Chapter 29 “Those Who Protect the City”
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The gods of supreme power dwelled in the bedrocks of this world, watching their followers’ actions with a transcendental gaze using this connection. In return for this privilege, devout believers who acted in god’s name would gain the ability to glimpse into the future and the direction it takes.
This kind of voyeurism was not bound by time and space and implied the risk of being eroded by subspace. But for those determined and devout believers, this dangerous and powerful force was what allowed them to protect the fragile light of civilization in this endless ocean.
For this pious inquisitor, a similar foresight had replayed itself in her dreams for many days now.
She saw the Boundless Sea stained with a layer of ink with thunderous noises coming from the depths. Then with a loud splintering crack, the ocean splits apart in two, revealing a terrifying trench that reaches the very seabed. From within came a huge burning ship, rising from the depths into the air, its course, the city of Pland. Her home….
In Inquisitor Vanna’s life so far, the “omen” of such sheer scale has appeared only twice.
The first occurred during her childhood when she awoke from a blood-soaked nightmare and then lost her parents in a cultist attack. That incident left her scarred on the face for life.
The second time had occurred four years earlier when she saw a dark sun rising from beneath the city grounds. That foresight led her to wipe out the biggest stronghold of the Sun God cultists hidden within the city.
Now she finally got her third foresight – a flaming ghost ship was returning from the ocean’s depth and would bring forth an indescribable giant into the world.
So, she had lied to her fellow priest here tonight. The omen wasn’t vague at all; it was so clear that she couldn’t sleep for days as a result.
The priest hesitated for a long time before speaking again: “But you didn’t receive any negative feedback from the lord?”
“…… The goddess doesn’t necessarily remind you of all the risks, and sometimes the tribulations are the test,” Vanna said quietly, “let’s drop this subject. What news do you have about the Adventurers Association?”
The priest immediately nodded, “Our mediator on the side of the association has just made contact using the relic inside their headquarters. But the communication device aboard the ship seems to have malfunctioned so we’re not able to speak to the captain yet. We can only determine the ship is approaching the coast of Pland at normal speed.”
“…… They disappeared from the perception of the holy relic, then reappeared out of thin air away from the intended route. We also can’t make contact with the crew who had been tasked with transporting an anomaly object.” Inquisitor Vanna’s brow instantly furrowed at this detail because her intuition was raising all the red flags from years of experience, “I remember that ship is called the White Oak, right?”
“Yes, White Oak, captained by Lawrence Creed, a member of the Adventurer’s Association. He’s an experienced sailor. Due to the cargo they’re carrying, the ship had reported to the Church beforehand at City-State Rensa,” said the priest while recalling what he knew. “By the way, the accompanying cleric aboard the ship is a registered priest of the Deep Sea Church.”
“Fellow brothers of the Church… Pray the situation is not too bad,” said Vanna in a heavy tone, “in short, the situation of the ship is not quite right. The entire route from Rensa to Pland is in the ‘stable zone’ under the control of the Adventurer’s Association, but the ship managed to disappear from under the holy relic’s watch… I suspect the White Oak had briefly left the fabrics of reality, or even…. entered places it shouldn’t have.”
“Inform the port guards that they are to keep an eye out for the ship. No one is allowed to disembark from the White Oak when it arrives until a full inspection is completed. Are the security forces aware of this yet?”
“Rest assured, your uncle… the Magistrate has ordered the officials to control the perimeter around the port and has raised the alert level. From now on until the level is lowered, all ships entering and leaving Pland will be on standby at the west dock.”
“That’s good. Uncle has always been a cautious man,” said Vanna, who finally relaxed a little with the tense expression on her face easing up, “We only need to make sure the common people inside the watch stay out of this matter.”
The priest looked into Vanna’s pale gray eyes, carefully choosing the most appropriate wording: “You think… Is that ship already ‘polluted’?”
“It is uncertain at this time, but even if a ship that has left the real world return shortly thereafter, it is rarely unscathed. It may be that some items on the ship have unconsciously evolved into an ‘abnormal’ item, or the crew’s hearts have morphed into insanity. In the worst-case scenario, the real sailors had all been replaced by something entirely different…. Regardless of the truth, any ship that came into contact with the supernatural must be treated with wariness.”
“Alas… May that ship and its crew be all right,” the priest could not help but put his hand across his chest and recite the name of the Storm Goddess, “may the Storm Goddess shelter those who bravely challenge the sea.”
“May they all be well,” said Vanna softly. Then, lowering her eyes and whispering a blessing before following it up with a reminder, “But if they are unfortunate enough to not be ‘well’, we must also be prepared.”
“Yes, I understand,” the priest said solemnly.
But just as Vanna was about to refocus her attention on the city outside the window, a rush of footsteps suddenly came from the direction of the stairs.
The next moment, a guardian in a silver-rimmed uniform that showed a dagger insignia across the chest ran over. “Inquisitor! We have found the underground sacrificial site of the cultists in the sewer! We also caught a group of those sun god believers!”
Vanna’s expression instantly got serious: “Those cultists who worship the Dark Sun? Wait, you said you found a sacrifice point… Not a hiding place? How dare they hold another sacrifice?!”
“Yes, it was the site where the sacrificial ceremony was held. We found evidence that sacrifices had taken place,” said the guardian quickly. “We also found many victims in the crypt not far from the site—most of them having been sacrificed by gutting their hearts. It’s just that something is not quite right at the site.”
Vanna saw a look of absurdity and confusion on the guardian’s face. Without hesitation, this female inquisitor picked up her heavy sword, blessed by the Storm Goddess, from the side and carried it on her back. Pointing to the stairs: “Lead the way. I will personally go examine the situation.”
The sound of the huge sword banging against Vanna’s metal pauldron was constantly ringing along the staircase. By the time they arrived at the entrance, two steam walkers were already parked outside in the square, rearing and steaming for her to get on that spider-like body.
Vanna wasted no time and jumped atop the closest walker’s carapace. The huge machine resembled one of those steampunk contraptions that you would find in a book, but this was far more refined and well-designed through generations of improvement.
Pure technological creations could hardly exert enough influence on “anomalies” or “events”, but a crushing fire would most certainly remove any heretic that hides in the shadows. Of course, this hybrid of spider and tank could not be used inside the sewers due to its limited space. However, acting as a blockade at the exit fitted its purpose. After all, a barrage of 8mm bullets blessed by the lord would send any escaping heretic into the afterlife.