Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The atmosphere was filled with anxiety. Zakriel glared at Ricky with a burning gaze.
“…But this has never been confirmed.”
Ricky sank into silence for a while.
“Oh. This is interesting.” Ricky glanced into the Knight of Judgment’s eyes and smiled. “Which king?”
Under the man’s profound gaze, Zakriel shook his head firmly. “I can’t tell you that.”
Thales exhaled. As the ground trembled, Ricky suddenly turned his head around and cast a meaningful glance at the teenager. It frightened the latter…
Ricky still looked away in the end. He then responded to the Knight of Judgment, “Watchman, how much do you know about demons? How much do you know about me?”
Zakriel stared at him, momentarily stunned.
“Come on, tell me. Tell your prince, too,” Ricky said with a smile.
Zakriel looked at Thales strangely. “In Constellation, the people who dealt with your kind have always been Sunset Temple, and the kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department.”
Thales’ expression changed slightly.
“According to Sunset Temple, you can’t exist in this world in your true form. You can only possess another body and use it as a vessel; you may also bewitch others, but that means you can only deliver your message through your followers.” Zakriel studied Ricky’s face closely. “Either way, your current appearance is only a false one. You are rooted in hell. This is the reason why you never die even when you suffer fatal injuries.”
‘Possess another body… bewitch…’ Thales suppressed the shock he felt as he tried to digest the new information he just received.
Ricky stroked his chin and raised his eyebrows. The leader of Disaster Swords nodded and asked, “Interesting. Is there more?”
Zakriel kept quiet.
“…According to the Secret Intelligence Department’s records, other than invading a person’s consciousness, you can also show yourselves through ‘corruption’,” Zakriel said through gritted teeth. His eyes were fixed on the part where Ricky was previously wounded.
“The corrupted flesh shows unusual levels of activity that can’t be explained through conventional reasoning. You live in every inch of the body, and every part of the corrupted’s mind. Unless you meet your mortal enemy, you can resurrect yourself perpetually and never be destroyed.”
‘Corruption.’ Thales suddenly recalled something, and his face turned pale.
“Mortal enemy?” Ricky seemed to be interested in this new term.
Zakriel continued to study Ricky’s expression. “The weapons that have been blessed by priests in all the temples possess the supernatural power to cause irreversible damage to you. This is what is meant by ‘vanishing before the gods’,” Zakriel said softly.
‘Temples…’ Thales recalled the few times he dealt with Sunset Temple and Bright Moon Temple, but found that they were memories that were not quite pleasant.
“But you must have a motive, don’t you?” Zakriel stared unwaveringly at Ricky. “As stated in [Sunset’s Holy Scripture], when demons show themselves, they must be after something. You came from hell and want to know the truth about the Dragon Breaker. Why exactly do you want to know the truth surrounding that weapon?”
Ricky was stunned.
After a second…
“Hehe.” Ricky curled his lips. He could no longer suppress his laughter. “Hahahaha….”
Thales and Zakriel watched him, either in confusion or indifference.
Ricky finally had enough of laughing. He looked up and said mysteriously, “So, your understanding about gods and demons, and about heaven and hell is from Sunset Temple, which supported the Jadestars when they proclaimed themselves rulers of the country, and because of that, were granted the status as the official religion of Constellation. Am I right?”
Thales tensed up. Zakriel pursed his lips and did not say a word. Ricky leaned against the stone platform and appeared very pleased with himself.
“You know, before Bright God Church split up, the original and unmodified [Holy Decree of the Bright God] tells you that in the unattainable heaven and earth, the sun and hell’s river stood against each other. One was the origin of all living things and gave life, and the other was the end of all living things and buried the dead. Both co-existed as equals. Everything happened naturally and kept to their own rules.”
‘[The Holy Decree of the Bright God.]’ A thought appeared in Thales’ mind. He recalled Saroma once telling him about the boring legends on creation in these religions.
