He found it hard to believe.
It was not as though he did not think the Church was lying. The Church may not have caught her and leaked this information in order to calm the people. However, Howl revealed more details as he pressed on.
“The Church’s bulletin explained that the spread of the plague wasn’t done by a living Mage, but rather a soul manifested by a dead Mage named Michelle. The way this soul was formed was very unique and wouldn’t last long. The Church has completely extinguished it and started establishing a cleansing cross to purify the water source so no one can spread any disease through the water source.”
Benjamin was stunned for a while after hearing this.
The mention of “Michelle” is a confirmation that the Church has indeed captured Michelle or they would have thought Michelle has escaped abroad and not tied her to the plague.
The “Soul” he said earlier, what does it mean?
… Could it be that Michelle had already passed on before this?
Nothing was enough to describe Benjamin’s shock. He even thought that the Church may be spitting nonsenses but if you could think about it, there was no need for the Church to make such a move. It did not matter to the people whether it was a Mage or a Mage’s Soul who spread the plague. The Church must have told it like it was, there was no need for frills.
I guess… This had to be real.
Michelle had died somewhere out there and became a Soul. She returned to the capital, saved him and evidently sacrificed her bodily soul in order to lure the Church away from him.
He felt there was a mountain of pressure on his chest – stuffy and oppressed that he could not take another breath.
From the moment Michelle appeared, Benjamin had a slight suspicion. He felt there was no logic to the way Michelle handled things and her personality was a little different. But no matter how he wrapped his brain around it, he would not have thought that Michelle had died and the person who escaped to the capital with him was only her Soul.
Truth be told, this world was not one where souls haunted. Souls only existed within legends and myths. There were not many who have heard of others seeing living souls. Therefore, death was merely death, even if the soul was willing to stay, it was nearly impossible.
Unless, the person who passed had a strong urge to live…
He gripped his knuckles as he thought about this. His feelings were mixed, as though he drank a bitter wine.
He remembered when he was shoved down the horse carriage. Michelle became overly emotional, talking to him about the “inability to move on”. Benjamin had never seen Michelle in such an overly emotional state. Her hatred towards the Church was like blood spewed from the arteries and drenched the whole capital.
She hated the Church to this extent.
Benjamin suddenly realized that he could understand this feeling a little more.
“As long as you’re still a Mage and the Church still existed then…” He subconsciously recalled the words of Michelle.
“What did you say?” Still in reality, Howl was standing aside clenching on his bread. He did not quite make out what Benjamin said, so he scrounged his face to ask.
Benjamin quickly came to and shook his head, “Nothing, it’s just that… an acquaintance has passed.”
Even now he could not think of a word to describe Michelle. Their relationship was overly complicated. Companions, enemies, calculative, sacrifice… He thought of it, and the only thing that blurted out of his mouth was ‘acquaintance’.
A very shallow yet twisted definition.
If someone was to hear this, they would probably be confused.
Strangely, Howl nodded as if he understood Benjamin. He tried to be comforting by patting Benjamin’s shoulder but wounded up scattering bread crumbs on him.
“Don’t be too sad, people will eventually die,” It was as though he did not notice and continued on. “When at first I got up from the pile of horse manure, everyone I knew had died. Boss, Ant, Volcano, Axe… I was very sad and felt that I was useless and shameless to the point that it wasn’t worth living. I didn’t have the appetite and sat at the mountain top for a day and a night, thinking it would be better if I just died.”
Although Benjamin wanted to inform Howl that their boss had not died but rather took off during the chaos, but… Ah well.
A mountain thief’s image of his boss, he best not ruin it.
“But you chose not to end yourself, or dwell on it and you lived on.” He continued the conversation, “Why?”
It was not that he was curious, but it would not hurt just to ask.
Confronted with this question, Howl’s hands quivered with his bread and said:
“Well, I was hungry.”
Benjamin was speechless and did not what else to say.
