~ Chapter 71: Zoreya's turmoil ~
[Zoreya’s point of view]
The temple of Melkuth was a building made out of granite walls and decorated with beautifully carved marble arches and support pillars. Seven big steps raised the whole construction from the ground, each representing the most important laws of my god.
The first was the step of duel, which dictated that a battle between two followers of Melkuth should always be one fought with honor and honesty. This law didn’t apply if only one of them was a follower.
The second was the step of war, which declared that all wars should be started only if Melkuth allowed them, otherwise, they shall be doomed to end in defeat.
The third was the step of battle, which stated that the followers of Melkuth were obligated to participate in at least one battle in their lives.
The fourth was the step of righteousness, which declared that all Melkuth’s followers were obligated to maintain an honest and just lifestyle or else their battle soul would end up tainted and eventually lose Melkuth’s favor.
The fifth was the step of judgment, which stated that a follower of Melkuth must never take the life of children or the weak, no matter who orders them to do so.
The sixth was the step of the Warrior, which declared that for as long as a True follower of Melkuth lives, he shall always bear the title of a Warrior.
The seventh was the step of the Apostle, which stated that all Apostles of Melkuth represent Melkuth’s voice. Through them, his laws were reinforced and as such, the Apostles stood above all other followers.
As I climbed these steps, I remembered what happened back when I was still a child and carried the Shield of Melkuth with me to the nearest temple. Blinded by greed, the priests back then tried at first to steal it from me, deeming me unworthy to be a follower of Melkuth, but as soon as they tried to lift it up, they were crushed underneath it. For me, it was always as light as a feather, while for others, it weighed more than a mountain.
It was then when I learned that even among priests, few were those who could be called a true believer. A hidden duty of the Apostles was also to weed them out and bring them before Melkuth to judge them.
Despite all of this, there was no clear law about how we should act with Dungeon. In general, all temples and their followers applied the same law: Dungeons were an evil existence, and as such, all had to be destroyed.
“Great Apostle, it is a great honor to be in your presence!” the priest who greeted me said as he bowed with half of his body before me.
“Take me to the prayer room and let none enter. So I declare as Melkuth’s Apostle!” I ordered and then tapped the shield on the floor.
The sound it made was loud, and the priest stiffened.
“As you wish!” he replied, and I went inside the temple.
Moments later, be them priests or simple followers, they all left the prayer room where only I was supposed to remain. There, I knelt down in front of Melkuth’s statue. My god was depicted as a handsome, muscular man with wild black hair, strong black eyes, and wearing a black and red armor. For weapons, it was said he used two katanas with black blades and red hilts, at least in this representation. The temples in Aunnar Kingdom represented him as wielding a mighty shield and a longsword in one hand. He was truly an imposing god who could wield to utmost perfection any weapon designed for war.
“I have arrived.” I declared.
“So you have.” came his reply.
The voice echoed throughout the room, so there was no need to check where it was coming from.
“My god, Melkuth, I come before you to make a wish…” I said.
“So you have…” came his reply.
“It’s about Illsyore, the Godlike Dungeon Lord.”
“So you have…”
I furrowed my brow. That was a rather unusual reply.
“My god?” I asked and raised my head.
“Huh? Oh! Sorry, Zoreya! I was a bit… distracted. The idiotic God of Big Boobs decided to pay me a visit and explain how he managed to make the perfect… erm never mind. What were you saying? Something about needing to acquire a camel with a shovel?” he asked.
“Erm… no…” I blinked surprised.
He was wrong… by far.
This wasn’t the first time my god answered in such a weird way. During my younger days, I would think of it as a prophecy of some sort, but now, I knew that he would occasionally allow the prayer connection with me despite being in the middle of something. As an Apostle, I took priority over all his other followers.
“Huh? Then what?” he asked confused.
“About Illsyore, the Godlike Dungeon Lord. I came to make a wish about him.” I repeated myself.
“Ah, yes! What? No, get away from me, you old fool! NO! I’m not going to give you my Apostle for one night! Like I said… Sorry Zoreya, I need to beat someone half to death. Be right back.” he said and then the connection was cut.
“Huh?” I blinked surprised.
Somewhere above this city, the clouds turned dark and began to roar. It was said that during that day, people saw a shooting star. Many prayed to it for good luck, but only the gods knew that it was just a pitiful old fool falling from the heavens.
“Alright, that took care of things! So, Illsyore, right?” he asked.