“But during the era of the Empire, the most influential of all the churches, the Holy Sun followers, began to preach that the sun was great, holy and merciful by using [the Teachings of the Holy Sun] they lived by. Only if one believed in the gods, especially those who worshipped Holy Sun, or were blessed by the gods, would enter heaven and the gods’ realm, and suffer no more.” Ricky’s gaze grew cold. “In contrast, hell’s river was terrifying, dreadful and cruel. Only sinners would cross the river, be controlled by demons who ruled hell, and live forever in suffering.
“Ever since then, the Holy Sun division under Bright God Church, who proclaimed themselves as the orthodox denomination of the religion, came into power. To earn their god’s favor and prove that Holy Sun was ‘the successor of Bright God’, they were eager to show that they were better, and did not mind getting heavily injured in the process. They had internal conflicts to fight over power, and reopened the judicial court while they suppressed other religions and persecuted the members.” Ricky snorted faintly. “And you know what is ironic? Holy Sun has fallen into ruin, and it is at the verge of breaking up, but look at [Sunrise’s Teachings] and [Sunset’s Holy Scripture], they are beginning to argue about which god is holier at different hours of the day when the sun is positioned at different places in the sky, and whether Sunrise and Sunset were bound by blood or marriage.”
Ricky sounded sarcastic as he shook his head and sneered. “Heh.”
Ricky straightened his body and stared at Zakriel coldly. “And you took the records of the churches as the truth, even when they changed those records once every time a new era began?”
Zakriel scowled deeply. “So, what is the truth?” The Knight of Judgment subconsciously raised his volume. “What are you really up to?”
However, Ricky suddenly raised a finger and stopped Zakriel from continuing his words.
“Did you just say some king in the history of Constellation was possessed?” A mysterious smile appeared on Ricky’s face, and it caused Thales to tremble from indescribable reasons. It made him recall Ricky’s black face.
“What a coincidence. I happen to have a story about a king.”
Thales and Zakriel looked at each other. Both of them were stupefied.
“Legend has it that a long time ago, in the seemingly endless era of multiple kings, there used to be a great king. He won countless battles, and was wise and far-sighted.”
Ricky’s tone mingled with the rumbling sounds of the platform under them where it scratched against the walls, causing the vast and dim space to appear more eerie.
“One day, a demon stopped the king when he was headed somewhere. It said, ‘My wise king, please accept my assistance. I will help you conquer the world, and help you distinguish between who is loyal to you, and who will betray you.'” Ricky continued to smile. “The king was wise and unmoved by what he heard. ‘Demon, I know your tricks. You only want to destroy my kingdom.’
“The demon became enraged because of the humiliation he suffered, and it attacked the king. However, the king’s power and his military were formidable and matchless, and his wisdom and strategies were far too great. Soon, the demon was defeated and imprisoned.”
Ricky’s tone grew strange, and it caused Thales’ heart to clench. “The demon quivered with fear, and in the prison, he begged, ‘I beg you, almighty king, I can give you stronger power, or else you will not be able to conquer the world.'” Ricky curled his lips and glanced at Thales. The latter was awed.
“‘I can conquer the world myself. I do not need your puny assistance.’ The king wisely rejected. ‘Demon, I know what you are up to. You only want to destroy my kingdom, but you are nothing in the face of my power.’
“The king went on an expedition to conquer the world, but his victories gave rise to a land of famine and despair. Wherever his army went, lands will be drenched in blood. Soon, people began to oppose his expedition. The king recalled the demon’s words and felt angry and embarrassed. He went to the prison to torture the demon.”
Ricky inhaled, and continued. “The demon trembled because it was terrified. It pleaded for mercy, ‘I beg you, do not torture me. I can provide wiser suggestions for you. Without it, you will not be able to tell who is loyal to you.'”
Zakriel’s gaze froze.
“‘I can tell who is loyal to me. I do not need your foolish suggestions.’ The king wisely turned him down. ‘Demon, I know your tricks. You only want to destroy my kingdom, but in the face of my wisdom, you are as dull-witted as a swine.’ When the king went back to court, he utilized his strategies to suppress the opposing voices, and won the support to continue with the expedition.