“I was really upset and regretful but all of a sudden, I was really hungry,” continued Howl. “I was hungry to the point I couldn’t take it anymore and went down the mountain to look for something to eat. It was then where I met Nina and Sandy.”
Howl paused for a moment as he reflected on his memories. “During… During that time, they were sitting by the road side and one of them was holding a piece of dry bread. I went over and asked if they could divide some for me to eat. Nina nodded and tore her bread in half to give it to me. I took it and finished in a few bites. They saw that I ravished it and asked how I came to be and if my family left me. I told them that I didn’t have a family. They were happy to hear that and told me that they were in the same situation, without a family.”
Howl laughed, “Nina said if there weren’t given any help, it was hard to find food. Then she asked if I would accompany them in search of food. At that time, I felt the bread that she gave me was delicious and it was the best bread I have ever eaten in my entire life. I still wanted to eat that bread and so I agreed to the quest of food hunting.”
“Then… Then I went with them to find food. Slowly, Nina told me that we had to find a place to stay, so we built a house and started hunting and planting. Sometimes, I would help them to buy some weird things from town, which I didn’t like but… days went on like this and you don’t go hungry, nothing out of the ordinary.”
And just like that, Howl shared his life story. Benjamin couldn’t help but feel something was amiss with the story.
“Don’t you think that… you went from being a thug to being ordered around by two girls, wouldn’t you feel aggrieved?” Benjamin thought hard how to place his sentence, but he himself didn’t quite understand what he was trying to say.
He had this strange sensation that compelled him to prompt the question.
“Nope.” Howl did not quite grasp Benjamin’s question and instead asked, “You’re really weird and you overthink things. Don’t you feel tired of living thinking about this and that?”
Benjamin was stunned for a moment and could not help laughing.
He did feel like he has been schooled by this child.
“My mouth’s dry talking to you.” Howl shook his head. “Hey, are you going to eat this bread. I’ll take it away if you don’t.”
“… I’ll eat them”
Benjamin took the bread and started chewing. He had a strange feeling that this hard rock looking bread could be delicious.
The System appeared out of nowhere and said, “This dry bread was dipped in chicken soup, surely the taste wouldn’t be that bad.”
“…You talk too much.”
As he got halfway through with his bread, Howl turned to return to the little wooden cabin. Benjamin returned to his senses and asked, “Oh yeah, didn’t you say there were two pieces of news? You have mentioned the earlier, what about the latter?”
Howl scratched his head, trying to recall what he said.
“Uh huh, I had almost forgotten the second news,” he smiled embarrassingly. “The afternoon of today. The Church at the capital is having a really huge… what do they call it? I think it’s an… admission ceremony?” Chapter 137: The Bishop’s Plan
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Upon hearing the words “Admission Ceremony”, Benjamin went blank.
At that moment, he thought that the chicken soup may have leaked into his ears and drowned them because he was hallucinating.
Such a radical change.
What the hell was the Church thinking? The capital just lost 30,000 of its people and is in total chaos. The Church should have their hands full yet they were already meddling in other matters.
… Putting the kids and education first no matter the situation?
The Church sure seemed progressive.
According to the information provided by the System about the Church, they are not the kind of people to be doing this. There was indeed an admission ceremony for the Sunday School but the scale and time for this was not right this time round. This time, it was different.
Well, if the “Admission Ceremony” was known to those outside of the capital, it must be really grand then.
But why though?
Following Benjamin’s further inquiries, Howl quickly mentioned details in regard to the Admission Ceremony.
So the admission ceremony was not to enter the Sunday School but rather the Church’s Divine Art classes. Contrary to the previous admission criteria targeting children aged less than 14 years, age was no longer an issue and each noble family even has a participating quota.
Benjamin suddenly realized the Church’s purpose in the midst of this.
They were trying to reel the nobles in.
To have talent was really important in the teaching of Divine Arts, and it was not as though anyone could just learn it. It served no purpose that the Church would push the Divine Arts teaching among the aristocrats. Those with gifts and talents would have already been pulled in to learn and those without would forever fail to learn.
