Chapter 222: A Critical Decision
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Thales had little understanding of the gods. It was mainly limited to the two big temples in Eternal Star City—Sunset and Dark Night.
The former’s priests were humanitarian yet overbearing (These two may appear on a person at the same time and could still be compatible), the latter’s believers treated people kindly and yet were a little strange (Indeed, these two character traits did not contradict with each other when it came to these believers).
These were Thales’ perceptions, at least. This was his first time in Bright Moon territory; in the Bright Moon Temple of Northland.
With a face full of doubt, Thales took cautious steps and stopped before High Priestess Holme.
The statue behind the priestess seemed quite stunning when seen from a close distance, just like the statue of Raikaru. Everlasting Lamps encircled the statue on the altar, illuminating the dimly lit room somewhat.
The Head Ritual Master’s face remained hidden behind a veil. A pair of clear eyes—tinged with bizarre colors—watched Thales, their emotions were indecipherable. Thales felt a little nervous under the gaze of those clear eyes.
Unknowingly, he turned his head around, but he only saw Putray, Nicholas, Mirk, and the rest moving into different rooms. On the other hand, Little Rascal was dragged by the White Blade Guards into a different room. She turned her head every now and then to look at him.
‘Alright, looks like it’s just me and her now.’
Thales turned back around, took a deep breath and prepared to meet the mysterious priestess. When he raised his head, he saw the Bright Moon Goddess Statue behind Head Priestess Holme.
The Bright Moon Goddess’ emotionless stone eyes seemed to be perpetually fixated on somewhere else, not the least bit concerned about her surroundings. It was completely different from the Sunset Statue in Eternal Star City.
Thales still remembered when he snuck into Sunset Temple to beg. Once, he had looked around under the stairs of the altar, but was surprised by the Goddess’ statue—the eyes of the Sunset Goddess seemed to remain vigilant all the time, keeping an eye on every person who saw her statue.
Of course, Sunset Temple, compared to this wretched Bright Moon Altar, was so much more magnificent. Thales observed the decorations around him and could not help but stick out his tongue.
“You are very confused.”
Thales jumped up in fright. He suddenly realized that High Priestess Holme was speaking to him. The tone of the Head Ritual Master was no different than from when she hosted duels. Her voice was faintly discernible and contained no emotion.
Holme’s pupils remained firmly locked on him.
Compared to Head Ritual Master Liscia, this priestess lacked a sense of domineering grandeur. And yet, she had a unique temperament, like being in quiet hibernation.
Thales opened his mouth a little. With numerous questions in his heart, he answered tentatively, “I… indeed am.”
High Priestess Holme did not say a word, she remained quietly standing below the Bright Moon Statue. Her temperament and the ambience provided by the statue behind her actually turned out to be a good fit.
Thales drew his eyebrows together as he swept his gaze past the edges of the altar. He could not help it when he said, “About that, actually—”
He could not go on, Holme had coldly interrupted him. “Have you seen God?”
Thales raised an eyebrow. ‘Oh God…’
He did not have the mood to discuss this at all right now. Apart from the temple, Lampard, Walton, Eckstedt, and Constellation, there was still a huge pile of problems waiting for him.
At that thought, Thales heaved a sigh. “I’m sorry, right now, I—”
But the high priestess looked like she obviously did not have any intention of letting him speak.
“When history was not recorded, when all lives began fighting against each other for their insignificant existences, the concept of gods had already existed in the minds of mortals,” Holme said faintly.
Thales was stunned for a moment. “What?”
High Priestess Holme’s eyes sparkled, like clear water with no fog around the area. Her voice was calm and natural.
“In mortal history, the first group of gods were closely linked to the images of the gods in the morals’ hearts: Holy Sun, Bright Moon, Dark Night, the Master of Mountains, Maiden Guardian of the Ocean, Lady of Harvests, Great Desert,” she said softly.
Thales’ eyelid twitched.
From the mysterious temple to the rumored legends, he had heard several of those names before.
“These gods don’t have their own names. No names for the mortals to call out, and no names for the mortals to understand,” the priestess said slowly. However, she changed the topic in the next sentence,
“But do these gods really exist?”
‘Huh?’ Thales was surprised. ‘What is this?’
In the face of the priestess’ strange questioning, he glanced at the statue and altar behind the her, then at the priestess’ veil. He was rather troubled by how he should answer and get out of this situation.
Thales tugged his own hair and said awkwardly, “If I’m not mistaken, you are the priestess of that goddess behind you… And this question that you’re asking me is rather…”
“This is not conflicting,” Holme said faintly.
Thales raised his brow, showing his puzzlement.
High Priestess Holme turned her head to the side and glanced at the stone statue behind her. “Gods themselves—compared to the gods that the mortals believe in—were all the while never a problem.”
