~ Chapter 70: Memories and Turmoil (Part 1) ~
[Zoreya’s point of view]
In the past four months, I have carefully watched and analyzed the behavior of the Godlike Dungeon Lord Illsyore. Most of the times, he acted like a calm individual with an unusual good nature.
We traveled throughout the entire continent at a speed I rarely had the chance to. Back when I was in Prince Reginald’s service, I never once went faster or slower than him, but with Illsyore’s group, I could use my top speed without worrying that I might leave them behind. On the contrary, there were times when they were the ones who more than once left me behind.
When I caught up, they welcomed me with a smile and maybe a joke or two. As for food and other necessities, I never even had the chance to deplete my own reserves of them. The women were always kind and shared food with me, as for the Dungeon Lord, he refused to let me eat alone.
The most I was surprised with was their attitude towards my moments of prayer.
Throughout my life, I had the chance to join many adventurers and noble lords on their quests. Whenever it was time for me to pray, they always tried to rudely interrupt me or question my faith. As an Apostle and follower of Melkuth, I ignored them and let them believed what they wished. I had no reason to impose the faith of my god upon them. If they themselves weren’t attracted to it, then forcing it upon them would only lead to a hollow faith unworthy of a true follower.
It was better without such people than to have them surround me, faking their belief only to latter try to stab me in the back.
Illsyore requested his wives not to bother me during such times. I only needed to let them know, and they would stop to wait for me or give me the privacy I needed. The only other individual who did this was Prince Reginald.
On that note, Melkuth often told me to stay close to them. As I did, I began to guess why it was so. They didn’t robbed the poor or harmed the innocent. To those who found themselves in difficulty, they offered a helping hand without asking for even a single copperette in return. To those who wished them harm, they were like raging monsters basked in the fires of war.
Once or twice, I had the chance to spar with them. As a result of this, I found out a few things about them.
Tamara was the weakest of the group, and although she was Illsyore’s slave, she behaved more like a free woman, and the others acknowledged this as well. Not even once did I hear the Dungeon Lord order her something. The nekatar was never bothered by her inferior combat abilities and spent most of her time hunting for birds and fish. In a way, she was like a cute little sister to all of us.
After her, in terms of combat prowess was Ayuseya, the draconian princess. I was surprised when I found out about her noble background and even more so when I heard that she did not suffer of the rumored curse that afflicted the entire Pleyades royal family.
This woman was a strange one. When Illsyore was with his other wives, she acted indifferently and elegantly. When it was time for her to pull him to bed and do what men and women usually do together at night, she turned into a seductress who constantly clung to him. When another woman attempted to approach him, she turned scary… hissing and glaring at them like a wild beast.
Shanteya, in terms of strength and Magic Energy was a little beneath the draconian woman, but among all of them, I feared her the most. I learned that she was a former assassin, but her edge didn’t dull at all. Cunning, tactical, and secretive, she always moved into the shadows to finish off her opponents. Those who dared to slander Illsyore’s name were often found afterward beaten half to death in some dark alley.
The strongest among them was Nanya. I could never beat this woman in fair combat. Her abilities with magic were impressive. Her skill with her black sword were incredible. Her strength was unreasonable. Against her, I could only defend myself. As for her attitude towards Illsyore, she was of the playful type, who often tried to pull pranks on all of us.
I learned the hard way that I had to be careful around her. That demoness turned my hair pink for one day, made me speak backwards for two, and… made me lose more bets than I desired to.
When it came to other women who approached Illsyore, she was usually the first one after Ayuseya to react. If the draconian wasn’t around, she took matters into her own hands, although, I would appreciate it if she stopped making me use my shield as a knock-out hammer on Illsyore. Alas, a crusader had to keep her word… even if that word was given during a bet about how far two frogs placed next to each other could jump if startled at the same time.
As for those who dared to pull out a sword to threaten Illsyore, she had a very simple cure. She walked up to them, grabbed their blade and snapped it in half. Few dared to try again.
Overall, they were an interesting bunch and not at all as I had initially expected them to be. The women truly loved Illsyore, and he replied to their love equally, but lately… he had been acting strange.
More than once, I had seen him glaring at shadows or turning around as if someone had just whispered something dreadful to him. When he was engaged in combat, he had a hard time controlling his urge to kill, almost as if he was struggling against an invisible force. Meanwhile, during some nights, he would run off into the wilds and return only the following morning. I tried to chase after him once, but he was faster than me.
It was later when I learned of The Darkness, who was trying to take control over him.
I had a very bad feeling about it, but only through a deep meditation with Melkuth would I be able to find an answer to this, and this could only be done at one of his temples.
In theory, I could do it anywhere, but if this thing inside Illsyore’s mind managed to get a whiff of our plan, the temple would be the only place where I would be completely protected by my god when in such a deep meditation and trance. It was better to be safe than sorry.
Thus, we made our way to Teyarion, the desert city of Tesuar Kingdom. There, I would find the Temple of War and begin to pray to my god, Melkuth. Meanwhile, Nanya, Shanteya, Ayuseya, and Tamara would all keep a close eye on Illsyore to make sure if he was still there or not.
“It’s hot!” complained the nekatar.
“Indeed.” said Shanteya.
They were both breathing hard. Nanya was using a fan to keep herself cool, while Ayuseya wore very thin clothing, up to the point where she dangerously showed her shapes.
Meanwhile, I thanked Melkuth for the temperature regulation enchant of my armor. As for Illsyore, he looked calm and composed.
“I think I see it…” he pointed out to the city.
“That’s it…” I said and then let out a small sigh.
