Edited by Her Grace Jiem
Characters in this chapter:
- Cohen Kheda: The main character.
- Fischer Summers: Cohen’s friend and the prince of the Swabia Empire.
- Venina & Eve: Protoss maidens.
- LeToux: A prince of Tansey Empire
[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ischer and I were led by a white-robed priest each into two different rooms.
The one I followed appeared to be in his thirties. He pointed towards each and every bathroom item and explained the procedures of the bath
“…Your Excellency should be clear on what to do now!” He said, “So then, I will not take up more of your time.”
My head was already spinning from the extensive rules laid out for a mere bath. I nodded my head vehemently to get him to leave quickly.
“There is one more matter I wish to inquire…” He began to take his leave, only to turn his head back again, “Your Excellency, you are a civil servant as well as a military officer; how would you like your outfit to be prepared?”
“I…” He was right. Indeed, what was I supposed to wear?
“I suppose a suit of armor would be best.” He pondered for a moment and said, “I believe it would suit your disposition aptly. Would that be sufficient?”
“Fine!” I could care less as to what I wore.
“Then, I shall do as you command.” He went out of the room briefly and returned with a suit of armor and set it aside on the stone table.
“Why aren’t you leaving?” I couldn’t see the slightest intentions of leaving from the white-robed priest, “Stop looking at me!”
“I ask for your tolerance, Viceroy..” He moved his body away from me slightly, “As it is your first time engaging in the bath of holy water, I am required to stay by your side should there be a need for further instructions.”
“It’s just a bath. I can do such a simple feat on my own.” Bewildered, I restrained myself from cursing after considering that I was in the Holy Temple, “Get out, you!”
“I am incapable of doing so, Your Excellency Cohen! It’s my responsibility to…” Perhaps it was because of the look on my face, he seemed to draw back slightly, “If I were to leave now, I will be punished..”
“So, it seems that you must stay in this room with me no matter what?”
I mused on what to do with him as I lowered my head. Should I just beat him up? Then again, it seemed like that wouldn’t solve the issue, either.
“Come.” I hinted, “I’ve made up my mind.”
After adorning myself in a polished silver armor, I sat down and began to watch the back of a man busying about. With a bitter expression on his face, he tidied up the room I made a complete mess out of and put away my previous attire into the cupboard neatly.
“Remember the words I taught you!” I asked, “Tell things like I said.”
“I understand.” He muttered, “But, you mustn’t appear overly gleeful, lest they see through the act… ”
“Attaboy! Very attentive.” I patted his shoulder and said, “Be at ease, the method I’ve taught you is extremely useful. If your actions are more nimble, it is inevitable that you will raise in ranks quickly…”
Exiting the room, I put on an expression of displeasure while secretly basking in delight at heart. Hidden underneath the armor I wore stored dozens of prohibited articles that fell into three categories: a black steel dagger and an enchanted one, a magical necklace and ring, and several pouches containing powder for various unknown purposes.
“Are you ready, Viceroy Cohen Kheda?” A higher ranked white-robed priest was waiting outside, and while he inquired me, he eyed the priest who accompanied me during the bath.
“Viceroy Cohen Kheda is ready, my lord.” The fellow by my side replied calmly, “I was with him the whole time, and there were no transgressions.”
With great struggle, I refrained from laughing as I had cast a paralysis spell on the unlucky guy before placing him against the wall and used him as a clothes hanger by draping my clothes over his head..His vision was completely obstructed by my clothes draped over him. Nevertheless, to think he could remain calm and put on such a believable act suggested the path ahead of him was promising.
“Then, may I ask of Viceroy Cohen Kheda come this way, please.”
Slowly, people of the three empires began to assemble at the venue, totaling to eleven people: three from Tansey, three from Symbia, and the remaining five were all from Swabia. I could be over-thinking, but it seemed as if the other two empires were huddling together and sending us hostile gazes… didn’t they say the Protoss Alliance was a tightly knit community, akin to a family?
As we walked, I voiced out my thoughts to Fischer. He wore a vestment and his long, elegant hair was tied with a hair band. His blue eyes that expressed worry seemed to make his face emit a faint radiance. How I wished to beat him up and paint his face black.
“It’s not something surprising. After all, even families have conflicts from time to time.” Fischer looked at me and said, “Behaving ourselves during the audience with the Protoss will earn us more authority in the future. Even a prince would do so to greatly ease his burdens when he rises to the throne.”
“I see.” I thought, “Since it’s about our future well-being, I needed to figure out a way to make Fischer stand out as a finer specimen than the rest. Then again, I couldn’t recall him having any. His good points paled in comparison to mine, anyways.”
