'Don't tell me…'
Were the remains of the divinity, the cornerstone of the Lairon Church, sleeping in the golden coffin? Theodore kept moving while feeling dubious. The closer he got, the more the light pulled down at his boundaries. This divine light that warmed the living didn't seem like Jerem's trap.
Once he got within a short distance of the golden coffin, Theodore was able to see an unexpected sight.
"Well, there is no reason to leave the contents."
The inside of the golden coffin was empty. The lid was already open, and there was a shape engraved inside as proof that something had been there. Based on the marks, the owner of this golden coffin would've been a man with a height of two meters who had thin limbs.
Since a typical G.o.d clan was larger than an ordinary human, this golden coffin was likely a divine relic that housed the 'remains of the light.' The coffin might contain some clues. Theodore carefully looked around the golden coffin and found the blurred outline of letters on the inside.
The production date of this relic was at least 3,000 years old. The carved letters were worn out, but the traces attracted Theodore's eyes. They weren't ordinary letters. There was a sense of incongruity when he followed it with his fingers. His head tilted as he faced the unknown phrase.
'What? I can't physically recognize the characters?'
His optic nerve didn't respond. As soon as he cut off the magic power flowing to his eyes, the blurred letters disappeared without a trace. It meant they were letters that couldn't be seen with ordinary people's eyes.
If there was something they didn't know, don't hesitate to ask. This was the philosophy of all magicians. Theodore woke up Gluttony. Unsurprisingly, Gluttony replied readily, -Hoh, it has been a while since I've seen divine letters.
"Divine letters? Are they letters of the G.o.d clan?"
-That's right. It is a system that deviates from the concept of 'writing' the way it is defined by other species, but it is still the same as 'writing and reading.' It isn't visible to the eyes of mortals or those without divinity.
"...I see. It is thoroughly meant for the G.o.d clan." Theodore was convinced and nodded.
Meanwhile, Gluttony continued explaining, -They're called divine letters, but strictly speaking, they aren't letters. They form a sign that is inscribed using the will contained in the soul and are called divine letters.
"Then is it impossible to trace the source?"
-Usually, but it is possible for me. Each pattern has their own characteristics. It isn't hard for me to distinguish between the letters of each G.o.d.
Regardless of what was considered impossible, Gluttony quickly decoded the divine letters on the golden coffin.
It was the moment when the secret of the Age of Mythology was revealed in Lairon. This was the true reality of Lairon, who had been used as a source of false faith for humans. The truth resonated in Theodore's mind.
-Here lies Baldur, G.o.d of light, born as the second son of King Odin and loved by all. The orator who represents the world's goodness, a brilliance that doesn't tolerate sin. Whoever damages these remains won't be able to find rest in the swamp of death.
The son of King Odin of the Aesir G.o.d clan, Baldur—this was the ident.i.ty of the G.o.d called Lairon! Baldur was the G.o.d of light, so the expression 'the remains of light' was fitting. It was the source of the divine power that had sustained Lairon for hundreds of years, a sacrifice that would be more precious than a dragon heart for a warlock.
This was the reason why Jerem had come to the divine king's palace.
"s.h.i.+t, it is already too late!"
The blank coffin proved that Jerem had achieved his purpose, causing Theodore to feel a sense of crisis. Baldur's body was in the hands of a 9th circle magician. The scale of the disaster that this would cause couldn't be fathomed. The ultimate magic circle left in this kingdom was only a gimmick, and the two magicians had arrived too late.
This was a fatal blow that couldn't be overlooked.
-No, Baldur seems to have set up his own trick, Gluttony stopped Theodore's self-blame.
Simultaneously, the golden coffin started to emit an even brighter light. It was the final radiance before death. Just like a candle about to be blown out, the remaining divine power in the golden coffin carried out its final arrangement.
The spectacular wave of light emitted from inside the coffin soon turned into a single image. It was a slender and long branch.
"What is this branch?"
Unlike its appearance, a pure divine power could be felt from it. Theodore looked at the s.h.i.+mmering branch with a puzzled expression. He didn't know what this branch had to do with Baldur's 'trick.' However, Gluttony's reaction was dramatic in many ways.
-Mistilteinn! The branch of the mistletoe tree that killed Baldur, the G.o.d loved by all.
Theodore was astonished by the words and looked at Mistilteinn, while Gluttony grasped the full story.
-It seems like Baldur's soul isn't inside his body. Instead, he fled to the branch that killed him. He was awakened by User's divinity in order to convey his last wish. User, you will know his wish if you touch Mistilteinn.
"...Okay." Theodore carefully approached Mistilteinn.
It was a branch that emitted a warm light. The branch looked like it could be found anywhere, yet it was actually a relic of a legend that had killed Baldur. Theodore's fingers stretched out slowly and eventually touched the surface of the branch.
Pahat! An unknown memory emerged from Mistilteinn.
[... The calculations are out of order. Despite millions of lives being sacrificed, it isn't enough to devour Baldur's body. It seems like these lowlives aren't worth anything.] It was a cold and eerie voice, the voice of the incarnation of disaster itself which didn't contain anything but evil.
The voice of Jerem, the warlock who threatened the world and wiped out the people of Lairon, whispered in Theodore's ears, [More of Baldur's divinity has been consumed than expected. I overlooked the fountain of human greed... It is also because my resurrection was too delayed. I need a new offering to fill this gap.]