‘Huh?’ Thales was stumped again. ‘The gods we believe in are not the same as the real gods? This… Should this be what a priestess should say? Moreover, a high priestess, a spokesperson for all gods… Why does it sound so… reactionary?’
He only heard High Priestess Holme softly say, “Have you ever wondered why this Bright Moon behind me has such a humanly figure?”
Thales’ eyebrows jerked upwards. He looked at the stone statue behind Holme, the goddess’ expression was as apathetic as before.
“Why?” he unconsciously asked.
Holme’s veil quivered lightly and began to shake with the enunciation of her words. “Do you know of the Bright God?”
“Bright God?” A thought to Thales. “Wait a minute, I’ve heard this name before—”
Holme did not allow him to go on.
“Supreme Bright God, Lo Sofia,” the High Priestess of Bright Moon Temple said faintly. “Considered as the only true god recognized across the empire; the world’s creator, the supreme god above all gods.
“It is not a god from the earliest records of mortals, but it is definitely the most widely circulated god among the people. During the outbreak of the war between humans and orcs, the people began singing its name among themselves, of the first generation of believers of this god. A thousand years following the fading and complete collapse of the ancient empire, the rise and fall of Bright God Church was thus intertwined among the people’s history, standing witness to the people’s independence, unity, and expansion.”[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======
Embarrassed, Thales listened to Holme’s history lesson. He was somewhat baffled.
Thales sheepishly listened…
‘Usually, I would have been curious and very interested. But now… Oh God. Is there a better word that I can use in-person to politely express the meaning of “I’ll hang up first” or “I’m going offline now”?’
“‘The Holy Decree of the Bright God’ stated that Lo Sophia created all living things and people according to her own appearance.” High Priestess Holme seemed to be completely unconcerned with Thales’ distressed look and just continued on. “Hence, humans look like God.”
She lowered her head and looked at Thales. “Do you believe it?”
Thales was stupefied again.
“Uh…” He shrugged, pondered for an excuse to escape while giving a perfunctory answer. “I- I don’t know—”
However, the other party seemed to not let him to answer anyway.
“In reality, when the Bright God Church collapsed and fell apart in the wake of the Ancient Empire’s downfall, the glory of the Supreme Bright God also gradually faded.” Holme’s voice grew gentler, seemingly brewed in a wave of emotions, “Even humans themselves rarely mentioned the existence of the Bright God.”
The High Priestess shook her head slowly, appearing rather contemptuous, but she also seemed to be filled with great emotion. “If the Bright God truly exists; if it’s really the creator of all living things on earth, why would it allow such a thing to happen?”
Thales frowned slightly.
“So, gods do not exist?” He spread both hands out and asked, “All gods are… imagined by their believers? Alright, yes, very interesting viewpoint, I understand now. I still have something to do, so I’ll first—”
But Holme interrupted his efforts in trying to stop the dialogue.
“You are not listening to me.”
Thales gave a grudging shrug. “Alright. But is it really appropriate to discuss these things with a child?”? ?U.p..dated by BoxNo vel.com
High Priestess Holme shook her head and softly said, “You and I both know that you are not a child.”
This simple sentence caused Thales to tense up.
The priestess softly continued, “Don’t make light of something because it’s insignificant or unrelated to your current priorities.
“Since you began your journey, every trivial detail was an opportunity to dictate the future: the statue of the Sunset goddess, the dagger, shawl, Blood Fangs, brooch, messenger crow, statue, the spectacles, and bloodlines…”
High Priestess Holme narrowed her eyes. “Every detail… I believe you have had deep thoughts about them.”
Thales frowned, he sensed something unusual in the priestess’ words. Three seconds later, he sighed in exasperation.
‘I really don’t have the time. We’re still running for our lives, aren’t we? But…’
“So,” he asked dispiritedly, “What exactly are these gods?”
Holme gradually raised her head and spoke with her eyes observing the stone statue behind her. “Gods are what the believers believe in, their own gods.”
‘Alright. If we really have to finish this with godly chatter…’
Thales sucked in a breath. The second prince raised his head, lifted his spirit and said seriously to the High Priestess, “So, the real gods and the believers’ gods, they’re not the same? Was this what you wanted to say?”
Holme did not say a word, only quietly scrutinized Thales.
Thales returned her gaze, trying not to think about his current predicament and its difficulty as much as possible. How strange that the heaviness that had always been in his heart actually slowly dissipated in the process of being face-to-face with the priestess.
A few seconds later, Holme softly said,
“Mortals often understand the gods in their hearts through their own limited imaginations.”
There seemed to be some sort of magic in the High Priestess’ eyes, attracting Thales’ so he did not avert his gaze. “That is the god they are waiting for, but also fear, loathe, respect, love, and worship.”
In that instant, Thales had the misconception that her eyes were shining.
