Chapter 135:

Faith

Mad God


It was a cold night as it snowed heavily. Yanda was sitting at the top of his house, watching the Shert River, while snow was piling up on his head.


“Aren’t you cold?” A voice came as Lulu appeared next to him, sitting down beside Yanda.


“Not really.” He shook his head, throwing the big snowflakes all around them from the top of his head.


“Geez, like a dog…” Lulu laughed, wiping it off of her face. “Thinking about her?”


“Yeah… I don’t even have any real memories of my mother. I only knew what my father told me. He met her, washed ashore with bite marks on her body. She told him a demon attacked them while she was on her pilgrimage. They spent a long year together, right until he nursed her back to health. And although they fell in love… she eventually… still left him.”


“What was her name?”


“She had no name.” Yanda shook his head. “That was what my father told me. She said to him, her kind does not get to bear a name. I think both me and my father thought she meant herself as a mermaid… but now I think she meant it because she was groomed to be a sacrifice.” He whispered, looking at the heavily falling snow. “Father called her Azure. He always told me that I inherited her looks.” Yanda smiled softly but it was painful to watch.


“She must have been beautiful.” Lulu said as she placed her hand on his shoulders, gently rubbing it.


“My mother did come back sometimes, spending a few days with father… She stopped when she got pregnant. I was excited when I finally found the village. I wanted to know more about her… but what the maidens and the head priest told me was…” He groaned, rolling his fingers into a fist. “When it became apparent she was not a virgin anymore and even pregnant, they planned to offer her to that… ‘God’. The head priest decided that she should be offered up with me after I was born… a twin offering or something like that. At least that is what he told me.”


“If you want, we can go back, I’ll help you raze it to the ground!”


“And what would that achieve?” Yanda moaned, shaking his whole body, unfurling his fingers. “You saw them, they are too deep into it! My mother was too! She went back, knowing what would happen! Instead of staying with my father...”


“She didn’t know any better. Also… how many demons do you know who are living with humans? And not as slaves… the Kingdom does not count! The world is still not there yet. But she realized it in the end! She saved you.”


“Yes… I know but…” Yanda murmured as he nodded heavily. “But if she would’ve stayed with father, she wouldn’t have had to sacrifice herself for me.”


“...” Lulu couldn’t say anything to his words, even though she opened her mouth multiple times but no words came out.


“It is not the villagers fault. Not even that idiot head priest’s.” Yanda whispered.


“It is those who live at that… Abyss or what its name is!” Lulu agreed with him.


“No.” He shook his head, looking at her. “Master told me a lot of things when she got back. I don’t even blame that giant fish, hiding deep underground. No. The one who is at fault is that God, called Skoorn. Master is right, they are not worthy to be prayed to. I decided!”


“Decided what?” Lulu asked, tilting her head, looking into Yanda’s eyes curiously.


“I’ll become an Immortal and when I do, I’ll challenge this Skoorn guy!” He said with such a strong conviction no force could measure up to it.


“I think I peed a little…” Lulu gasped, breathing more rapidly. “That was… so hot…”


“Heh…” Yanda chuckled. “You never change…” He looked at her as he shook his body, shaking off the snow, standing up and stretching.


“Can’t help it~” Lulu giggled, looking up at him.


“Come!” He jumped down from the roof as she also got up, patting her butt down.


“Where?” She asked.


“To my bedroom.” Yanda looked up at her calmly.


Lulu was so surprised by his words that she just stumbled and slipped, falling off of the roof landing in Yanda’s arms, gasping for air.


“What, you don’t want to?” He looked down at her, holding Lulu like a princess.


“Of course I do!” She blurted out excitedly.


“Good.” Yanda grinned walking inside his house and as he closed the door the only whisper that still escaped from inside was Lulu’s moan.


“Damn, you are so hot when you are like this…!”


….

…..


“Master…” Ren asked, standing in Aerthus’s own residence, watching the snowfall. “How much do you know about cultivating faith?”


“Just what my mentors told me, nothing more. Why?” He asked as he looked at her back with a smile. He was brewing tea, enjoying its refreshing aroma lingering in the air.


“Because I know nothing about it. I inferred the gist of it and how it may work, yet my knowledge about it is only on the surface level at best.” Ren sighed softly. “But seeing it up close, I have a really bizarre disgust towards it.”


“Because you are cultivating with a clear mindset.” Aerthus said after a short silence. “You have your goal and you firmly believe you are going to achieve it.”


