Almost nothing is known about the Goddess of Death and Destruction, Aura.
The only book mentioning that ambiguous goddess is the『Memorandum of Augusto』. Also, a character, which might supposedly be that goddess, sporadically appears in the folklore of the demi-humans and the orally-handed-down legends of a portion of the elders; but there are no concrete details about her.
The sole common point among all races is only her being named as 「Goddess who is a mother and an elder sister」.
But, even at the Holy Faith’s Ecumenical Council which was held in order to consolidate the doctrine which had diverted into many various interpretations due to local peculiarities after the Holy Faith succeeded in propagating over the whole continent, fierce disputes arose how they should handle the doctrine’s stance on Goddess Aura.
The Wise Man Jupidekus, who was the highest intellectual of the Holy Faith at that time and who obtained the title God’s Scholar afterwards, proposed a daring hypothesis at the second Ecumenical Council.
It was about Goddess Aura’s involvement in the death of the God of Creation, which was considered to be the biggest open issue in the Myth of Creation.
The God of Creation, who was supposed to be an almighty being, was an eternally immortal existence that didn’t even know the concept of death. As such the God of Creation was tormented by infinite solitude.
Then, why was the God of Creation able to die?
The answer to that is certainly because of the existence of the Goddess Aura.
Goddess Aura was created by the God of Creation. She was a goddess who brought about death and destruction. By giving birth to that goddess, the God of Creation was able to die for the first time.
She has been created by the God of Creation just like the seven gods, and by granting death to the God of Creation, she gave birth to the other seven gods. That’s why she’s called 「Goddess who is a mother and an elder sister」 by the seven gods.
That’s what Jupidekus advocated.
However, with the Holy Faith establishing in its doctrine that the God of Humans is the legitimate successor of the God of Creation due to appearing after all the impurities, namely the other six gods, had been removed, Jupidekus’ hypothesis was viewed as potential opposition to the religious framework. Therefore, it was removed from the official documents in the Holy Faith and it was concluded that the existence of Aura should be hidden once again.
“It’s bad! Bad, bad!” (Mildas)
Unable to calm down, Priest Mildas restlessly wandered around the room like a beast that was locked up in a cage.
Those who were chosen by god and blessed with their grace are called 『Divine Children』.
Some divine children can swim underwater like a fish after receiving the grace of being able to breath underwater. Yet other divine children received the grace of seeing in the dark night like a beast, and they are able to act just like at broad daylight even in starless nights.
The matter of receiving such a blessing after being chosen by a god isn’t something that happens that often, but it’s also not like it’s something out of myths or legends.
Archduke Buglydarka is one of the three Archdukes and governs the Principality of Kashluka as an authority of the empire. Arch Priest Austravis who is one of the Holy Faith’s current three Arch Priests. Holy Maiden Palfena of the Spamul Kingdom located in the west. All of them are people seizing the day as divine children who were blessed with the grace of the God of Humans.
Also, even in the fortress where Mildas was staying, a divine child existed.
However, as far as a divine child of Goddess Aura is concerned, the situation changes completely.
“Good grief, I never heard about something like Aura’s divine child! Just what the hell shall I do? How to handle it best?!” (Mildas)
Until now Aura’s divine children didn’t manifest even once. Not only is that boy’s existence their first appearance in the history of this continent, but above all, it’s evidence proving the existence of Goddess Aura who was doubted to be actually real so far.
If that boy’s existence become publicly known, it’s clear the Holy City will erupt in an uproar as if a jar of oil had been thrown into a raging fire.
But only that much would still be great. If I bring along that divine child, even though the Holy Faith doesn’t recognise Aura’s existence, it’s very likely that I will be secretly disposed of alongside the divine child. Having said that, Aura’s divine child is far too dangerous to be left alone.
“In that case, currently when no one but me has realized that he’s Aura’s divine child…” (Mildas)
Mildas gulped down his spit.
I finally obtained the foothold to success with the head of that old man. As that might spoil it, it will be best if I pretend that I didn’t see or hear about something like Aura’s divine child.
“But, then, how do I get rid of him…?” (Mildas)
The problem is whether that boy has been blessed with any kind of grace. It’s no problem if it’s a common blessing like always hitting a target with a thrown stone or having powerful strength. According to some there are even graces like cursing others.