“According to their knowledge, the mortals endow the respective gods in their hearts with various forms of existence and meaning. From their images to their actions, from their deeds to their natures, birth to eradication; they even gave them names similar to a mortal’s.”
Holme narrowed her eyes delicately. With a hand resting on her shoulder and another pressed against her pelvis, she adopted a posture similar to that of the goddess behind her. “For example: Errol.”
Thales frowned a little.
“So…” He looked at the statue behind the priestess, curiosity pouring into his heart. “Did the Bright Moon Goddess have a name? What about the other gods? Sunset? Dark Night? Master of Mountains?”
Holme shook her head slowly. “In the hearts of all people, being given a mortal name by mortals themselves, and those names are declared by the mouths of the people; this is a connection of extraordinary meaning.
“In the known, recorded, and lengthy history, only two gods accepted—or were perhaps even willing to accept—this connection.”
Holme continued, “They were also the gods who were the most deeply involved with the mortal world and were even used to name the mortals’ worlds.”
Thales was stunned again. ‘A “mortal name” being called out by the people is a connection of extraordinary meaning?’
He was unsure of why, but in that moment, he suddenly recalled Asda’s words: ‘When you become a Mystic and find your own name of origin…
‘Name of origin. Mortal name.’
Thales’ eyelid twitched again. ‘Why are they both emphasizing the importance of names?’
His curiosity was instantly evoked.
“Two gods who had names-Uh, ‘mortal names’?” The second prince scratched his head. “Alright, one of them is the god, Errol. I know him, since the world is called Errol. What about the other one?”
High Priestess Holme coldly repeated this sentence, “You’re not listening to me.” She seemed to have no intention to satisfy his curiosity.
Thales narrowed his eyes. But this time, while standing before the Head Priestess, the prince felt as if he was being berated by a teacher in a manner that gave him a feeling like she was saying, “Why are you so stupid?”
When he came to his senses, Holme continued on. “Mortals drew gods based on their own appearances, because that’s the only possibility their imaginations could think of,” the High Priestess said flatly, “From among the innumerable interweaving feelings of love and hate, a belief was born.
“The people who believed in the gods converged into groups and successively established a connection with one another. A mutual resonation, an entrustment of their intentions, churches, temples, altars, and ceremonies.” Holme raised an arm and gestured around at the temple. “From thence, a formless belief transformed into a tangible existence, thus completing the first reincarnation of the exchange between the gods and mortal world.”
Thales furrowed his brow tightly as he listened to High Priestess Holme finish.
The High Priestess returned to her previous topic. “Why does the Bright Moon Goddess have such an appearance? Not because God created people based on her own appearance, but because the people who believed in her looked exactly like that.
“But you must also understand”—a sharpness came to High Priestess Holme’s eyes—”that gods are gods, beliefs are beliefs. The former being gods, and the latter being humans.”
Thales then thought of something. The boy pondered over the priestess’ words and slowly said,
“Wait a minute, you mean… So, the gods exist independently, whereas the gods in the believers’ hearts are imaginary?”
Holme did not give him a direct answer.
“As if they could just undo the quandary of the unexplainable through beliefs on the existence of gods. This is precisely the biggest issue.”
Thales raised his eyebrows. He did not quite understand what the other party’s intentions were.
“Obviously, gods are something mortals are unable to understand.” High Priestess Holme looked him in the eyes. “And yet, the mortals self-righteously think that they have understood God. Since then, they used their shallow minds to believe in God, and to rely on God…
“To create God—this is where the contradiction lies.”
Thales exhaled and shrugged. “You mean the existence of God transcends the mortals’ understanding?”
High Priestess Holme’s veil moved slightly, which gave Thales a false notion of her smiling. “Or conversely, the mortals’ understanding over-interpreted the existence of God.”
High Priestess Holme heaved a soft sigh. She closed her eyes and slowly said,
“Mortals always surmised about the gods through their own incompetent thoughts. Because of their short lives, they imagined gods as eternal existences; because of their weakness, they presumed the Gods to have matchless power; and because they proclaimed themselves as a part of all living things, they imagine the gods to be stronger and taller. The same being, but stronger and greater.”
Under Thales’ attentive gaze, Holme suddenly opened her eyes. Her words gradually accelerated, “The problem is that these mortal matters such as eternity, power, and life… If gods truly exceeded the mortals’ understanding and have a different viewpoint, then will they truly care about all these things?
“Would they care about belief? Would they care about the believers? Would they care about power and eternity? Would they even care about their own existence?”
Thales watched Holme with a heart full of questions as she finished. He felt like it was not appropriate to interrupt her. He was not a god, was he?
Thales scratched his head and heaved a sigh,
“But in the legends, Errol sacrificed himself and saved the world, didn’t he?” He spoke with a headache. “The Dark Night God constantly descended onto the mortal plane. The Master of Mountains even asked his believers to help those who… in the Day before the Bitter Cold Winter…”
Thales did not continue speaking, because he saw Holme smiling.
