A pungent herbal odour wafted through a dimly lit room, mixing with the strong smell of incense. The two scents mixed to leave one light-headed.
An old scholar lay on a bed with an exquisite brocade silk quilt draped over him, on the last leg of his life. The atmosphere was heavy, and light sniffs sounded out on occasion before they were suppressed.
Leylin was clad in black ceremonial attire as he stood amongst the guests, expressionless as he watched the old man on the bed. There was no sign of the inexperience on his face from before, and instead he seemed more mature, like a handsome young man.
It was obviously Anthony on the bed. This scholar was a normal human after all, and his life force had been diminishing for a long time. Being able to hold on to till date was already something that greatly surprised Leylin.
On top of his role as a student about to send his master off, Leylin had a more important matter to attend to.
At this moment, Anthony’s body twitched and his throat moved. There was a slight flush on his face, and it was obvious that death was near.
“Priest! Get the priest!” His wife shrieked, and the children around her burst into tears.
The crowd split into two, revealing the sorrowful face on Bishop Tapris. “The gods will watch over you from the divine kingdom.”
“Thank you! Thank you, Lord Bishop!” Anthony’s wife wept. As a bishop of the god of knowledge, Tapris evidently had a high status on Faulen Island, and being able to have him attend meant Anthony was given face. While Leylin suspected this had to do with his powerful family, it was still a good thing, no?
Tapris waved his arms, showering him in holy light and stabilising Anthony’s condition. Afterwards, the scholar began his last prayer. It might instead be called a narration of his memories. “My life… began at the island of Sicily…. ”
“Leylin, my student, I hope to see the day you succeed. Even in the divine kingdom, I’ll be rooting for you!”
“I understand, master!” Leylin quickly hastened forward, the A.I. Chip’s detective abilities being raised to the maximum.
Tapris was moved by Anthony’s mention of Leylin, something he’d done even after reciting his will. It showed how well Anthony thought of his student; his own investment hadn’t been wasted.
“I… I see the glamour of the gods…” Anthony struggled for the last time, raising his palm. The light in his eyes dimmed, and his arms powerlessly fell to the side of the bed.
“Nooo…” “Anthony…” “My dearest Anthony…” Many cries began to sound in the room.
Tapris’ face grew even more pious as he began Anthony’s eulogy, “He was a learned scholar and a good samaritan, one who was willing to help others. As a follower of the god of knowledge, Anthony Blunton used his entire life to pass on the teachings of the gods. The gates to the divine kingdom shall open for him in death…”
‘It’s here!’ A trace of emotion flickered in Leylin’s eyes. Through his powerful senses, he saw huge, shining golden gates. The gates opened to a bright holy light, within which Anthony’s soul rose from his body on its own. After taking another peek at the world of the living, he threw himself inside…
‘The divine kingdom, situated in a plane above the prime material plane…’ Leylin sighed inside.
‘Normal followers’ souls must first enter the soil and, after being evaluated by the God of Death, advance into the divine kingdoms of the various gods. However, Anthony’s soul bypassed that procedure. Is this a privilege from the bishop?’ Leylin wondered.
After the souls of followers reached the divine kingdoms, they would in theory become petitioners, henceforth breaking away from mortality. As long as the god and their divine kingdom were not destroyed, they would basically exist together with the god.
To a certain extent, this was a sort immortality, but they could not be bothered by external forces.
‘It’s rumoured that high-ranked petitioners can undergo a transition in terms of their souls, becoming something like a holy spirit… Every such one is a precious asset of the god, but their numbers are…’ Based on Leylin’s thoughts, these holy spirits were souls that could not die nor be extinguished, very similar to materialised souls.
This meant that, in theory, every holy spirit was comparable to the truesoul of a Breaking Dawn Magus.
‘While the formation of holy spirits relies entirely on external forces, there is the benefit of living a stress-free immortal life while depending on the gods. Over time, the defences of the gods’ divine kingdoms must have grown extremely terrifying…’
With a limitless number of believers, holy spirits, and the power of being the authority in that realm, gods were basically invincible in their own divine kingdoms. Even the more powerful deities couldn’t easily dispose of the weaker ones if they were in their own realms, and they would have to pay a terrible price.