We were led to the side of a smaller plaza where the floor was covered in a dense layer of flower petals, emitting a light and refreshing fragrance that pervaded the entire area. The three cardinals then proceeded to draw a magic field with a gemstone at the very center.
They chanted while drawing a large and small ring with their finger. The two rings interlocked and were less than two inches apart. A faint light shone wherever their fingers touched before slowly growing in intensity and finally emitting a radiant glow.
After drawing the circles, a few of them began to inscribe runes at the four corners of the rings, while the others filled the outer and inner parts of the two circles with other drawings. Not long after, this tiny magic field was completed. All the priests who took part in this process were dripping in sweat as if the creation of this measly magic field had consumed a lot of their energy.
The three Cardinals nodded at each other.
“The ruler of all worldly and living beings, creator of all orders, the master I follow in life and death, His Light Majesty!” The three Cardinals chanted together with their wands in hands, “Please allow your humblest servants, by utilizing your way, to open a path that leads to you and your most aspired territory: the Path to the Holy Mountains of Light!”
As they chanted, dim red lights appeared on the tip of their wands then extended to become three beams that projected onto the gemstone that was placed in the center of the magic field earlier. The gemstone instantly turned scarlet red.
The runes that were drawn outside the circles reacted to this change and simultaneously shot towards the gemstone. When the distance between them spanned the height of three men altogether, the runes stopped approaching the gemstone. The runes looked like reflections cast in water as they emitted a blindingly bright light and floated upwards one by one. In the space totaling to the height of three men, the runes danced about livelily.
When the two rings and all the other lines and patterns began to float, the red stone located at the center emitted an iridescent light and formed a curtain of lights that enclosed the entire magic field. It was as if the red gemstone had awoken.
The field was alive.
Watching the iridescent field taking shape, I had to give credit to the capabilities of those priests. Though I had never seen Uncle Webster perform such a feat myself, I was certain he was incapable of doing so.
A light of great intensity shone and stopped my train of thought. Staring into the light, I discovered the appearance of two shadows. However, due to the overexposure from the light, I was unable to get a clearer look.
They slowly approached us, and their ivory white and delicate feet could be seen stepping onto the square covered in petals barefooted. Their gaze fell over everyone present before stopping on the three Cardinals’ faces.
The three Cardinals genuflected while eulogizing loudly and showed their courtesy.
I have already seen the statues in the Protoss Square. Thus, I knew that the Protoss have wings, as well as how they generally looked like. I ought to not be surprised even if I saw the real ones with my own eyes.
Nevertheless, I was stupefied when the two female Protoss members stood in front of my eyes.
The two wore white robes that were so immaculately made it was as if they had draped a single large piece of cloth onto their bodies and was pinned together with only one silver pin on their left shoulder. A thin silver sash was wrapped around their waists and the place where it was tied into a knot dropped down slightly.
Hair bands were not used. Instead, a branch from an unknown plant was made into a crown-like headwear. Their golden blonde hair extended all the way below their waist.. The color of their skin was fair white in a comfortable kind of way that was full of gentle radiance as if a moist jade had been blended into the skin. The girls’ facial features were extremely uniform. They had fine and curved eyebrows; big and bright eyes; their noses were slender and straight; lips were small and ruddy. Though they looked not entirely similar, I had the feeling that their appearances came out of certain rules, or maybe patterns.
To summarize these two female Protosses, they looked rather similar to a human except for the pair of white feathered wings on their backs. I could even conclude that my four wives were all more attractive than them.
What was important was their expression of utter indifference to all worldly things and the look in their eyes which seemed deeper than even the sea. It made me not able to look them in the eye and forced me to divert my gaze onto their bodies… damn it! I should be looking at their bare feet or smooth shoulders, and it would be so much better if their lips were a bit fuller, and their breasts…
“Cohen!” Someone dragged me by my armor. I turned towards the person and realized it was Fischer.
“What the hell?” I asked unhappily, then immediately remembered the need to act courteous and said, “Your Highness?”
“Bow!” Fischer glared at me. Only then, did I realize that everyone was genuflecting except me.
“Ah? Bow? Oh, I’m sorry! Right away!” This was not an ordinary occasion. I joked in hopes that my actions would be forgiven. However, almost everybody glared at me with ferocious gazes.
“Your Highnesses!” The Pope said in a lowered voice, “Please excuse Viceroy Cohen for his carelessness. He must have been too awed by your esteemed presence to remember any remnants of proper mannerisms.”
“Leave it, Cardinal.” The Protoss girl on the left looked at me and said, “Rise, everyone!”
