Chapter 22:

Accepting the Past


Leo and the group followed along Natalie, who led the way. After walking further down, the wall behind them closes, leaving a barely lit tunnel. The dimly lit setting reminds Leo of their journey to the Abyss.

“Phew! We got away. Can’t believe you got us out of this pickle!”- Sophia said.

Leo took a moment to think as he seemed to recognize how familiar they looked. He came to a realization, looking at Natalie. No one else other than Leo seemed to understand why they were able to get away.

“I usually don’t pay too much attention to details, but that outfit… that necklace… Natalie, you…”- Leo said.

“Yes, just like what you suspected. I am a Holy Trinity Cult member. Well… I WAS one. It was kind of a part time job.”- Natalie admits.

“That’s why I really didn’t want to do this. It’s only meant to be a last resort.”- She follows up.

“What kind of situation is this?!? The cultist is a part timer?!?”- Leo thought to himself.

“So um… How long were you a cultist for?”- Leo awkwardly asks.

“During my second year at the academy, I really needed money. One thing led to another and I ended up being recruited. That’s why I had to leave early back then, right after graduation.”- Natalie admits.

“Oh thank god. I thought you just hated me.”- Leo laughs.

Natalie had kept this secret from everyone she knew, fearing that they would get scared and distance themselves. It was something that she decided to bury forever in her past. However, her fear was for nothing. Well, more like it wasn’t needed for Leo’s party, as they all don’t seem to mind.

“Are you guys afraid of me now?”- Natalie looks over in concern.

Everyone that Natalie looked at smiles back at her.

“I don’t know anything about the Cultist stuff. I live in the Abyss all this time so it doesn’t really matter.”- Claudius said, not seeming to mind.

“Yeah, I’m in the same boat. I live with the elves, so human affairs don’t concern me. You brought me a meal when I first joined the Adventurer Guild, only good people do that.”- Sophia said with a smile.

“Uh, that wasn’t really my intention. The meal was a distraction so that you don’t check out the Guild Board.”- Natalie thought to herself, feeling guilty and trying to avoid making eye contact with the innocent Sophia.

“A cult? What are you talking about? Never heard of them.”- Amber nonchalantly states.

“REALLY? You live in the capital and you haven’t heard of them?”- Leo turned around, surprised.

“They can do whatever they want. I don’t care as long as it doesn’t affect me.”- Amber states.

“I quit this job after ‘The Great Invasion’ occurred. We were responsible for the demons getting access to the capital.”- Natalie admits, looking over at Leo.

“Sigh… Well, what’s done is done. I know you’re a good person so don’t worry. You still got us out of this situation.”- Leo replies.

“Next time, don’t hide things like that from us. We’re all weirdos here. It doesn’t matter if you were a cultist.”- Leo said with a smile.

Natalie felt emotional hearing that, she appreciates the fact that they accepted her regardless of what she was. Holding back her tears, she went in for an unexpected group hug.

“With that off my chest, let’s get going.”- Natalie said with a smile.

The group continues moving forward in the tunnel.

“Where can they be?”- Saura thought to herself, looking down on the streets.

From her view, Leo’s party seemingly disappeared after taking a few turns. She knows that they can’t be far from here. Even though Vera wasn’t bluffing about having eyes all around the capital, those people were mostly gone because they had to aid in the battle.

“We’re out of time. All members, head back.”- Vera’s voice is projected into their head.

All of Sanc Gladius’s rogues stopped their search, turned around and began to head back. Saura pauses for a brief moment, standing still on the roof looking directly at the alley way that Leo’s group turned into. She thinks for a bit, finally deciding to also head back too.

“That was a blunder by me to decrease the amount of security on them. They were quite slippery, I underestimated them.”- Vera admits to Garnet.

“There’s no way they can vanish out of thin air like that. Someone from the capital has to be aiding them.”- Garnet said.

“No matter, our main focus is the battle ahead of us.”- Vera states.

Leo, it's foolish to think that you and your party can just escape. You must have forgotten that I know where your parents live.”- Vera thought to herself, giving a sinister grin.

The pursuing group quickly returned, with Saura closely behind them.

“Looks like everyone is here. Let’s head out.”- Vera said.

Multiple horse carriages can be seen pulling up to the mansion, carrying Sanc Gladius’s members outside the capital. They arrive at what seems like an outpost on an open field that Vera had already set up. Some of the members were already sent out there beforehand to maintain the grounds. Stepping out of her carriage, Vera confidently looks far across the field. Further down, quite a distance away, dim lights can be seen, lit by the enemy's outpost.

“Looks like my prediction was correct, they’re out here.”- Vera smiles.

On the other outpost, Lorcan can be seen inside one of his tents. He has a very tense look on his face, looking at a map. Doppel enters the tent, glances around and says:

“The scouts just reported that Sanc Gladius had arrived on the other side of the field. Most of Alias United members have arrived here too.”

“That damn old man. When is he going to show up? I shouldn’t have trusted him when he offered to help up.”- Lorcan panics.

“That’s not how you should be treating your allies.”- Velh unexpectedly walks in.

“Speaking of the devil. It’s still my fault for being late, but great to see you here Velh.”- Doppel said.

Lorcan, still looking very stressed, stands up and prepares to head out.

“Why do you look so scared? We have quite the number advantage with me on your side. This battle will be a breeze.”- Doppel declares.

“Easy for you to say. I’m missing a strong member that could have been helpful for this battle. They haven't been able to contact Giza. Where did that bastard go?”- Lorcan gets angry.

