Chapter 36: The Blessing of the Goddess (Part 1)
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
After Saleen had used the power of his ring to give a warning to Canghong, he let Sika help him while Canghong helped Sarah and they made their way out of the battlefield in the Red Forest.
Saleen did not bury these people’s bodies. Burials in the Chaotic Swamp were meaningless; the various magic beasts would soon dig up the bodies from the ground.
The four of them sped up, carefully avoiding the dinodemons. These small creatures were rare in the Red Forest but were more dangerous than the soul killers. An attack by the dinodemons could even cause a mage to lose their combat power.
When approaching the edge of the Red Forest, their feet encountered muddy traps. They had no choice but to stop and rest up in a tree, since Canghong did not have a map of the area and Saleen had yet to recover.
Saleen had exhausted the power of the Grade 3 magic nucleus and had now replaced it with a new Grade 3 magic nucleus. He leaned on a thick branch and looked down at Canghong from a commanding height. The devilish-looking man now looked more pleasing to the eye, like a long-suffering wife, after losing his antagonistic air.
“Canghong, do you regret having hired me?”
“No. Such is life,” Canghong answered helplessly. The tides had changed, and he needed Sika and Saleen to protect Sarah. Sarah would need at least another day to recover her movement, much less fight.
“Life? Haha…” Saleen laughed softly and asked, “You know the status of the oracle in the Holy See, right?”
“Of course. There are millions of people under him, but only one above him. Offending the oracle is akin to offending the Pope.”
“It would be great if that were the case. Actually, the oracle does not have to obey the Pope’s orders. The Holy See’s power comes from three great courts – the Privy Council, the Sacred Knights, and the Inquisition. However, in terms of holy attributes, the oracle is not within any of these organizations.”
“What does this mean?” Canghong, despite being a mature mercenary, had limited understanding on the Holy See compared to Saleen, who was a mage with lineage.
“The Pope’s power comes from the three courts and the Sacred Knights. As there is no war of gods at the moment, his power is dormant. The Privy Council is the core of the Holy See. The main forces amongst them are the deacons. The internal one is the red deacon, while the primary one for the Inquisition is the black deacon which specializes in disreputable matters. The oracles, with their own powers and known as the white deacon, are scattered throughout the various parishes.”
“Is there a difference?” Canghong asked, not seeming to care.
“The red deacon is in charge of the Holy See’s internal affairs, the black deacon is in charge of the external affairs, and the white deacon is in charge of god’s order. We have not just offended the Holy See. Actually, we have offended god directly.”
Canghong nearly fell off of the tree. He looked up at Saleen apprehensively.
“I cannot let us all turn back, as we may bump into the white deacon. Handling an affair with the white deacon would require someone who was at least Grade 6. If we really encounter them, we will not even have the ability to escape. That is why, Canghong, I am asking you if you are regretful.”
Canghong was indeed regretful. He had thought that even though they had marred the oracle’s mission, they would not take immediate action to look for him, this nobody…
“Ha, look at how scared you are. There will not be any connection between the oracle’s mission and the Qin Empire swordsmen. The Vulture Regiment must have been a spur of the moment occasion. If I am not wrong, they should be heading in another direction. Once we have passed the few hundred miles of Chaotic Swamp before us, we should be safe.”
Canghong looked at Saleen doubtfully; he did not understand why this young mage did not seem to be concerned that he had offended the oracle. It was not as though Saleen was ignorant. He was more familiar with the structure and power of the Holy See than he was. Was Saleen considered powerful? Perhaps, though not as formidable as the female Caucasus warrior next to him.
It would be impossible for a Grade 1 mage to be a match for a Grade 6 professional.
“The sacred Holy See, while formidable, has not been in power for long. The only people who can be controlled by them are the people of the Tanggulasi Empire. Their power is lacking in Sikeqinya. The people we have offended are high-ranking, but it would not be possible for them to make any major moves in another empire, lest it lead to war. Hence, you do not need to worry. Once we leave Sikeqinya and enter the Qin Empire, we should be safe. The Qin Empire is referred to as the empire of magic and it has always had a low tolerance for theocracy. Ah, no point in telling you…”
Canghong glared at Saleen, not understanding the main point to all of this. He only knew that if they did not run away, they could come under scrutiny by the white deacon at anytime. They were Grade 6 professionals, equivalent to a Grade 5 mage or a senior swordsman.
“Why are you telling me all of this? No matter which deacon comes after us, aren’t we all dead meat?”
“It is different. If it were the red deacon, as long as you are willing to embrace god and choose to believe in god, you will not die. If it were the black deacon, you could impress the inquisitors with your special powers and receive a chance of surrendering. If it is the white deacon, then you should just give up, because the oracle does not need anything.”
Saleen’s words were like a hammer slamming on Canghong’s heart. He had indeed harbored the same thought: to embrace god when worst came to worst, since it would be better than getting killed. Saleen seemed to have read his mind and his words had caused Canghong to completely give up on the thought.