“I’m eternally grateful for your leniency. However, please rest assured,” the Pope bastard continued, “I will make Viceroy Cohen remain here to be coached by me until he conforms to the necessary mannerisms.”
Though the men from the other two empires kept quiet, I bet they were all secretly feeling delighted over my predicament. As for Fischer and my three friends, they looked at me anxiously.
The Protoss girl on the left did not answer the Pope but turned away to face me and asked, “What do you think, Viceroy Cohen?”
I smiled apologetically and replied, “I will go if you give me the permission to do so. I will remain should you so desire.
“I do not have the power to determine your stay or leave. Our sole purpose is to receive all of you.” She threw me a look before glancing over at her companion, “Isn’t that right, Venina?”
“There are eleven on the list.” The Protoss girl named Venina said, “I advise you to not do anything unnecessary, Cardinal.”
“Ah! I wouldn’t dare.” The Pope shook his head and said, “I was just concerned that Viceroy Cohen would continue to show disrespect to Your Highness if he follows.”
“Even if he does, I will inform him personally.” Venina said, “Drop your needless concern. You’re dismissed! We have to go.”
“Yes.” The three Cardinals genuflected once again, “As you wish.”
Everyone walked in one by one. I followed behind at the very back. As I passed by the Protoss girl, I smiled at her.
“How should I call you?” I asked, “Your Grace?”
“Eve.” She said, “Now, get in.”
Once we were out of the transportive field, we were already located in a valley amongst the Holy Mountains of Light.
The location where we were teleported to was surrounded by snow-capped peaks while the land basking under the sun spread out underneath. The sunlight bathed us in a comfortable warmth. Beside the transportive magic field atop a jade platform, lush and vibrant flora covered the entire expanse. It was a pity that I didn’t know the names of most of the plants except for a kind of orchid I was familiar with. The climate here was just right for the plants to grow in.
We strolled down the jade path in the valley. Occasionally, a few rare and fascinating creatures would run about, while others would rest by the side and enjoy the warmth of the sun while looking at us from head to toe. Some were playing innocently while lying upside down, while some just sauntered about demurely.
“A garden, zoo and even springs…” I looked around curiously, “Eve, My Lord, what a lovely place!”
“Get a move on.” Eve said so behind me, “And don’t call me Lord.”
“Then how should I call you?” I stopped to gaze at her and said, “Is it…”
Before I was done talking, she disappeared and when I turned back, she was already walking ahead of me.
“My Lord, you are freaking me out!” I said, “My courage is little to none…”
“You, a coward? How could that possibly be?” Eve replied, “Again, don’t address me using Lord.”
“What have you heard from others about me? Those rumors you’ve heard must not be trusted, my Lord.” I faced her back and gazed at the pure white feathers on her wings while pondering over how I could rip off a few of them without her noticing, “Actually, I’m the most honest one…”
The group of eleven went through a few more passes and was then greeted by a vast grassland. In one’s peripheral vision, the sight of a lofty snow mountain could be seen. Palaces of various architectural styles were built from the foot of the mountain and meandered all the way up to the summit of the mountain.
The people standing in front all froze at the scene before them. They let out exclamations of awe and felt a chill run down their spine from witnessing such a majestic view.
Their sudden stop had done me no good. As I was musing over business matters, I had not been paying attention to where I was headed! Thus, I rammed right into Eve’s back! The worse part was that my fragile nose came into contact with the hardest part of her wings.
“Ah!” I squatted down and covered my face.
The force from our collision was not extreme, but the price I had to pay for touching the physical body of a Protoss for the first time was that of great pain. I had no idea as to how Eve had jinxed me to make my face feel that sore and numb and even have a nosebleed occur, as well as my tears following soon after.
“How are you so careless?” Turning her head to look at me, the look on Eve’s face was rather stiff. With a gesture of her slender finger, the nosebleed immediately stopped and the uncomfortable feeling had greatly lessened.
“I… I…” I stood up and yelled to the front, “Who was the one taking the lead earlier?!”
“It’s our Prince LeToux! What’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong? Your mother f….Mph! Mmmmmph!” Before I managed to utter a single vulgarity, Eve sealed my mouth with a spell.
“Nothing is wrong, go ahead!” Eve said emotionlessly, “I’ll wash him up.”
“Sure, but hurry up.” Venina said from the front of the group.
I followed Eve obediently to a cute fountain and started to clean up my nosebleed with the hand that wasn’t wearing a ring.
“All cleaned up?” Eve handed out a finger, “Give them back.”
“Give what back, My Lord?” I asked sincerely, “This is our first meeting! And, I don’t recall owing you anything. Or, perhaps you are talking about a welcome gift? Alas, I’m a poor governor. I never take bribes or engage in corrupt matters. I’m the kind of viceroy who cares for my people and lives upholding justice and honesty.