The root cause was Baldur's soul escaping into Mistilteinn, but Jerem didn't seem to know this.
He was silent for a while before coming up with a wicked idea. [That reminds me, there is a young world tree in the northern part of the continent. Furthermore, if I offer the souls of the elves... it should be enough. It is fairly easy to calculate the power that will be consumed in the process.]
Elvenheim's world tree...!
Maybe it was because Jerem had occupied Theodore's body for a while, so he remembered some suitable offerings using those memories. The world tree was a symbol of endless vitality, a sacrifice suitable for Baldur's body. The beings of darkness yearned for a life and light that they couldn't produce, so the value of the world tree was incalculable.
[Kuhuhu, I can play with the elves after a long time.] Finally, the monologue trailed off, and the voice could no longer be heard from Mistilteinn.
This was the only thing that Baldur's soul could do with the weak power it had remaining. As Mistilteinn faded away in his hand, Theodore nodded like he was responding to Baldur's will.
"I understand your will, Baldur."
Baldur was a soul who cared for this world even though he was dead.
"I will surely stop him."
Mistilteinn shone once again, as if Theodore's voice had been heard.
The tree branch crumbled like it was burnt, and the light penetrated Theodore's body. It was a blessing from Baldur.
'This...!' Theodore was shocked the moment he realized what blessing he had received. It was Baldur's blessing from the old myths, where nothing could harm him but a branch of mistletoe. This was an invincible blessing! The top blessing, which could negate the power of a G.o.d just once, was nestled inside Theodore's body.
It was Baldur's farewell gift as he left without any resentment.
* * *
"Veronica... Not yet."
Theodore climbed back up to the first floor and looked around the empty auditorium. He couldn't find any more clues apart from Mistilteinn. The great magic circle, the original target of the two people, must be on the top floor with Veronica. The undead hadn't been able to come underground because of the divinity, so there must be a lot of security around the magic circle. It wasn't a bad idea to join her.
It was at this moment that...
Suddenly, the ceiling collapsed, and a pile of rubble fell down. Of course, it wasn't enough to injure Theodore. However, he couldn't help feeling confused. It was because Veronica could be seen from the ceiling. The red tower master didn't destroy things for no reason. She couldn't destroy the door of Meltor's royal palace, but she could ruin this building because the kingdom was already dead.
"...Veronica, what is that in your right hand?"
She was holding something like rags in her hand.
"Oh, this? It is the former pope."
Veronica shook off the smashed skull and threw the lich in the luxurious outfit onto the ground. There wasn't any part of its body that hadn't been smashed, and a strong magic power was leaking from it. The elder lich was a senior undead, but it was placed into a critical state by Veronica who didn't have any divinity.
"The pope?" Theodore's eyes shook at the words.
Veronica shook both hands and grumbled, "Yes, he said he was an agent of Lairon. I was nervous because he was an arch lich, but it seemed he didn't know how to use the power."
"Well, he wasn't a magician, so it can't be helped."
It would be hard for the two magicians to know if they would win or lose against an arch lich at its peak. After all, it was difficult to destroy these monsters without divinity, and they were monsters that cast a shadow on the material world. However, an arch lich that didn't know how to use its power was just a skeleton. Veronica proved this by smas.h.i.+ng it in a few minutes.
"Did you interrogate him?"
"Of course. I burned him a few times, but he doesn't know anything. He didn't even see the warlock's face."
"There is no point leaving him here. Finish it."
Veronica's fire neatly incinerated the arch lich, the former pope. It was a lich who hadn't been made through the right process, so there was no way for it to survive once the body had completely disappeared. In case of another situation, Theodore used the light wave to make sure the lich was gone.
"What about the magic circle? It looks like it hasn't been destroyed yet."
Magic power was still overflowing in the city, proving that Pluto's Palace was alive and supplying strength and immortality to all bodies in its sphere of influence. Perhaps the magic circle wasn't on the top floor? Theodore was feeling confused when Veronica rummaged through her pocket with a grim expression.
"I found it. The problem is that I couldn't destroy it."
She held a strange purple crystal in her hands.
"It was the core of the great magic circle. No, this amethyst is probably the magic circle itself."
"The magic isn't canceled despite it being separated from the magic circle. Once the crystal is activated, it only exists as the source of power."
As a magician, they immediately understood the cryptic explanation, and the two people looked grimly at the amethyst. It was a small gem on the surface, but the inherent power and ominous feeling it gave off made it incomparable to the senior undead. Handling it carelessly could cause a catastrophe beyond the current one.
This was why Veronica said that it couldn't be destroyed. However, it would reveal the evil intentions of the creator when the magic circle reached its maximum, so it couldn't be ignored.
"Gluttony." However, a third choice existed for Theodore. "This thing, can you digest it?"
-...... Silence was the response to Theodore's question. -I am not weak, User!
Before Theodore could say anything else, the tongue swiftly stretched out and swallowed the amethyst.
['Nídhöggur's Bloodstone' has been consumed. It is difficult to measure the amount of magic power that is contained.]
[The ritual magic Pluto's Palace has been destroyed.]
[It will take seven days to completely digest.]
[Nídhöggur has noticed User's presence. It has threatened you for going against its contractor.]