.


***


"Edulis?"


Murjana asked, looking at Edulis with concern. Edulis was pale and his lips were trembling.


The weight of his sins weighed on his ankles. He had deceived them in Lutea's name. He sold weapons in the name of Lutea, knowing that they would fight and kill each other, thus turning many lives into tragedy. 


Armillo, why hadn't he immediately remembered that name? Why had he buried it in the back of his memory? Perhaps he didn't want to think about it. He didn't want to show that part of him to Ygraine.


Edulis approached Armillo, shaking like a sick man. 


"Armillo of Udavina. Bosha of Kaldura is here."


Armillo turned his head, looked at Edulis, and chuckled. Then he said.


"You were right, Akale, when you said that if anyone came to me and spoke to me, it would be Bosha."


His voice sounded like a snake hissing. It was so different from his eloquent voice. Armillo's face was the same in his memory, but the expression was different– there was no innocence in it. 


"Thank you, Bosha! I've learned a lot from you. You're right, people are all looking out for themselves in the end. Look at the way they crawled out of the woodwork when we raised taxes. Isn't it funny?"


He chuckled. Armillo, the faithful young man, was not there. Edulis was silent, unable to find the words to say. Disgust with himself, guilt for Armillo, and questions about his behavior all came at once, confusing him. 

 

As he stood there, Armillo spoke. "And...."


Armillo turned his smiling face back to the others. Edulis's gaze followed Armillo's, and he realized that everyone's eyes had turned yellow.

Some people's necks stretched upward, writhing like snakes. Their limbs stretched out like branches, lengthening and twisting in the wrong direction. They were all slowly losing their humanity, and no one cared.


"You said it yourself, didn't you? The one who is deceived is at fault."






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