Volume III : The Divine Emissaries
Chapter 76 – Are You Happy?[2844 words]
Gabriel hadn’t finished her questions. There were still many doubts in her heart. But she realized the importance of the letter and hurried back to the local shrine to give it to Maria. She didn’t worry that Amon would escape or be abducted. He was too weak to move, and the villa was under strict surveillance.
The Adoratrice was in her bedroom, and she opened the envelope in front of Gabriel. Reading the contents of the letter, her expression became serious, as if a sheet of frost had formed on her face. Gabriel felt uncomfortable and broke the silence, “My lord, you don’t look well. What does the letter say?”
Maria handed the letter to her, “Read it yourself. Please keep calm; don’t let it upset you.”
Gabriel read the letter. Anger filled her heart. Subconsciously, she grasped the hilt of the sword and scolded through gritted teeth,
“Despicable rats! They shall be abhorred by the gods! It seems that even I have become an obstacle on their path to wealth and power! My lord, you were completely right about these people. The Shrine doesn’t need a high priest like Urhiya. He should be the one sent into eternal exile!”
Maria consoled her guardian, “We both knew exactly what kind of people they are and what they have been thinking of me. Amon must certainly be blessed and guided by Mother Isis. With how he came to us with this letter, it’s almost like he’s her emissary! After all, Amon survived, while Vitru and the others died! This can be considered proof. Thank Isis for revealing the shadows beneath the sunshine. We should make a copy of this letter and return it to Urhiya. Then, he won’t dare to disobey the next order I send to Cape.”
Gabriel nodded, “A feasible plan. We can copy the letter using message magic so that there won’t be any doubt. Let’s also send a copy to Burke. We’ll just say that it’s the letter Urhiya was trying to send him. With this, he won’t have any excuse to help Urhiya. Nor will he be able to prevent you from replacing Urhiya with a truly pious high priest who is loyal to Mother Isis.”
“That’s even better. Let it be so! Please take care of it, and remember… Amon is important. Don’t let him get hurt again.”
Gabriel glanced at her lord and asked, “Are you implying that Amon is to be exempted? He killed a senior priest of the Isis Shrine. Should the investigation be closed just like that? Should no one speak of it?”
Maria looked into Gabriel’s eyes and asked back calmly, “Why not? Amon is innocent. He didn’t mean to hurt anyone. In truth, his honesty and noble behavior should be rewarded. He was pursued and attacked by a priest of the Isis Shrine, but he still chose to believe in us and deliver this letter. Why should we hurt a person like him?”
Gabriel lowered her head in shame, “You are right, my lord. I shouldn’t think so poorly of a person who trusts us so much. Perhaps it’s because I have seen too much evil disguised in nobility, like with Lord Urhiya. But since I’ve chosen to uphold justice and protect the common people from evil, I should also have more faith in them… However, if other high lords insist on investigating the affair behind this letter, Amon won’t be able to extricate himself.”
“Yes, I’m also worried about that. And so I’ve decided to protect him.”
“With all due respect… As the Adoratrice, would you consider that Amon might know too much about the dark side of the Shrine? It could one day disgrace the Shrine, or even the gods…”
“Despicable people can only disgrace themselves. I, as the Adoratrice of Mother Isis, will only do what glorifies Her. My faith in Mother Isis will never be shaken by things done by those who don’t truly have faith in Her.”
Gabriel bowed and said, “You are indeed the firmest believer and guardian of Mother Isis. I must confess, I still have one last doubt: Does Amon know about the contents of the letter? What should be done if he knows?”
Maria took a look at the envelope on the table, “The seal seems to be intact. In addition, the letter is written in hieroglyphs, which he shouldn’t be able to read. But regardless, what’s the problem even if he has read the letter? He hasn’t done anything wrong. Not to mention that this information is a great boon to us. We should be grateful and simply thank him for giving us the letter…! Gabriel, I’ll ask him the rest of the questions myself.”
Gabriel thought for a short while and replied, “I will arrange it. He’ll be given a chance to be summoned, so as to express his gratitude to you personally. Let’s make it tomorrow morning. This is just a small town; there’s no need to care too much about the formalities.”
The next morning, the news was announced to the whole town. The Adoratrice of Isis had saved a dying man at the bank of the river. The man was granted a chance to express his personal gratitude to the Adoratrice. It was a great honor to be summoned by the Adoratrice, and the townees all marvelled at this man’s luck and the mercy of the Adoratrice.
Under the instructions of the slaves, Amon waited outside the shrine. He was summoned after the Adoratrice finished her breakfast. He was then escorted into the sanctuary of the shrine, which was also the temporary meeting room for the Adoratrice. Red carpet was laid out on the ground. Amon prostrated himself on the carpet and greeted the Adoratrice, kissing the ground.