“Ahahah. Still no problem, me and Old Man here can handle them no problem. In terms of the top 10 members, it's 3 versus 2.”- Doppel says.

The three step outside their tent. An army made out of Alias United and Elqium members filled the field. There are 3 members from Majoria accompanying Velh. He had determined that this is the amount needed for the battle. As time approaches 9:30P.M, the groups gather up and march closer to Sanc Gladius’s side.

In the meantime, in the tunnel below the capital, Leo’s party has managed to make it to Holy Trinity Cult’s base of operation. Natalie had warned her group to be vigilant while they were here, letting her handle all of the talking. The tunnel led into a spacious underground room. A giant symbol of the cult can be seen attached to the wall right at its center. Many cultists are running about in a hurry, as they were planning something to benefit off of the war.

“To whom do I owe the pleasure of speaking to? Where is it that you guys want to go?”- A cultist walks up to Natalie.

Natalie pulls down her hood, revealing her identity. The cultist seems to have been surprised by that.

“Bishop Natalie?!? I’m so sorry that I didn’t recognize you there. Please forgive my behavior.”- The cultist begs, going down on her knees.

“BISHOP?!?! Natalie was that high ranked in the cult?!? Well, I’m not complaining since that’s our ticket to getting out of here.”- Leo thought to himself, keeping his head low.

“It’s fine. I have been gone for quite a long time, so it's no fault of your own. Stand up, I forgive you.”- Natalie calmly replies.

“I see that you are still very active after all this time, even bringing a void creature under your control. As impressive as always.”- The cultist compliments.

“I need to head to the west exit right now. The whole upcoming battle is going to be spectacular and I want to get a direct view of it.”- Natalie said, putting up a fake smile.

“Ah, of course, it makes sense you would be so quick on these matters. I won’t waste any more of your time.”- The cultist said, leaving as they said goodbye.

Natalie gestures for the group to follow her, leading them through the area. After heading through a few doors, they enter another tunnel.

“This tunnel should lead us directly South. I overheard the guards discussing that the battle would occur on the West side of the Capital, so we should be fine.”- Natalie whispers.

As the group members all nodded their head, a mysterious voice suddenly said:

“I think going North would give a better view if you want to watch the battle.”

They all looked around, trying to search for the mysterious voice. It wasn’t until Natalie sighs and points at the wall. There was what seemed like a normal wooden crate, surrounded by old tools. The dimly lit lights made it even harder to spot it. A mysterious figure struggles to climb out of the box, trying to pull themselves out. Everyone stared at the struggling figure with a disappointed look on their face.

“… a… moment.”- The mysterious person says, trying to catch their breath climbing out.

“Sigh… Claudius, would you mind?”- Natalie looks over at him.

He nods, walking over to the wooden crate and swiftly pulls the person out. Claudius puts them down on the ground and walks back over next to Sophia.

“Thanks… I didn’t really need the help... but I appreciate it.”- The mysterious figure is still out of breath.

“Long time no see, Natalie.”- The hooded figure pulls down his hood.

“Yeah, I knew it was you once I heard your voice.”- Natalie replies with a disappointed look.

“THAT’S CROZIN ALREAS!!! He was the second ranked guy in the Academy back then after we took the exam! Do most people from the Academy enjoy becoming cultists or something?”- Leo thought to himself.

“I’m assuming these are your new recruits?”- Crozan looks over at Leo and his group.

“They aren’t trained enough to be useful in any mission. I’m still teaching them personally.”- Natalie calmly replies.

“The way he addresses Natalie, no formality whatsoever. He has to also be a high ranking member of this cult.”- Leo thought, keeping his head low.

“You went and disappeared for more than a year, then you came back with a new group. Isn’t it kind of insulting to think you can trick me?”-Crozan smiles.

Everyone froze, holding their breath and anticipating for the worse. The tension seems to rise again, with the tunnel filled with silence.

“Just kidding! You have done a great job recruiting new members!”- Crozan walks over to Claudius and looks at him.

“You even managed to tame an abyssal creature, something no one has done before. Marvelous! And who are these new recruits? Let me get a quick look.”- Crozan said, turning over towards Amber, Leo and Sophia.

“I prefer if you don’t get too curious, we have somewhere to be right now. You don’t want to make me angry.”- Natalie threatens.

“Ahahaha. You are right, I would not want to make the pretty Natalie angry. Fine, I’ll take your word for it.”- Crozan laughs.

“We’ll be on our way then.”- Natalie says, walking away into the tunnel.

Leo and his group followed, not looking back at Crozan.

“Wait.”- Crozan said.

Everyone stops once again, with Natalie turning around.

“It seems like you didn’t have time to give these new recruits their necklaces. That won’t do.”- Crozan said, searching his pockets.

“This isn’t it.”- He said as he tossed aside a rare looking gem, a missing person poster, a bowl, and finally a half eaten lobster.

After a little bit of searching, he pulled out a bunch of necklaces, handing it out to each member of Leo’s party. Of course, Natalie didn’t have to receive one as she was already wearing it. Crozan stayed around, encouraging the members to put them on. Leo looked over at Natalie for approval, she gave a light nod and he put the necklace on. He can feel a small surge of dark energy through him, but it’s so minor that Leo doesn’t mind it. With that, the group quickly take their leave, Crozan smiling and waving farewell at them. His smiles seem more sinister than before as they all get one quick last look behind.

“Should we keep this thing on?”- Amber whispers, making sure Crozan is out of sight.

“Yeah, for now until we get outside of this tunnel.”-Natalie whispers back, still leading them towards the exit.