As a matter of fact, the company commander had died due to the grace of the other divine child in this fortress. It turned into a situation where Marchronius, who was his aide, had to hurriedly be instated as Proxy Supreme Commander of the fortress. Because that incident has become well-known within the fortress the soldiers will likely refuse the killing of Aura’s divine child out of fear even if I ordered it.
A revelation flashed within Mildas’ mind.
“Ah, right! He is a divine child! Won’t he be defeated by that other divine child in this fortress? If the two divine children clash against each other, both of them might perish if all goes well. And even in the worst case, I will be able to dispose of one of the divine children!” (Mildas)
“Ru Ork! Fuano!”
Souma, who had his cheek slapped alongside a voice shouting in anger, opened his eyes faintly. Once he did so, the face of a man with a sloppily grown beard was in front of him at a distance where he could bite him.
His nausea and dizziness have calmed down somewhat, but the fatigue, as if gnawing at him, hasn’t abated and he is in the troublesome situation where he can’t even move a single finger. The spit of the man shouting nearby is covering his face, but he isn’t able to wipe it off either.
The man, who talks in a language which Souma can’t understand as usual, wears a metal helmet that covers his head down to the nape with nose and cheek guards attached. His torso is clad in an armour which had countless metal pieces sewn into a thick cloth as scales.
“Bibulur! Di Aif seiha?”
Losing his temper due to Souma’s sluggish response, the man called out to his comrade wearing the same attire standing in the back.
“Ubola rob seiha.”
The man nodded to the words of his comrade, grabbed Souma’s right arm and made him get up forcibly. His comrade grabs the arm on the other side, and both of them drag Souma along towards some unknown place.
Souma with his hazy consciousness surveyed the surroundings by moving just his eyes while being dragged by the two.
It was a place similar to an old fortress in Western Europe.
The high walls, made out of piled-up stones, towered within the descending veil of darkness while being illuminated by bonfires, as the sun had already gone down. Many soldiers, who wore the same uniforms as the men pulling him, are trembling due to the cold as they surround the bonfires in an open square on the ground which was surrounded by the walls.
No matter where he looks, it’s a scene one wouldn’t expect to exist in modern Japan at all.
Souma is pulled into the fortress’ basement while gathering the inquisitive stares of the soldiers in the square on himself.
The smell of sweat and excreta as well as a beast-like scent mixed together and resulted in an unbelievably bad stench hanging in the air. On the floor of the basement, which was brightened up by the torches held by the men, a great number of holes with a diameter of 4 – 5 meters had been dug out, and their openings were covered with lids possessing bars.
One of the men dragging Souma grasps the chain attached to the bars of one of the holes with both hands and pulls up the lid using his body’s weight by falling backwards.
The torches’ light doesn’t reach the inside of the hole with its lid moved away, which shrouded it completely in a darkness as if were a bottomless hole. Once Souma looks down there, he experiences a hallucination of seemingly being sucked in there just like that.
In the next moment, the man suddenly thrust Souma’s body into the hole.
Souma, who fell into the hole without having even the time to scream, crashes with his shoulder at the bottom of the hole after a short while of being suspended in mid air. He fell down unable to even apply ukemi, but because the hole’s bottom was blanketed with something like half-rotten straw that served as cushioning, he fortunately didn’t suffer any injuries.
“Uh… uuh… aah…” (Souma)
Nevertheless, the struck shoulder stings with an intense pain. Did the pain have a positive effect in reverse? The mist-like state which clung to Souma’s mind clears up a bit.
The darkness is dispelled a bit by the flickering light of the torches shining from above. Once Souma looked up, the men who pushed him down shouted something while hitting a bag they held with their hands.
“Ru Hap zoanlieu! Nieb, sbil sarmol nolie aiha!”
Saying that, one of the men took out something round from within the bag and threw it at Souma.
When he looked at what dropped down close to him, it was something like bread with a size smaller than a fist.
And then, continuing after that, a small leather bag that seems to have some liquid inside and something like a thin staff fell down. Once he looked properly, the thin staff with a length of around 1 meter had a pointed piece of metal at the tip of one side. It seemed to be a simple spear.
“Ru Hap! Ru Hap zoanlieu!”
Once they shouted that, the men covered the hole with the barred lid again and left the basement.