However, the aristocrats could see it in a different light.
They did not know much about the Divine Arts. In their eyes, the Divine Arts was a gift of God and the Church’s secret weapon. Now that the Church was popularizing its teaching, it would mean that the nobles would be sharing part of this glory; whether or not they would manage to acquire it probably would not be the first priority in their thought process.
After all those days of bickering, the Church finally gave in to the nobles.
What happened? Why the abrupt changes in the Church’s attitude? Previously they wanted to manipulate the aristocrats in the palm of their hands and now, they were trying to get to the noble’s good side?
That being said…
Thinking about it, the aristocrats have been looking for trouble with the church, plus Michelle did cause the death of 30,000 over people; this would have erupted the major disruption to the church. Should the nobles take the advantage to give the church the final blow, that would be the end of them, and the capital could be deserted.
Therefore, the Church had to reconcile with the nobles and have the situation under control in the shortest possible time. This would require the cooperation of the aristocrats who have more connections.
Benjamin could not help but sigh. The political dynamics of the capital were forever changing. One minute they were backstabbing each other, the next, it was all about love and cooperation.
“There could be some dirty under table trade,” The System jumpily concluded.
Benjamin was within one of the valleys in the outskirts of the capital, contemplating on the capital’s internal dynamics while within the city, the political roadshow of an admission ceremony has just ended at St Peter’s Cathedral. People were coming and going, it was such an event.
The priests had quite a lot to prepare.
They were like teachers on their first day; it was the start of a special course on Divine Arts and a whole load of students were enrolling, yet they were unprepared for the class.
It was only at the deepest end of the cathedral that things were calmer.
“Those without a gift will never be able to master the arts. The nobles are really stupid to rejoice over this matter.” There were two figures in the basement where pope breathed his last. A priest was looking at the bishop, who was standing over the coffin.
“What matters is how they perceive it, not its content,” the bishop shook his head. “They would never be able to master the Holy Light but they will be less revered in the presence of God and the Divine Arts is no longer a mystery to them. They have obtained partial control and of course, are happy with that.”
The priest was perplexed for a moment and quickly showed an unsatisfied expression, “These leeches…”
“Do not look down on them. During this time, they have hired men to seek trouble in almost every church in the nation. Those attending mass have lessened by a third. If this goes on, even if the aristocrats are killed off, we would also be suffering a great loss,” said the bishop as he turned his gaze at the coffin. “The pope was too irrational to strike at the nobles once he was out of the woods. Now we are left to pick up the pieces.”
The priest became distressed listening to this and turned to look at the coffin beside the bishop.
He was one of the priests who rushed to the basement due to the noise that emerged the moment the pope died. You could say that he saw how the pope passed with his own eyes. The pope vanished into thin air with much fear and this left an imperishable image in him.
Up to now, he still felt as though he was dreaming and in denial that the pope has already passed.
This was Your Highness the Pope we were talking about!
How could he… how could he just die like that?
“Crowd control within the city is almost underway.” The priest stabilized his feelings and continued, “do we continue our quest with Benjamin Lithur?”
The Bishop waved his hand and said, “Just issue a standard arrest warrant, we simply do not have the resources to bother about him. If he were to escape to other nations, I have already inform our contacts there and they will take care of him.”
The priest said nothing and nodded.
He dithered for a moment but decided to open up, “Milord Bishop, about the conditions of the Church… the death of Your Highness the Pope is an irreversible truth. I think, we need a new pope.”
After the passing of the pope, the bishop took charge as there were urgent matters at hand. Now that these issues were resolved, the death of the pope was now being seen as their top priority.
They needed to find a new successor.
The Bishop nodded in agreement.
“Go on and prepare. Have the nation’s hundred bishops summoned to the capital and we shall discuss the successor of the next pope.”
He found it hard to believe.