“However, one day, the generals who swore their loyalty to the king formed a mutiny against him and betrayed the king. When the king recalled the demon’s words, he deeply regretted his decision. Hence, he went to the prison to meet the demon.”
Thales could already predict the progression of the story. He frowned deeply.
“‘Damn demon, I accept your assistance!’ said the king in rage.” Ricky raised his head in the next second. A golden ray of light flashed in his now-normal left eye. “‘But I have destroyed your country, have I not?’ the demon laughingly said before he disappeared. The king fell to the ground, powerless, and sat there until the rebel army charged into his palace and ruined his kingdom.”
When Ricky finished his story, he looked at Thales, and chuckled in a profound manner. This caused the young man to feel frightened. This story which sounded like a fairy tale…
“Hmph.” But Zakriel did not seem convinced. “It sounds like a pretext for a ruler who ruined his own country and caused his people suffering to draw up all sorts of far-fetched excuses and blame a demon for his own incompetence.”
Ricky did not mind what he heard and shook his head. He was not offended at all. “You should know, these servants of the Sovereign of Annihilation are the most delicate, and they live indulgentely. They love confusing monarchs and commanders. They possess the rich and the powerful, using whispers and murmurs to influence events behind the scenes, and while doing so, they bear witness to death and chaos. In most situations, wherever they are, there will be war.
“As for the followers of the Sovereign of Infinity, they are drama enthusiasts. Their favorite actors are the devout followers of different temples. Oh, they never get enough of watching how these actors have their beliefs crushed under the followers’ manipulations, and they love watching the actors betray their gods in the end.”
Ricky casually mentioned a few names Thales had never heard of before.
‘Sovereign of Annihilation. Sovereign of Infinity.’
Zakriel’s expression finally turned solemn as he gazed at Ricky seriously. “So, you don’t belong to the two sovereigns. You are the henchman of the other five.”
Ricky burst out laughing. “Yes, indeed. There are seven layers of hell, so there are also seven sovereigns who rule hell, aren’t there?”
Ricky said perfunctorily, “Let me guess… Where did you hear this from? Sunset Temple? The kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Department?” He immediately shook his head. “Hmph. Mortals.”
As he listened to their conversation, Thales’ eyes blinked furiously. ‘That’s right… When I was in Dragon Clouds City, I read a couple of great literary works on religion, but none of them mentioned hell and demons.’
“But did you know that the Sovereign of Stillness has the most violent pets who like to contaminate powerful warriors and determined soldiers? It’s all because these warriors and soldiers are the fastest to taste blood and violence…” Ricky watched Thales with a smile in his eyes. “For instance, someone like you.”
In that moment, the Knight of Judgment was astonished.
Ricky simply continued on. “They like to torment the will of men, challenge their limits, and they enjoy watching men suffer. For instance, they will show endless illusions to a certain prisoner who has been imprisoned for years, and show him the past, or even the people he misses the most. They bring out the prisoner’s greatest regret, his greatest pain, and his worst nightmares, and make him think he is mad.”
As Ricky spoke bewitchingly with an underlying meaning behind his words, Zakriel turned completely rigid.
Ricky deliberately said, “But they could confuse his mind without his knowledge, distort his soul, add the final straw that will break his already shaky, taboo beliefs. Then, it will manipulate the prisoner’s actions once he breaks out of prison. However, these warriors, with their unsound minds, are able to motivate numerous violent warriors, and they are the favorites whom belong to the Sovereign of Stillness’ pets—”
“Enough!” Thales interrupted Ricky. The prince watched Zakriel’s dazed expression, and said with great anger, “Enough with the nonsense!”
Zakriel inhaled deeply and returned to reality.
“Of course, the demon was spewing nonsense,” Ricky said faintly as he leaned against his stone slab. It appeared that he was not angered by Thales’ impoliteness. “The king thought likewise.”
Thales was immediately rendered speechless.
“Be careful, Your Highness. Do not jump to conclusions about what the demon is up to, do not think you are smarter than the demon, and do not even think that you are stronger than the demon.” Ricky watched the distant walls slide down slowly. His gaze was cold.