With the torches’ lights becoming distant, the hole’s bottom was once more plunged into darkness as Souma frantically endured his shoulder pain, but when that calmed down after a while, he checked his own situation.
The hole’s depth is approximately 3 meters. Even if I stand on my tiptoes and stretch my back to make myself taller, my hand won’t reach the bars. Even if it reached them for argument’s sake, I probably won’t be able to make the lid move at all in my current state. Once he touches the wall with his hands, the sensation of ice-cold stone is transmitted to him. With this it doesn’t seem like I will be able to do something like digging holes and climbing the wall by using those holes as footholds.
Souma’s ears heard faint sounds.
They are similar to small metal pieces coming into contact with each other, and a growling as if a dog is using its throat to make threatening sounds.
Is there something in the darkness on the other side of the hole?
He tried to stand up right away, but as his weakened legs weren’t even capable of that, he crawled alongside the wall. He grabbed the spear, which his hand touched by coincidence while on the move, and thrust it out in order to restrain the thing lurking in the darkness.
The thing in the darkness stirred.
Souma’s nose smells a stench similar to that in a dog house.
There was a small growl of *grrr* and two small luminous points emerged in the darkness.
No, those are eyes. The turquoise shining two eyes glared at Souma.
“Di Hap arui? Genobanda hyurmuiha.”
Once again he could hear a low beastly growl alongside that incomprehensible language from within the darkness.
The spear he held wasn’t that heavy, but his arms, which were affected by his physical fatigue, had problems with just propping it up. However, at the thought of a wild beast lurking in the darkness, he desperately mustered his strength and did no more than keeping thrusting out the spear.
At that moment, a gap in the clouds covering the sky opened up, and the light of the moon, which showed its face through that opening, flowed inside the hole Souma is in through a small skylight hole inserted in the prison.
The pale moonlight lifts the darkness slightly.
What was lurking in the darkness previously isn’t a wild beast as imagined by Souma, but on the other hand it’s not a human either.
It was a creature which was covered with hair all over and which wasn’t neither human nor beast.
Souma had his breath taken away due to the creature becoming visible through the illumination of the pale moonlight.
Limbs that make one feel their wild sturdiness despite being smooth, long and flexible. Exposed, voluptuous breasts and in contrast to that, a tightly compressed waist.
However, all of that is covered by a layer of short, dark brown fur. It’s not wearing a pelt though. Obviously it’s the creatures very own fur.
And then, rather than being that of a human, its face is closer to those of leopards and cats. Its snout doesn’t protrude as much as the one of a leopard; it has a close-to-flat shape, like the mouth of a human, but its clear, large eyes and the small, protruding nose are completely like those of cats. Its ears aren’t close to the top of the head but at a spot similar to the ears of humans. Even though the ears have grown pointed while being hairy, his out-of-place impression is 「Those aren’t like the animal ears from mangas」.
That creature threatened Souma by baring its fangs.
“Genobanda hyuimuiha! Ru Chikk! Guna ejim talho noiha!”
Souma was surprised. That incomprehensible language gushed out of the creature’s mouth.
Well, is that a human who had special make-up applied then?
Though he wondered about that, it doesn’t seem to be something man-made at all once he looks at the exposed fangs.
Anyway, let’s move away a bit from the creature that I probably should call beastman, making sure to nuzzle his back against the wall while still thrusting out the spear, he moves by dragging himself onwards. At the moment when the beastman shifted its stance to match with Souma’s movement, there was a sound of metal pieces clinking against each other.
Now that I look properly, iron rings are attached around the wrists of the beastman’s hands. The chains extending from those rings are connected to the wall. Seeing the chains’ length, I dare say that it’s unknown whether it can even stretch its hands to around the centre of the hole, but surely no further than that.
As soon as he understood that he won’t get attacked if he stays close to the wall, he suddenly lost his strength starting from his shoulders alongside a big sigh. Once the spear drops out of Souma’s hands, the beastman stops baring its fangs and starts sniffing with its nose twitching.
“It’s alright. I won’t do anything to you.” (Souma)
He held up both hands in the air to demonstrate that he has no intention to hurt it, but the moment he does so, the beastman begins again to threaten him by baring its fangs.
It seems that an exchange of intentions is simply impossible.