After Saleen had said these words, he closed his eyes and held the magic nucleus tightly to speed up the recovery of his magic chords. Canghong did not say more as he was a junior swordsman, equivalent to a Grade 4 professional. He had thought he would be able to lord over this Grade 1 mage. But now, it seemed as if he was not only inferior in combat power, but was also less intelligent than him.
Canghong was frustrated. A Grade 1 mage was only equivalent to a Grade 2 professional. Why was he giving him so much pressure?
After half an hour, Saleen’s magic chords had recovered but the negative effects in his body had not disappeared. With much difficulty, he was able to let Sika help him along. Sarah had also regained some strength. The four of them entered the Chaotic Swamp again before the sky turned dark.
The most dangerous things in the Chaotic Swamp were not magic beasts, but traps. Over tens of thousands of years, layers of mud had piled up and there was no knowing how deep it truly was. With Saleen’s strong sense of perception helping them circumvent these traps, their ultimate threat would still be the magic beasts.
This was originally meant to be the thrilling part of their journey. Sika had almost fully recovered and was leading in the front. She made a low howling sound from time to time. Even strong magic beasts, with Sika chanting her mantra from afar, would only take a look and then scamper off.
Saleen now knew why Canghong wanted to hire a Caucasus warrior despite the high cost. Most Caucasus warriors who were able to venture out from their villages had received blessings from their priests and had the ability to communicate with magic beasts. While they were unable to get magic beasts to serve them like the holy masters under the Goddess of Nature, if they expressed good intentions, mutual avoidance could be achieved.
On this journey, besides Sika driving away a group of dinodemons with her cudgel, no other magic beasts had required her to take action. The four of them had walked about a hundred miles in the Chaotic Swamp from dusk until dawn, and while thoroughly exhausted, were almost at the halfway mark.
While the dispirited foursome was making their way through the night, a youth in a white robe had just entered the cave leading to the Chaotic Swamp, the battlefield where Saleen and his party had just been, along with his four men.
The youth was in his twenties. His wide and flowy robe resembled that of a mage’s, but did not have any design on the inner waistband. Such a robe was unsuited for expeditions and was too cumbersome for battles. He appeared spotlessly clean, as if he had just taken a bath and was then blown dry by Wind Magic.
Frowning slightly, he leaned against the wall in the cave. He was impatiently waiting for his men to gather information from the battlefield. His men were all wearing armor. These armors had almost no gaps and looked as though they had been sculpted out of whole pieces of metal. A leaf design could be seen along the edges of each piece of armor. Each leaf was imprinted with gold holy prose. Only warriors from the Holy See would dress in this manner, and those qualified to be wearing holy prose armor were at least at the level of Grade 5.
“Sir, the men are all dead. There is a mage among the enemies,” a warrior in holy prose armor reported cautiously. The white-robed youth furrowed his eyebrows and took on an icy expression.
“They deserved to die. These sons of bitches actually dared defy the oracle’s orders and changed the route forward for some small gain.”
The white-robed youth’s use of vulgarities and his violent expression did not seem to match his status. The four men kept quiet out of fear, acting as though they had not heard him.
“Is it possible to catch up with them?” The white-robed youth seem to hate being in the cave. He cast a divine glow and surrounded himself with it, causing even his appearance to be blurred. Without waiting for an answer, he refuted himself, “No, we must go forward according to plan. If we delay the oracle’s affairs, we will have no redemption even at our deaths. Listen carefully. After the completion of the mission, try and eliminate the Vulture Regiment. The thought of them makes me angry.”
“Yes, Sir Picasso.” The four men in holy prose armor bowed.
Saleen and his party were not aware of their near escape. If this group had caught up with them, Saleen could not have made any moves to escape them. The power of four Grade 5 warriors, combined with that of a Grade 6 Holy Master, would require his teacher’s assistance to have even a chance at victory.
The topography of the Chaotic Swamp was complicated and even the weather was erratic. When Saleen and his party passed through the edge of a small swamp, they felt the weather become warmer. In front of them was the plains, the ground dry with nary a stalk of grass upon it. Only plants usually found in deserts could be seen stubbornly taking root on the plains.
Aside from Saleen, the eyes of the other three were already closing. Upon seeing the dry plains, they could not wait to set up tents.
“Everyone bear with it. Rest only once we are behind that mount.” Saleen did not want to take any chances. His magic chords had recovered completely and he led everyone to the mount before letting them rest while he kept watch.
“Chief, I am going to sleep!” Sika said hesitantly, looking at Saleen,
“Sleep. I have recovered well.” Saleen patted Sika’s shoulder, sat down, and prepared to inspect his takings from these past few days.
Canghong and Sarah slept first. They had long since thrown away their tents, and so could only use their cloaks as covers while trying to curl their bodies up. Sika’s expensive leather armor had the ability to adjust temperature. She spread out her limbs and fell into an unguarded slumber next to Saleen.