The Adoratrice sat in a chair. She asked him to stand up and said mildly, “I didn’t expect to meet you here, Amon. You extracted the Gods’ Tear in Duc two years ago, and the Gods’ Tear guided me to you once again… Thank the divine fate… Give Mister Amon a chair. He may sit down.”
The slave servants were surprised. Commoners were generally not allowed to sit in the presence of the Adoratrice. Meeting her was already a rare favor. But as the Adoratrice said, this man was the miner who had extracted the Gods’ Tear. In this way, he was not just an ordinary man.
Amon sat down and replied,
“As a miner, it was my duty to extract parangons. Mother Isis bestowed the Gods’ Tear to Your Majesty by my hands. And today, Your Majesty saved my life! I don’t know how to express my gratitude.”
“I didn’t expect to meet you again in this way.”
“Indeed. I also didn’t expect to meet Your Majesty again.”
As they talked, they both looked into each other’s eyes, like they had done before in Duc. Contemplating her impeccable face, Amon couldn’t help but sigh. There was such a tremendous gap in social status between them. Looking into her eyes was all he could do for now. His dreams and desires could only be sealed deep in his heart.
Icho had recognized him. Thus, she must still remember the “accidental” hug and caress. He had almost kissed her, even. It was absolutely a secret. But Icho didn’t seem to be angry at him for that. They both avoided the topic and chose to bury it deeply. In the simple dialogue, their nearly identical phrases seemed to contain many hidden emotions which only they could understand.
The Adoratrice waved her hand elegantly and smiled, “Mister Amon, there’s something else I must confirm. I heard that you returned the Oracle’s staff to the Shrine of Cape. Such a virtuous deed! The gods must have blessed you for everything you’ve done, guiding me to save your life. Thank the divine fate, the merciful consideration from Isis.”
The Adoratrice then began to ask Amon about how he had obtained the Oracle’s staff. The slaves were sent out. Gabriel was the only other person in the room.
Amon repeated the story again, and then he talked about his experiences in Cape. Maria asked, “As far as I know, you are a fifth-level warrior. Vitru was a sixth-level mage, and Urhiya’s bodyguards were all advanced warriors. How did you manage to kill them all?”
Amon felt as if his heart was gripped by a tight fist. He finally had to face this essential question. He couldn’t tell her any of the details about the battle, since it would surely expose his greatest secret.
However, Maria wasn’t waiting for an answer. She immediately continued,
“The patriarch of the Ramose Clan was chasing you too, with mages and warriors accompanying him. The two groups of people both desired your treasure, and their greed eventually drove them to fight each other. Thus, you found a chance to escape. Is this what happened to you?”
Oh dear goddess! What a perfect answer! Maria wasn’t asking him the question, she was answering for him.
Amon had been struggling to find an excuse. But Maria’s words saved him the trouble. He nodded, “Indeed, that was precisely what happened. Nothing can escape Your Majesty’s sharp eyes and keen wit.”
Gabriel interrupted, “Can you remember what Vitru’s accomplices looked like and describe them to us?”
Amon briefly described the appearances of the warriors and the weapons they used. Gabriel was astonished. She turned to Maria and said, “My lord, there was Shuite, Urhiya’s nephew. And there was also Havon, his chief bodyguard. Havon was very close to becoming a supreme warrior. It’s hard to imagine that he died as well.”
Maria said regretfully, “Mister Amon, I must apologize on behalf of the Isis Shrine. This was likely a plot instigated against you by Priest Urhiya. But since all the pursuers are dead, we don’t have direct proof. According to our laws, a commoner cannot prosecute a high priest or a supreme mage. A valid prosecution would have to be made by a noble who guarantees by his nobility status that he fully understands the issue. That’s the only way the prosecution can be accepted by the court.”
“Because everyone else involved in this affair is dead, you won’t be able to find a noble willing to act as your guarantor in the prosecution. Priest Urhiya won’t face any lawsuits or consequences. The situation might even turn against you once the affair goes public. But please don’t be worried. I will not let it pass in this way. His actions have offended Mother Isis, and so I will expel Urhiya from the Shrine!”
Amon left his seat and bowed to the ground, “My dear lord, there’s no need to apologize. You saved my life and decided to protect me. I can only appreciate everything you’ve done for me.”
Maria smiled, “Please sit down, Amon.” She pointed at Gabriel and said, “You gave us the secret letter, which you said you obtained from Vitru’s body. As a foreigner, this could have put you in great danger. Why do you trust us so much?”