“When you ask”—Ricky turned his head around and looked straight into Thales’ eyes with a freezing look—”he has succeeded.”
At the side, Zakriel was quiet. Thales looked straight into his eyes. He wanted to say something but did not.
“Demons are always around, they just stay quiet.” Ricky put on a faint smile. He snorted faintly and coldly added, “The gods know, they just stay quiet.”
‘Demons are always around, they just stay quiet. The gods know, they just stay quiet.’ As the prince listened to the words and tried to interpret the meaning behind them, he felt a chill on his back.
Thales was silent for a while. He thought that Ricky had complete control over the situation and the momentum. But then he recalled something.
The teenager spoke again, and it attracted the duo’s attention. “If you… If they are that terrifying, then why did you have such a huge reaction towards the ‘Truth Brothers’?”
As expected, the moment the name was mentioned, Ricky’s arms trembled a little. He stared at Thales with mixed emotions.
Thales forced himself to speak. “I have heard of it. Calamities. Mystics. They killed the gods, started the Battle of Eradication, and dragged demons from hell into the mess.”
At that moment, even Zakriel knitted his eyebrows.
Thales sucked in a deep breath before he asked his biggest question, “So is this related to why you came here today to ask about the Blade of-I mean, the Dragon Breaker’s background, as well as the legendary anti-mystic equipment and the Two Empresses’ relationship? Is your goal a calamity that is similar to the Two Empresses?”
Ricky was quiet for a long time. In the next few seconds, Thales only heard the rumbling caused by the rising platform, and the whispers among the mercenaries in the distance.
Finally, Ricky said in his softest and most mysterious tone, “You said the calamities killed the gods? You probably got it from a wizard or some wizard’s notes, right?”
‘Wizard.’ Thales’ gaze froze. The elegant figure dressed in blue appeared in his mind.
“Tsk, tsk.” Ricky clicked his tongue and shook his head.
“What is it?” Thales asked, puzzled.
Crassus of the Disaster Swords turned his head around and glanced at Thales with a complicated and subtle gaze.
“You are so naïve to the point that you are adorable.”
Thales was stupefied. “What do you mean?”
Ricky did not answer him immediately. He stared at Thales with a meaningful gaze. “How do you kill someone?”
Thales was stunned. Ricky laughed coldly and nodded as he glanced at Zakriel, who sat across from him.
“Oh, indeed. Stab his heart, wait until his breathing stops, and his life ends. But if I come back alive and start breathing again… Oh, I’m sorry you didn’t kill me.”
Ricky’s laughter grew heartier, and he pointed at his neck. Zakriel’s gaze on Ricky became even more critical. Ricky’s next sentence confused Thales even more.
“So, how do plan to kill my sword?”
Ricky touched his Everlasting Truth as he smiled and said, “To kill my sword, do you also slice off the hilt, then wait until it stops breathing and loses its life?”
Thales blinked. He did not understand.
“No.” Ricky shook his head enigmatically and pointed at his silver longsword. “Because a sword has no life. You can’t kill a sword.”
Thales was stunned again.
“So similarly, how do you kill a book, a dream, a promise, and a spirit?” Ricky’s gaze grew colder. “How do you kill these abstract and lifeless things that do not exist within the borders of ‘life and death’?”
As he observed the prince’s expression, he nodded in satisfaction after getting his fill of enjoying the shock on Thales’ face.
“Now, my dear, answer my next question.”
Thales inhaled deeply. He suddenly understood what he meant.
“No matter how strong of a power you possess…” Ricky watched the dark ceiling, as though his gaze could penetrate it and see the borderless sky above his head. “How do you ‘kill’ a… god?”
Thales breathed absentmindedly. He could not help but recall what Asda told him.
“‘…made a foothold high above the gods, and watched over the other living things…”‘
“Even though I would like to see more of how adorably naïve you are, but my dear…”
He did not know when it happened, but Ricky had changed how he addressed him.
“…it’s time for you to lift your eyes from the lies; lies that were made up by temples, churches, Magic Towers, or wizards.” Ricky’s eyes sparkled. “Those are just lies that they believed to be infallible.”