Despite the separation of the veil, Thales was unsure why but he could recognize that the priestess of Bright Moon Temple was smiling faintly.
“Where did you hear all that from?” the High Priestess asked softly, as if afraid to awaken a slumbering child.
“It is of course…” Thales breathed out, but he was stumped. His words hung from his lips. He only heard himself muttering, “The temple, and rumors…”
Thales raised his head and tentatively asked, “But these are all from the understanding of the mortals, right? The true gods may be far beyond our imaginations—a different existence.”
Holme gradually breathed in, the veil quivered slightly.
“Believers often start off with the existence of God in order to believe in a God that solely belongs to them,” she said flatly.
Thales frowned again. He then recalled something. He opened his mouth to ask probingly, “High Priestess Holme, you are the Bright Moon Goddess’ spokesperson. You also prayed, connected with God, and conveyed God’s decree, correct?”
Holme did not reply. Thales gradually raised the corner of his mouth and asked cautiously, “If the gods are really as you mentioned, that incomprehensible existence…
“Then why did she respond to you?”
Holme slowly raised her gaze. The limpid pupils were like a source of light that pierced directly into the bottom of Thales’ heart.
High Priestess Holme’s thin veil shifted slightly, her elegant voice came from behind it. “Oh.”
It was a rhetorical question.
“What was her response?”
Thales was utterly dumbfounded.
High Priestess Holme slowly turned around to face the statue of Bright Moon Goddess and the altar. Then, Thales noticed that there was a special Everlasting Lamp in the center of the altar, inside it was a shining silver… Silver flame?
Thales’ heart skipped a beat.
‘There’s still a flame of this color?’
Thales stared, perplexed, at the priestess’ back. The questions grew in his heart.
He could not help but ask, “Why… Why have you mention all this? The existence of the gods…”
Holme slowly shook her head. “Yesterday night, you made the first choice.”
‘Choice? Yesterday night’s choice… Yesterday night…’
Thales’ breathing slowed down unwittingly.
“But one day,” the Head Priestess of Bright Moon said in a soft voice, “you might have to make an important decision again, one that you could even say will be critical.”
‘A critical decision? To be confronted with an important decision again… What does all of this mean?’
High Priestess Holme’s back seemed to conceal a mysterious force. Her incredibly clear voice gradually rose again. “When you stand at a level and height no other existences can possibly imagine and are an existence that surpasses the limits of mortal minds… Perhaps you will remember what I said today.”
It was as if Thales’ heart was struck by lightning.
‘An existence… that surpasses mortal minds…’
In that split second, Thales recalled the moment when he ‘Knocked on the Door’. The experience was like a dream—the misperception of him being the world. The languidness and contentment he felt, of everything not being his concern…
In that second, Thales felt, in some small portion, truly afraid as he watched Holme’s mysterious figure from behind. His arm began to tremble.
‘How did she find out? What exactly does she know? What exactly is she planning to do?’
Thales’ breathing accelerated, growing more and more anxious.
Finally, he could not resist the terror and uncertainty in his heart. He blurted out, “Why, High Priestess Holme? What do you mean exactly…? What do you want? Be it the shelter or today’s words, what were they for?
“Why me?!” he exclaimed.
Before the altar, High Priestess Holme slowly turned her head around. Under the brilliance of the silver light, her veil emanated gorgeous rays of light…
…Like a legendary god.
A unique splendor appeared in Holme’s eyes. “Because an old friend entrusted me to keep an eye on you.”
Thales seemed to like a drowning man who had finally caught on straw that could save him. The impulse in his heart urged him to get to the bottom of this.
“Old friend?” The second prince exclaimed, seeming to have forgotten himself, “Who?!”
But High Priestess Holme just heaved a sigh and did not reveal the answer. “He believed that you were not the same. He believed that you would do better…
“He sacrificed too much. Don’t let him down.”
Thales stood on his spot, dumbfounded.
‘I… am not the same?’
“There is more: Next time, just call me Juwle,” High Priestess Juwle Holme said softly. “I prefer this name more.
“You can go now,” High Priestess Holme said faintly with her back to him. “Be careful of your choices.”
In the next second, the High Priestess closed her lips. Regardless of what Thales inquired, she did not speak again. A few minutes later, Thales finally left the altar dispiritedly, leaving only Juwle, who stood unmovingly before the altar and the statue. Moments later, Juwle slowly raised her head.
High Priestess Juwle Howle stood beneath the Bright Moon Statue. Draped in a silver gown and veil, she raised her head towards the tall Bright Moon Goddess and said flatly, “I’m watching him. I’ve warned him…
“… I think.”
Above the altar, the Bright Moon Goddess’ expression remained cold. It did not move an inch, as if it was completely indifferent to all living things.