“Give back the thing you took from my wings.” Eve said, “And don’t call me Lord.”
“What’s on your wings?” I acted surprised, “Are you sure it was me? It could have been someone else that had stolen it in the chaos!”
“I know it’s you.” Eve neither sulked nor laughed which made me confused, “You ripped my feathers off when you bumped into me. Then, you hid them in your cuffs when you were covering your face. And, the vulgar words were said to divert my attention, right?”
“So, am I right?”
“Well, what do you want?” I said depressedly, “Tear me apart or have me toasted on a plaza?”
“That is to be decided later.” Eve looked at her slender fingers, “Making you vanish for good doesn’t seem that bad, either.”
“No way? You are my favorite and the most worshiped goddess that is extremely kind. Are the terms negotiable?”
Eve shook her head, but she was paying close attention to what I said.
“Let’s talk about it, my goddess.” How could I let go of such an opportunity?
“The province I rule is very wealthy and populous. How about, let’s say, building a temple especially for you, My Lord? That way, you could pay a visit every now and then when you’re free.”
Eve shook her head once again, “I have no interest in such things”
“Well… Goddess, you are making things rather hard for me.” I prepared my wordings carefully. My eyes glinted ambiguously and I was ready to sell someone off to her, “Could it be… you… want? Okay, I get it. Leave it to me!”
“Cohen Kheda, one day you’ll have your tongue pulled out.” Eve threw me a glance, which shut me up, “Tell me; why did you do that?”
Hearing what she said, I knew I’d be safe for today I could care less as to what the future had in store!
“Hear me out, I’ve got four wives…” I said, “I wanna make each of them a headwear. Whenever we see the headwears, we would be reminded of you.”
“You’ve got more than four feathers.”
“Oh, yeah. I may only have four wives now,” I said, embarrassed, “But I might end up with a few more in the future. Thus, it is better to be safe than sorry.”
“You took my feathers just to please your wives?” Eve said, slightly pissed, “And, you reserve more for future irrelevant girls?”
“Nope! That’s an excuse.” I instantly corrected myself, “Actually, I noticed your bored look while we were walking. Thus, I did all this as an excuse for us to take a step away from the crowd. Look at the sunshine and how nice it is…”
I wasn’t done talking, but Eve’s lips had already pulled up at the corners and let out a small giggle. Her smile was like a ray of sunlight during winter.
“You were bluffing.” I eased on my chest, “It’s scary, it’s scary.”
“You didn’t know?” Eve said as she put her feet into the water of the fountain. She then handed me a case, “Cunning guy, you had planned this all out long ago, haven’t you?”
“Put my feathers in!” Her feet swirled around in the water, “Don’t lose it.”
After I put the feathers in, she taught me a spell chant to make the case disappear from sight.
“Repeat the spell when you need it.” Eve said, “Don’t put anything thing other than this in… never mind.”
Before she could finish her sentence, I had already summoned the case back and put all of my stuff like my necklace and daggers inside.
“My beloved goddess Eve.” I sat beside her, “Why are you so kind to me?”
“Am I? I don’t think so.” Eve turned to face me, “A, feathers can’t be returned once they’re taken. B, I don’t wanna do anything to you. And C, I’m really bored.”
“Why are you bored?” I said, “You’re a God, a God!”
“A God can get bored. And, I’m not ranked, either. I’m nothing more than a maid.”
“Maid?” I was truly astonished, “A maid that makes the three Cardinals freeze up in fear?”
“Can’t I?” Eve said, “I’m so fed up with those three old timers. They are wishy-washy and genuflect to anyone, regardless of their position. When they say the first sentence, you can already guess what he’ll say next.”
I tried not to laugh but failed, so I told her how I hugged them, which made this Protoss maid laugh her ass off.
“Alright. We should go, or we won’t be able to catch up with them.” She stood up after a good while, “But, I should warn you. You can’t be impolite when meeting the other gods, or you’ll experience utter misery.”
“I don’t know who else is responsible for your group’s reception,” Eve said, “Although, you will definitely meet Charlotte and David, the God of War.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I’m Charlotte’s maiden, and David will be the one to bestow upon you titles.”
“He will? The name Charlotte sounds like a female’s name!” I asked.
“You’re supposed to refer to Her Grace as Charlotte Knarch, the Princess of Protoss! She is the youngest daughter of His Protoss Majesty Pamiche Knarch.” Eve looked at me with a faint smile, “She’ll be meeting your group three times. I advise you to properly plan ahead your actions when meeting her!”