“Yes.” I nodded.
“What’s your wish?” the tone of his voice changed to a more serious one.
“I desire to know if there’s any way to free him of The Darkness.” I bowed my head.
“Hm…” he became quiet, and I waited patiently until my god, Melkuth, would reply.
The silence lasted a few minutes.
“There is a way… well multiple ways, depending on how you wish to kill Illsyore. Should I lend you one of my swords? It cuts really nicely!” he offered.
“Erm, I wish to keep Illsyore alive and remove The Darkness from inside of him.” I explained again.
“Tch! Very well… but you won’t like it…” he told me.
“What do you mean, my god?” I asked.
“As a god, I could snap my fingers and get rid of IT right away, but doing so would only end up calling the Dark Gods back to this world. I can interfere, but not as much as you mortals may think or desire.” he let out a sigh.
“My god?” I furrowed my brow in confusion.
“Well… Hm… I’m just going to come out and say this. There is nothing you can do to cure Illsyore of The Darkness. There is no way to free him of it unless you wish to kill them both.”
When I heard this, my heart sunk. I didn’t wish to accept that there was nothing I could do. I didn’t wish to accept that there was nothing anyone could do, but if even my god said so… it seemed like my answer was clear. Illsyore had to die before he turned into The Darkness completely.
“However…” Melkuth said.
I blinked surprised and looked up at his statue.
“Theoretically, there is a way to offer Illsyore the possibility of fighting against The Darkness, but even then, he has no chances of winning.”
“Is there really no way?” I asked still hoping for… something.
“Zoreya… why are you so interested in this Dungeon?” he suddenly asked me.
I blinked surprised, but I found myself unable to answer, only to bow down my head.
“From the time I have taken you as an Apostle until now, I had never seen you express so much worry towards another being let alone a Dungeon. What is this Illsyore to you, Zoreya?” he asked me.
What is Illsyore to me? I wondered, but I couldn’t answer.
Silence fell in the prayer room inside the temple. I dared not speak for I had no idea what to say, how to explain something I didn’t know.
“You hesitate…” he told me.
“I do not.” I replied.
“One year ago, any question I would have asked would have been replied clearly, unwavering by you, yet you hesitate now at a simple question with a simple answer.” he told me.
Simple answer? I thought confused.
“Regarding what I said… if you dare to save Illsyore, no if you dare to TRY to save him, you might lose your place as my Apostle. You might even lose your life… The chances and odds of even achieving a chance of a chance of a chance of success are one to a million.” he let out a sigh.
His words shocked me. To think that in order to save a Dungeon, I, an Apostle of Melkuth would have to lose not only my shield, but the right by my god’s side as well. It was too much of a risk, too much at stake.
I have no reason to lose so much… for him. I thought and looked down.
“Just like I thought… Just give up on the idea. Tell his wives that there’s no way to save him. Death is his only certain chance. This, as Melkuth, the God of War, declare it to be the truth.” his voice thundered in the temple and sent shivers down my spine.
Even so, something inside my soul, something inside my heart refused to let go of that one chance Illsyore had. In my entire life, I knew never saw a Dungeon as kindhearted, warm, and loving as him. He didn’t betray his wives and never treated salves as items. He was bound by upstanding and righteous morals.
In my eyes, he was an innocent…
Normally, I would have thanked Melkuth by now and left his temple, but for the first time in my life, I spoke up.
“My god, what do I need to do for that one chance in a million?” I asked him.
“To give him that one chance of a chance of a chance in a million, you will need to lay down your shield at the right time… and let him kill you. I don’t guarantee it as a success, but the moment you will do so, you will lose your right as my Apostle. Your soul shall be treated similar to that of any other follower. Your name shall be crossed from the archives of history. You will have to give up your life, your salvation as a soul, your spot in the other world, your power, your missions, everything… just to give this Godlike Dungeon Lord, towards whom you hold no duty, responsibility, or feelings, a chance of a chance of a chance in a million for him to set himself free of The Darkness.”
My god’s words fell down upon me like hammers, each weighing as much as a mountain did. The sentence for just trying to help was too much. It didn’t even matter if I succeeded or not, I wouldn’t get to know for I would be dead. As for my life’s work, all would be cast down into the fire and burnt in such a way that none would remember me.
My revenge against Dankyun would be met with at an end…
“W-Why?” I asked with a trembling jaw.