Amon smiled bitterly, “There are too many dangers in this world. You can never know when and how they will come to you. In such a world, it’s important to place your trust in at least a few people. If there really isn’t even a single person you can trust, then how does this world mean anything to you?”
Maria was moved. She wanted to say something, but she stopped. Gabriel added, “Do you know how to read, Amon?”
This was not a valid question. Of course Amon knew how to read… otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to understand Nero’s last words. Maria even knew that Amon could likely read Wedge Writing, for he knew the name “Icho” which she had carved in Duc.
Amon answered, “I know how to read, my lord.” However, he didn’t explain which kinds of writing he could read.
Gabriel asked further, “Do you know how to read hieroglyphs?”
Amon answered respectfully, “As a commoner, I shouldn’t know how to read hieroglyphs. I didn’t have the chance to go to school.”
Gabriel stopped her line of questioning. Maria interrupted, “Can you wait outside the room, Gabriel? There’s something I would like to ask Amon alone.”
Gabriel was surprised, but she walked out the room and closed the door obediently. It seemed inappropriate to leave the Adoratrice alone with a man. But Gabriel knew that there wouldn’t be any problems. She trusted Maria even more than herself.
What if Amon was an assassin? There was still nothing to worry about. Amon was currently very weak. Even if he was a supreme mage or warrior, Maria would be able resist him for a while with the staff in her hand and the other accessories she was wearing.
When they were the only two in the room, they both went silent. They simply didn’t know what to say. Amon didn’t ask Maria about the contents of the letter, and Maria didn’t ask him whether he had read the letter. Both of them avoided the topic.
After a long while, Maria broke the silence, “How did you know my name, Amon? I heard you call me Icho at the riverside. Don’t tell me it was just a coincidence.”
What could Amon say? Did he have to tell her that there was an eighth-level sorcerer who had peeped into her room and recorded the writing on the wall?
Amon lowered his eyes and answered slowly, “My lord, you wrote this name in a room in Duc. Everything that happens in this world leaves its trace, even if it’s faint, even if it seems imperceptible. The past can never be changed or erased… Please forgive me for calling you by that name.”
Maria wasn’t angry at all. She also lowered her eyes and stared at her fingers, “You cannot call me that name anymore, Amon. I have already abandoned it.”
Amon looked at her face again, “As you wish, my lord! I will no longer speak it. But… I can’t stop calling out that name in my heart. Is this forbidden as well? I beg your pardon, but it’s my honest thought.”
Maria was startled. She somehow didn’t dare to return his gaze. She answered in a low voice, “There’s nothing between our sincere hearts and the mercy of Isis. Even Mother Isis won’t blame an honest heart, so I won’t either.”
Amon sighed and replied, “Thank you, my lord. Someone once told me something similar.”
Maria looked into his eyes, “Who?”
“His name is Aesop. He’s a slave of a merchant in Memfis. He told me this when I was travelling with him to Cape.”
Maria crossed her fingers and lightly sighed, “The value of an honest heart won’t change with one’s identity… Amon, if you wish, you may still call me Icho for today. But once you leave this room, please remember what I said.”
They sat in silence. Both of them felt a bit embarrassed. Amon broke the silence this time,
“Icho, how have you been these last couple years?”
Maria replied with a question, “Amon, you already know that I’m the Adoratrice, the ruler of Lower Ejypt. Why do you ask this?”
Amon looked down to his toes and answered weakly, “I know clearly that you are the Adoratrice. But I also know that you should have had loyal and honest high priests on your side… which doesn’t seem to be the case. I can imagine that life as the Adoratrice is not necessarily happy. So I just want to know: Icho, are you happy?”
Maria smiled brightly, as if she was still the young girl in Duc, “I already told you. There’s nothing between our sincere hearts and the mercy of Isis. As the guardian of the glory and mercy of Mother Isis, I have nothing to fear. My faith has given me the best I can wish for. And I am doing everything to honor my faith. It’s not about being happy or unhappy. It’s about being honored and proud!”
Icho didn’t hide anything from Amon. His ability allowed him to sense her true emotions. Amon found that he could understand her. There was a inexplicable power in her words and emotions. Was this “Faith’s Fusion”?
Amon knew that Icho was a sixth-level mage. She had only spent a little over two years to achieve it. Amon felt that he himself was progressing very quickly. But compared to her, he was still one step behind. Not to mention the foundation that he had laid with years of practice in the Cold Spring.
Maria was indeed gifted. If she didn’t have marvelous talent, she wouldn’t have passed the selection and become a candidate in the first place. After she was coronated, she was given far better conditions than Amon. She had all the documents, artifacts, potions and experienced tutors she needed. With her scepter inlaid with the Gods’ Tear, her practice of magic wouldn’t be difficult at all.