Raia furrows her brows and lowers her sword, her confusion drowning out her rage and frustration. "Depravity?"


"Yes. When an Elysian undergo the battle of faith," Cyrus responds. He breathes a sigh of relief when Raia's sword reappears as a necklace, and they are once again surrounded by darkness, save for the shining cross beneath the Sacred Water.


"And if he chooses to be devoured by his sorrow, he's no longer eligible to be Azario's disciple," Cyrus adds as she looks at her. "I'm sure you don't want to know what the fate of the Depraved is."


Raia frowns. "Only the ignorant would overlook such crucial information."


A smile works its way across Cyrus's face. "Oh, dear disciple, now isn't the time. Learning new things is a necessary part of one's journey."


Raia looks at him with suspicion, but he simply smiles and puts on his glasses.


"I. . . I just learned that an Elysian is immune to an Outcast's hit," Raia murmurs, averting her gaze as she recalls how determined she was last night to purify Raiden's soul.


Cyrus's brow furrows. "Oh, Apostle Simon never informed you of that? I apologize on his behalf. I'm aware of how stupid that man can be at times. So I'm guessing you learned it from Kara."


"I almost purified him. He's been tainted, and I feared he'd turn into one." She shrugs nonchalantly. Since Raiden is immune, her activated weapon will not harm him unless he is truly tainted.


Cyrus's face darkens when he hears that. He presses his lips into a thin line, his brows furrowing into a barely perceptible frown. He then rubs his brow and smiles at Raia.


"Sorry about him, he's really careless, that kid." A wry laugh escapes his lips.


Raia stares at the ground. "He is. When I first saw him, I even had to heal his wound. He's such a pity."


Cyrus's jaw tightens and he fists his hands. "Raia, now that we're finished here, you can go to the cafeteria and have breakfast. I'll have someone show you around. Welcome to the Nirvana Order, by the way."


Without further ado, he turns on his heels, opens the door, and strides out of the room. Raia raises an eyebrow at his receding figure. By all appearances, Raia surmises that he must be very upset about Raiden's carelessness. And with such a hasty departure, he'll no doubt be heading to the boy to scowl at him, which is . . . strange.


Shrugging, she gives the Sacred Water one last narrowing glance before exiting the room and shutting the door behind her.




Raiden's gaze is drawn to the door when he hears a knock. He's been lying in his bed for half an hour, staring at the colorless ceiling. His mind is clouded by Outcasts he has destroyed and freed, as well as the coachman from the night before. The vivid memory of his body slowly fading into nothingness still haunts him. He's still racked with guilt.


He's blaming himself for what happened at the coachman. He'd still be alive if he hadn't forced him to take them. He was an innocent human being, and it is his fault that he became tainted and died.


He disappeared because of him.


It's my fault.


Raiden rises from his bed with a deep sigh. "Alright!"


Since Nathan just left for his mission an hour ago, he already knows who is standing outside his door. He recognizes the knock; only one person in this place would tap the door twice.


"Yes, Bishop Galbraith?" Raiden greets the man as soon as the door opens. Upon seeing Cyrus's solemn expression, he frowns. "Has something happened?"


Cyrus steps closer to him and gives him a firm look. "Didn't I tell you to be careful?"


Raiden blinks, then sheepishly scratches his head. "I'm guessing Raia told you about what happened? Don't you know, Apostle Simon hasn't told her -"


"Don't divert the subject, Kara," Cyrus growls, causing him to take a step back and gulp comically. "How many times do I have to tell you to be careful and avoid being attacked by demons?"


Raiden meets Cyrus's unwavering gaze with equal intensity, and one corner of his mouth crooks up. "You're such a worrywart, Bishop Galbraith. I'm not weak, and I'm not going to let myself be killed. Besides, I'm a warrior fighting in a war. A war in which there is no safe zone. It is either a gain or a loss. But I'll keep fighting this war, and I'm not afraid of being wounded again and again. You should understand that I am an Aragon."


Cyrus averts his gaze and squeezes his hands into fists, unable to respond to his statement.


Raiden's demeanor softens. "I know you're worried about me, brother, but nothing can deter me from doing Azarios's will."


Raiden, of course, understands the dangers of being an Aragon — protectors of humanity against such vile spirits. Their job puts them in a life-or-death situation. They are always out hunting evils with no guarantee of safety. At any time, the gain will not be theirs, nor will victory be in their hands.


Nonetheless, they must continue to perform their duties.


Cyrus smiles softly and pats Raiden's head, ruffling his hair as he does so. "Kara, you're becoming a brave man. I'm very proud of you."


Raiden returns his smile, and the two soon find themselves laughing together.


"But please, please take care of your body. We can't afford to lose even a single warrior," Cyrus says, his once gentle face hardened.




Meanwhile, somewhere in Mikael's land, an old castle looms over a massive sandstone rock pillar in the midst of vast land. The lonely dwelling is surrounded by a dark and malevolent ambiance.


In one of the castle's rooms, a round table is surrounded by eight shadowy figures. Only floating candles with sharp edges illuminate the space.


Someone leans against the table and snaps his fingers, summoning a flame larger than the hovering candles and bright enough to illuminate his face.


He is a young man who appears to be between the ages of twenty and twenty-five. He has ginger hair that cascades down his nape and silver eyes with vertical-slit pupils like a cat. As he twirls his finger, a mischievous smile appears on his lips, and the fire hovering above it moves in sync.


"So I heard that a new disciple had joined the holy organization. On top of that, she's an apprentice of that so-called great man," he says in a husky, lazy tone.


He lets out a deep sigh, leans back in his seat, and places his feet on the table. He wears a dark green capelet, a dark loose shirt tucked into his pants, and brown leather boots. Clasping his hands behind his head, his mouth curves into a thin smile, and the flame he conjured is left hovering over the table.


"What do you have to say, Master Karma?" he asks, casting a glance at the shadowy figure in the center.


A dim light shines through the pentacle atop the staff, illuminating the face of a young man dressed in a wine-red gothic long tailcoat. This one is a little older than him, in his mid-twenties, and he has a distinctive feature. He has a chiseled face and long, gleaming blond hair that falls to his waist. His eyes are as black and deep as a bottomless pit, sucking one's existence in if they stare long enough.


His lips form a gentle smile, an odd match to his diabolical stares. "A new disciple? No matter how many disciples join the war, Loki, don't let them trample on the true warriors of the true God. That is something I hope you will always remember, my children."


Loki and the other six shadowy figures all nod in chorus.


Karma takes a sip of his wine and looks at the red liquid through the gleaming glass, his other hand gripping the staff. "Where art thou, my beloved? Come to me before those fake heroes destroy thee. Before they destroy us."



About the author


Bio: I write stories I want to read.

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