Besides, because his body is still affected by physical weariness and a feeling of intoxication, even though it became slightly better, it was troublesome for him to ponder about various issues. Entrusting his body to the wall, he gazed at the straw-like grass which vaguely covered the surface of the hole’s bottom. Thereupon the leather bag with water in it and the object similar to bread, which were dropped together at the same time, caught his eyes.
Right when he became conscious of the water and food, his body begins to complain about being hungry and thirsty.
Ignoring the beastman who threatened him each time Souma moves, he sluggishly extended a hand and picked up the bread and leather bag.
He tries to bite off a mouthful of the bread. The bread crust is damp and tough; it was completely like biting into leather. Its inside had a texture similar to simply eating dried wheat. It reminds me of the flour dumplings in soup I created with everyone at the time of the outdoors activity in elementary school, where we kneaded the wheat flour, tore off pieces of the yet uncooked dough and boiled it in dashi soup. The bread’s texture here is similar to eating dumplings which hadn’t been properly boiled.
Usually that’s not something you would eat at all, I think. However ‘hunger is the best seasoning’ says it all. Once he mixed it with his saliva and chewed it thoroughly through several times, a faint sweetness unfolded in his mouth and after swallowing, it permeated his stomach like nectar.
And then, when had bitten the bread several times, he suddenly felt a gaze.
Once he raised his face, his eyes met with the beastman leaning against the wall on the opposite side. He ended up getting threatened with a snarl, but he ignored it as he knew that the other party can’t come his way due to the chains.
However, when he bites into the bread once more, he feels the stare again.
This time, in order to not be noticed by the beastman, he doesn’t lift his face and just looks at the beastman with upturned eyes.
He saw that the beastman was staring this way after all. However, its look was apparently slightly diverted from him and focussed on something else.
By some chance, stopping to gnaw at the bread, he placed it on his hand.
The beastman’s stare follows downwards.
He brings the bread to his mouth.
The beastman’s stare follows upwards.
When their eyes met, he was threatened once again.
However, with this he knew that the beastman was aiming for the bread.
But, Souma was troubled. The food he has now at hand is only this one half-eaten, small bread. In addition, even though he’s hungry, he doesn’t know just when he will be able to get food next. On the contrary, he doesn’t even know whether there will be a next time at all.
The correct decision at this point is probably to carefully ration out this bread to survive. In the first place, I have no obligation to rescue that beastman in front of me as we have no kind of connection either. Besides, since it has been locked up in this place, it might be a dangerous fellow. Something like sharing my important food with such a fellow is what an idiot would do.
Persuading himself like that, Souma tried to bite into the bread, but his hand suddenly stopped.
『Listen, Souma. The gods are always watching. Make sure to not behave shamefully.』
Those words, which popped up in Souma’s mind, belonged to his grandfather who died at the beginning of this year.
Souma loved his grandfather who taught him about the old ways of playing, which had been most recently forgotten, such as taketonbo and spinning tops.
The favourite phrase of his grandfather, which he imparted on Souma, were those words.
However, because it’s an emergency right now, it can’t be helped.
Souma gave such excuse to himself, but he once again remembered his grandfather’s words.
『Look, Souma! The Japanese are great after all! The Japanese are a fine race.』
Those were his grandfather’s words at the time when he saw the news about the Great East Japan earthquake. While encountering an unprecedented great earthquake, the victims didn’t plunder or rebel, but helped each other by sharing the little food they had. Seeing that in the news, his grandfather happily spoke about it while revealing tears of gratitude.
『Souma, you too make sure to not behave shamefully.』
Souma tightened his lips firmly.
And then, while holding out his right hand which held the half-eaten bread, he called out to the beastman.
“This, do you want it?” (Souma)
The beastman incessantly blinked with its eyes, but it immediately roars while baring its fangs once again.
“Ru Rugonas! Genobanda noiha!”
It looks like it hasn’t understood my words after all.
Giving up, Souma tossed the half-eaten bread towards a place seemingly reachable for the beastman’s hands. And, drinking only half of the water in the leather bag, he does the same with the rest.
After that, in order to cut off his lingering affection towards the food, Souma turned his back, curled up close to the wall and decided to sleep.
One couldn’t say by any means that the sleeping comfort on the stinking grass was great, but even so he ended up falling asleep before long.
The next morning, when Souma woke up, the half-eaten bread was gone and the leather bag had also been crushed flat.