Polymath Redux Annex
Chapter 64 – A silence in the dark ocean
Mordred did not know, but he could guess. That for the first time in years, possibly decades, there was an air of liberation and uncertainty about Roland. “So that’s it then; it’s all over, huh?” the aged mercenary staggered forward. Those heavy boots crunched across the debris of the devastated warehouse with a semblance of pride. Even Mordred could feel those steps as it tread over the broken pieces of a dark future. It was a future dictated by the corrupted whims of a treacherous church, but now no more.
“That’s what I’ve said from the beginning,” Mordred shrugged with a hint of happiness in himself. He couldn’t help but feel good for his first friend of this world. Perhaps too many people had to die to come to this conclusion, but those involved must’ve understood that they had to take responsibility for their actions sooner or later. For now, it was a joyous occasion.
“Huh… it… oh,” Roland’s mouth trembled as it struggled to find the words that would aptly describe his feelings. “It’s… all over.”
Mordred let out a genuine smirk, one free from malicious intent.
Yet such fleeting happiness lasted only those few seconds. “It most certainly is not all over!” a whiny voice screeched. Suddenly from the deceased body of the clergyman leapt out a shadow. “Guh!” it wrapped itself over Roland’s head to forcefully slither down his throat. “Ahahaaahah! You goddamned fools! This isn’t the end! I won’t die like this!”
“Roland?!” Mordred teleported to the mercenary’s aid. It was only a momentary distraction. His ‘intuition’ skill failed to activate. This shadow was not alive, nor was it hostile to Mordred himself. It couldn’t have warned him. “Shit!” he tried to tear away at the shadow. A handful burst into dust but the majority sank into the back of Roland’s throat. “Roland!” he called out to his friend but there was no answer other than a tortured cough.
Roland’s face contorted into an ugly smile. “Heh… hehehe! Yes! I have this body now,” he giggled like a crazed schoolgirl as he hugged himself. His eyes locked onto Mordred through his visor. “Roland is gone, no… not yet, he is still here. But if you want to get rid of me, you’ll have to kill this body too! Ahahahahah!”
“Tsk, this disgusting little shit. Regalia!” he summoned. A tall woman clad in a black kimono appeared behind him.
“Yes, my liege?”
“That shadow is the same as you, right?”
“I believe so, however I feel it is incomplete. As though the original had torn itself and spread across multiple masters.”
“Forget about that for now. What kind of ability did it just use? It’s taken over his body.”
“…” Regalia could not answer. “Forgive me, however, to my knowledge there should be no such skill. At the very least, it is not one that the shadow itself consciously used. If I had to guess, it is the soul. The soul of that priest somehow infused itself with the power of Shadow Fiends and slithered into that man’s body.”
Mordred clenched his fists. He grabbed a hold of Roland’s shirt and pulled him up to the air with little effort. “You think you’re funny?”
“Kehehee! I actually do~ come on~ hit me! Kill me!”
[Siphoning Grasp]. It was a Necromancer skill that drained a portion of the target’s health and placed them into a ‘weakened’ state. Mordred dropped Roland’s body as it fell into a limp stupor. It crawled on the ground, laughing and struggling in clear pain.
“I’m not Yda. Don’t think the same tricks would work on me.” Without hesitation, he drew the sword from his waist and pierced it through the mercenary’s large back. Like cutting through a sponge the sword slid right through the heart.
“Guh…! You… you! Don’t you care what happens to him?! You’re heartless!”
Using Roland’s body, the shadow stared back teary eyed. Fear written all over his face. Mordred’s only response was a stomp to the bottom pommel of the sword to nail it in. “Just die.”
“Bas… tard… No! I don’t… somebody, help!” unable to escape from its second death, both Roland and the revolting priest, ‘Gelmire’, expired on the spot. Silence once more covered the night.
“Was that truly okay, my liege?” Regalia asked.
“It’s fine,” Mordred tossed his sword away and prepared a new spell.
[Holy Art: Resurrection]. Not quite on the level of an ‘ultimate’ skill, but this spell was a close second for the Cleric class. A bright golden magic circle glimmered across below Mordred and Roland’s corpse. A temporary day cast over the midnight sky as the sun’s rays queerly leaked in to create an odd atmosphere of dark blue and bright gold. From the parted clouds a heavenly figure of a woman dressed in white silk descended. Six angelic wings to her back and a warm, motherly smile.
“What is…” Regalia wanted to ask but shut herself up as to not interfere.
The holy entity landed and embraced Mordred from behind…
… and a sudden darkness.
A black sea. Echoing in the waters were whispers of the damned spirits. They begged and cried for the salvation that would never answer them. It was this place he had to be. Mordred did not naturally know it, nor was it even stated in the lore of his game. However, he ‘knew’ it. This black ocean was the border between the living and the dead.
This was reality.
The ‘Resurrection’ skill in the game operated with the press of a button when behind a screen, but it was an understandable change. The targeted fallen player would be given one minute to accept the resurrection. In the same way, it was likely that Mordred’s time here was limited. With a brief exploration into this border world, Roland’s spirit was easily found drifting on the black currents of darkness.
Gelmire’s soul also screamed as it tried to reach out for Mordred. A swift kick to its head let it drift deeper into the darkness.
Mordred swam to Roland and grabbed his arm. “Roland!” he shouted for him.
“What… is going on?” Roland asked unenthusiastically. “Where am I?” his voice echoed as if he was speaking from in a cave and not submerged underwater.
“That priest took over your body,” Mordred explained. “The only way to separate you was to kill you and resurrect you afterwards. This is the boundary between life and death, so any further and you’ll never be able to come back.” Mordred tugged to drag him back to the living, yet he resisted.
“Kid, wait,” Roland stopped him.
“What’s wrong? If you don’t hurry, you won’t be able to return.”
“What do you mean you can’t?” Mordred glanced behind. There was a dark shadow, somehow still visible in this void. It corrupted through Roland’s body like a parasite or a creeping burn. “That shitty priest is annoyingly persistent,” he swam down and tried to tear off the shadows. His normal powers didn’t work, most probably since this was only a metaphysical world.
“No, it’s not him, not Gelmire…” replied Roland weakly. His face crunched in an uncomfortable grimace, he continued to explain, “that’s someone else…”
“Someone else? Who?”
“I don’t know… but you should leave. I’ll be fine.”
“If I leave now, I’ll only be back a few hours later once Cecilia finds out.” Yet, his time to act was cut short. The angelic presence reappeared behind Mordred and began to pull him out. “Wait!” he protested, but the angel shook her head. It was warning him that staying any further would also consume Mordred to the land of the dead. He fought against her regardless, unfortunately in this world he held no real power. “Roland!”
“I’ll be fine, kid,” Roland reached out one last time. “Take care of Cecilia for me… please.”
The ocean of black disappeared. Yet nothing was accomplished. The angel sadly shook her head and gently embraced Mordred into her chest. Whether this figure was truly sentient was not known. In the game when the ‘resurrection’ spell was cast this angel would also appear and bless the dead to bring them back to the living. Eventually, the holy figure ascended back to the heavens, leaving Mordred stuck in cruel reality.
He silently looked down. Roland was still dead. Light-headed, all the strength in his body left him as he became numb.
Yet something did happen. An existence close to Regalia’s appeared from Roland’s corpse. Shrouded by a haze its identity could not be ascertained, but its voice was immediately memorable. A deep, reverberating evil echoed from its mouth, “you’ve done well to ruin everything.”
Mordred lifelessly tilted his head up to see who it was. “… The hell are you supposed to be?”
“I am, of course, the orchestrator. They call me the ‘Grand Cardinal’.”