“You are trying to help neither a follower of a… respect god, a king who shall lead his country to glory, or someone of great importance to the better future of this planet. You are simply trying to help a Dungeon… a species without a god. As such, for an Apostle of mine to do something like this is outrageous! I can only see myself needing to cast down upon such an individual a heavy punishment. But these are not the only reasons… as a woman and as my Apostle, you have forsaken other men from your life. As such, holding thoughts of another goes against your existence, and helping Illsyore will prove that your heart does not belong to me, but to an enemy of mine.” he declared harshly.
Once more, his words struck me mercilessly, bringing me down on my knees and letting me feel a sense of dread and despair. My god’s words meant but only one thing: Illsyore’s healing was against the will of the gods.
There was nothing I could do… There was nothing Nanya, Shanteya, and Ayuseya could do.
“I understand, my god.” I said as I looked down at the cold floor.
“Take care, my Apostle.” were his last words before our conversation ended.
I didn’t get up right away and remained like that for another half an hour. In my mind, I kept thinking about Melkuth’s answer and tried to weigh the consequences of my own actions if I dared to do anything to help Illsyore.
From my point of view, an innocent was meant to die regardless of what I would choose. In fact, choosing not to help him seemed like the best thing I could do both for him and myself.
Why should I sacrifice myself for him? and with this last thought, I got up from the floor and left the temple.
The priest told me something before I left, but I didn’t hear them… my mind was blank, and my heart was heavy.
That last question of mine, I couldn’t answer it.
The fact that I may have grown attached to him and his group in the past few months was quite possible. My hesitation before my god was the very proof of that, but all in all, it seemed like a strange thing to dot upon.
In my mind, I knew that I shouldn’t be like this, I knew that someone like Illsyore was supposed to mean nothing to me, yet the feeling that I was betraying and sentencing an innocent man to death didn’t leave me. Even when I thought about past judgments I passed down to mortal men, I still saw Illsyore’s position as one more special than theirs, yet I couldn’t explain to myself why it was so.
Is my mind and heart clouded like Melkuth says? Or… for the first time… he’s wrong? I thought, while gripping hard on the shield’s handle.
It’s weight… had changed a little, but I was too distracted to notice.
When I reached the inn where I was supposed to be spending the night at, I stopped and looked up at the sky. By entering this place, I had to have the needed strength to tell my friends the truth and decide how it was better to… stop Illsyore.
There’s no other way, is there? I wondered and closed my eyes for a moment.
All around me, I could hear the parts of life I never had the chance to taste. Children were running back to their homes, two lovers were whispering sweet words to each other, an elderly woman was scolding her grandpa for coming back home late. These were all things Illsyore’s wives also hoped for. They were the things I was about to steal away from them. Dreams I was meant to shatter, and it didn’t feel nice at all.
Opening my eyes, I took a deep breath and entered the inn.
“Zoreya, you are back…” said Shanteya as she approached me.
Looking behind her, I saw the inn keeper dusting off the floor. The bar was broken, and there were signs of a fight, but I didn’t see any signs of blood or bodies.
“What happened?” I asked.
“It’s Illsy…” she replied with a sad look in her eyes.
“What happened to Illsyore? What did he do?” I furrowed my brow and gripped the handle of my shield tightly.
“He attacked Tamara, or rather… The Darkness did. I returned only a moment ago as soon as news of a commotion at this inn reached my ears. I’m going to go after him.” she declared.
Looking over her shoulder, Tamara was being cared for by Nanya, while Ayuseya was rubbing her head as if she had a headache.
“Why haven’t either of them went after him?” I asked.
It was odd that they all stayed behind.
“He asked us to. Or rather begged us not to follow him…” she looked down.
“Then why are you dis…” the word felt hard to pronounce “disobeying him?” I asked.
“Even if he begged us not to go after him, as his wife and lover, I can’t allow myself to let him suffer alone… I just can’t…” she looked down.
I looked down at my shield and then back at her.
“I’m neither his wife nor his lover. Let me go after him… I’ll have a talk with him.” I showed her a small smile.
“But…” she was worried.
“I’ll return with him. I swear on my name as Melkuth’s Apostle.” I smiled.
As soon as she heard that, she nodded. It was a promise I couldn’t go back against, although… I never mentioned if he was going to be brought back dead or alive.
“Did you find out anything?” Shanteya asked me before I turned around to leave.
I looked once at her, then over at Illsyore’s other wives.
“Yes…” I replied quietly and then left.
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