As for those Magi who had accidentally intruded into a divine kingdom… the result was obvious.
‘Evidently, master Anthony’s soul has a ways to go to meet the requirements to become a holy spirit. The mighty god of knowledge, Oghma, would obviously not make an exception for him… But with the bishop paving the path for him, he’d probably be in a better situation than many petitioners.’
After the divine lights retracted and the guiding force disappeared, Leylin’s tense body relaxed. Bishop Tapris approached him then as well, having completed the ceremony, “Leylin!”
“Lord Bishop!” Leylin bowed to him respectfully. After all, he was a follower of the god of knowledge even if in name.
“Anthony was a pious follower. He will definitely be treated well in His kingdom, there’s no need to worry…” Tapris consoled him, and seemed to have more to say.
Leylin and Tapris left the room, heading to a garden. Those people around had voluntarily left this area to them. “If I don’t remember wrong, you’ve already held your coming of age ceremony. You’re now a true man!” Bishop Tapris shifted the topic to Leylin.
“Yes, it was conducted last month…” Leylin answered modestly. Based on the customs of this world, boys would be considered adults once they hit 15, and could marry and have children.
“I was by your side when you were born… At that time, you were a little guy, still in your infancy. You’ve gotten so big in the blink of an eye…” Bishop Tapris laughed gently, as if reminiscing. As a rank 10 priest, the years did not leave marks on his face. In reality, he was much older than Anthony.
“But… I rarely see you attending celebrations at the church. Baron Jonas might be busy with work, but Lady Sarah is a very devout follower…” Tapris’ voice showed a hint of disapproval.
“My apologies, lord bishop! I often conduct experiments with master Ernest and I must lose track of time…” Leylin quickly apologised.
A look of helplessness appeared on Bishop Tapris’ face. Wizards in general had the least piety in them. Many of them were just general followers, and he’d long since expected this. In reality, while the entire Faulen family might be followers of the god of knowledge, they had never completely lost themselves in the teachings of the god.
In many areas on the continent, the worldly authority that nobles had were perpetually in conflict with gods’ authority. Even Baron Jonas had brought in a new god, Ilmater the Crying God, while the church of knowledge already existed. He planned to build a church of wealth, allowing other gods to spread faith in them amongst the followers.
This was the instinct of a noble, but Tapris obviously couldn’t accept it. His plan was to pull in the next generation head of the Faulen Family.
It was a pity that wizard Leylin was just like his father. While he never forgot to donate and make sacrifices to the church, he rarely took part in zealous religious ceremonies. On top of that, he was a wizard and had help from his mentor… Tapris’ expression grew darker.
“My apologies for my rude actions, Bishop Tapris! Please allow me to donate ten gold coins to the church to repent for my sins. On top of that, please inform me the next time there are celebrations and gatherings!” When it came to matters of faith, Leylin had long since planned to treat them with less importance. However, since Tapris had brought it up, he had no choice but to do this.
Anyway, he already had plans to go to the church’s celebrations every once in a while, pretending to be a follower.
“Good! There will be a holy baptism seven days later. It is a day in remembrance of the god of knowledge’s feat in reforming the demon, Angmar. The church will hold a grand celebration, so I hope to see you there…”
“It would be my honour to. I’ll definitely go!” Since this was a personal invite from Tapris, Leylin agreed straightforwardly.
“Good!” Tapris nodded, and was then asked away by someone who had been waiting for him beside them. Besides Anthony’s funeral, there were many matters he had to attend to.
After the Lord Bishop left, Leylin remained in the garden, watching the white rose behind the wooden railing while deep in thought. ‘He wants me to go there personally? What is that supposed to be? A warning?’
In reality, with his status as a noble the power of the church was not as immense as one would expect it to be. If Tapris dared overstep his boundaries, he would definitely be jointly resisted by the entirety of the nobility in the Dambrath Kingdom.
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