Looking at it from afar, I began to remember a little bit of my past. To be more exact, of the time when this city was nothing more than a small town near an oasis.
“This is the place where I received the Shield of Melkuth.” I said.
“Really? I didn’t know this place had such a history. Can you tell me about?” he asked curiously.
There was no reason not to, so I began to speak of how I was wandering through the streets as a young girl, trying my best to survive and constantly thinking of the time when I would get my revenge on Dankyun.
“You didn’t get it while practicing in a temple?” asked Nanya curiously.
“No.” I shook my head. “Over there, before the war, was a small mansion belonging to a noble. The walls were thick and tall. Many thieves tried to get in, but he had an Emperor Rank guard who could easily push them back. One night, while starving and alone, I walked towards that area. At that time, two thieves managed to break in and leave with some goods. They saw me and decided to silence me.”
As I spoke, I began to remember how frightened I was when I first saw them. It didn’t occur to me at first that they were thieves, but when they pointed at me and declared my death, I trembled in fear like a helpless lamb in front of a starving Dayuk.
“What happened then?” asked Illsyore.
“They grabbed me and tried to slit my throat, but in that very moment… This very shield fell from the sky right on top of them.” I giggled and patted it gently.
“That must have hurt.” said Nanya.
“It did, it killed them instantly. I remember that right after that, Melkuth said something like: Ah! I squashed a bug… Well, never mind. Girl, take the shield and bring it to the nearest Temple of War. If you do this, I’ll make you an Apostle! But, I’ll wait to do so until you’ve grown old enough to my liking…”
“He said exactly those words?” Illsyore asked me surprised.
“Yes. I remember each and every one of his words like a crystal clear memory from yesterday. It was the first time when Melkuth spoke to me, so it was quite… shocking.” I giggled.
“WOW!” Illsyore said.
“Why wait until you grow up, nya?” asked Tamara.
“All Apostles of Melkuth became one after they pass the age of 21. I was granted the gift at the age of 24.” I nodded happily.
“I think he was just waiting for you to grow up… more.” Illsyore said while looking at my chest.
“Didn’t she say that? Wait… what are you looking at?” Nanya asked while squinting her eyes.
Was he staring at the engravings on my armor? True, they are quite nicely done. I like them myself. I thought.
“Nothing… the sky?” he replied and looked up.
I didn’t get it.
“You were thinking about the size of her chest weren’t you?” asked Ayuseya as she glared at him.
“Erm…” he tried to back away, but the two women were cornering him.
Looking down, I furrowed my brow. My armor wasn’t revealing or anything like that. You could hardly tell if my breasts were big or small. Although, as a matter of fact, he was already aware of how I looked underneath my armor. Still, this had nothing to do with my story or why Melkuth chose me.
As for that peculiar event, it happened about three weeks ago.
One morning, after waking up a bit earlier than usual and knowing there was a waterfall nearby, I went over there to purify myself. The cold water was perfect for my meditation, and I wasn’t expecting to be followed. Just in case, I searched the area a couple of times before picking a good spot where I could undress from armor.
Without wearing even a single strap of clothing on my body, I sank into the cold water and swam all the way to the rocks underneath the waterfall. I picked one with a flat surface, climbed on top of it and began to meditate in silence. It was so peaceful that I nearly lost track of time. Meanwhile, Illsyore and his wives woke up. Seeing that I wasn’t there, they began to search for me to let me know breakfast was ready.
The one who found me was none other than Illsyore. He appeared on the other side of the small lake and looked straight at me. At first, I had no idea how to react. He blushed and then turned around. Calmly, I went back to the shore, dried myself and put my clothes and armor back on.
All this time, the Dungeon Lord waited quietly. When I walked up to him, he avoided my gaze like an embarrassed teenager.
“Erm… You… You’re really beautiful, Zoreya.” he told me.
In that moment, my cheeks went up in flares, and I quickly avoided his gaze. I replied with barely audible ‘thank you’ and then we made our way back to the camp site.
After I returned from my memory, Illsyore’s eyes were tearing up and his cheeks were red. On each side there was the clear imprint of a palm. Seeing him like this, I let out a soft giggle.
Upon entering Teyarion, I was swept by my memories of my teenage years. This place was livelier than before, but it also changed quite a bit. It was almost unrecognizable. Besides the seemingly lifeless way everyone was used to building their homes, adobe brick upon adobe brick held together by a skeleton of wood, only the temples and the local lord’s manor showed a different style in architecture. The distinct smell of clay, hay, and dirty roads still permeated the air around us like it did so long ago.
Even so, children played around, giggled and laughed together, while teenagers and adults worked hard on their daily jobs. Those who didn’t were the usual rejects of society, the thieves and unruly ones.
The guards at the gates didn’t even try to stop us from entering. The security was lax as usual.
“We should find an inn…” said Nanya.
“I want some fish!” complained Tamara.
“I still have some. We’ll cook it when we get there.” Illsyore patted her head, and she leaned back her ears.
“I will go with you to the inn, then head to the temple.” I revealed my plans for the day.
“The temple?” Illsyore asked.
“They have a Temple of War built in this city. As an Apostle, I must go and pay my respects to my god, Melkuth.” I nodded.
“I see. Have fun then.” Illsyore nodded, but it seemed like he wasn’t suspecting anything.
After we arrive at the inn, we booked two rooms. One was for me and the other for them. They had only a double bed room, but Illsyore was planning on absorbing the said bed and replacing it with one of his own. That was their usual strategy. They all slept together in his comfy bed.
Once we were set, I left the inn, I walked straight to the temple.
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