“I know I will.” Ren smiled, turning back towards him, walking to his table, sitting down as her Master poured out the freshly brewed tea into her cup.


“Everyone starts out like this but a lot of them trail off in the end and fail. Countless people get stuck at some point and lose their confidence. It erodes their will. This is what faith latches onto.” He explained slowly, thinking about his own words, remembering what he learnt from the lectures of the Immortals. “Faith was always with the people. Long before the actions of the Mad God. It is not something new.”


“Yet back then it wasn’t like this…” Ren murmured, taking a sip, looking down at the table.


“What I heard and learnt is that, back then there were strong cultivators too. Much, much rarer, yes. But they existed… and they also liked to act as gods amongst men, making them into the focus of worship.”


“Comparing the ancient times to today… is pointless. Before the Tear in the Sky, someone who called himself a demigod or dared to call himself god amongst men could only be the equivalent of a Harmony Expert at the 2nd stage today… at most! Real powerhouses only appeared every few thousands of years.”


“Maybe. When I rose to Harmony, I thought I reached the end of the road and I became omnipotent amongst my fellow men.” Aerthus explained as he leaned back on his chair. “I was amongst the first to reach it before others also succeeded in the coming decades. When I realized I can still travel further on this road and reached the 2nd stage of Harmony, I knew… I need to explore the world. I only saw the scenery from the hill I was standing on! If I never go exploring, I would believe that this hill is the tallest mountain in the world.”


“That is why you crossed the desert?”


“Yes. I wanted to know what is buried under the sand or if it goes on endlessly. When I arrived at the first, foreign city, I knew I made the right decision. It was also my first time meeting a sect that was completely devoted to one of the gods, namely, towards Nilier, The Goddess of Purity.”


“She also has a big cathedral back at the Capital. I was baptized there when I was born.” Ren said.


“Yes. The temples for the gods are not something that popped up overnight. They have been there since ancient times. Even the Mad God has temples and some fanatics still worship him.”


“Wait… what?” Ren coughed, spurting out the tea from her nose.


“Yeah.” Aerthus chuckled. “The ones who follow him are maniacs. I mean it in the most literal way. I saw a few, they are not right in the head. They are erratic, unpredictable and act as different people sometimes. They are truly mad. Of course there are those ‘followers’ who simply use him as an excuse. To stir up trouble and ‘change the order’! Causing mayhem for mayhem’s sake.”


“Damn… that’s crazy…” She twitched her mouth, not believing what she was hearing.


“Yeah, and the Immortals, if they come across a group of Mad God worshippers, they exterminate them to the last man. It is forbidden under their territory to worship the Mad God. I thought they would be the first to do so as they WERE his disciples, but they explained to me it would be the last thing he would have wanted.” Aerthus laughed, while Ren just let out sigh after sigh, shaking her head.


“I am 100% sure of it too, Master.”


“Anyway!” He said while refilling their cups. “The temples and worshippers are nothing new. They were here long before us. Yet it changed when the Tear appeared. Our whole world changed. Only after a few centuries, cultivators startet to pop up more frequently and as they became the norm, the worship of Gods got stronger too. Before it, it would be normal for people, for the so-called ‘mortals’ to worship them. Now it has changed to people with powers.”


“So it established some kind of… power or feedback loop?” Ren guessed with furrowed brows.


“Something like that.” Aerthus nodded. “I don’t know the details. Lady Ophila once told me; When the Gods recognized the change, they sent down ‘apostles’, demigod disciples to convert people into worshiping them. We are still in the dark as to what kind of effects it has on the Gods themselves. We only see that borrowing the powers of a God enslaves cultivators to a never ending road. The most insidious thing is that the cultivator himself never realizes it. This effectively cuts off anyone from the prospect of ever reaching their level.”


“So they made sure no new god emerges in the realm. Clever…” Ren scoffed with a sarcastic tone.


“Yes.” Aerthus agreed. “Those who fall into worshiping one of the gods are doomed to never reach any new heights. Some willingly take on this role, especially if one exhausts his or her own natural talent. Desperation and fear are great motivators to change someone into a zealot. It is human nature.”


“What about here? The temples? Why have we stopped worshiping them? Just because of you?” She grinned, watching Aerthus.


“No. I just slowly prevented the resurgence of worshiping the Gods.” He shook his head. “There was a strong religious system here, before the Tear. The House of Ein, the old kingdom in the north, where now the demonfolk lives. It was a heaven for worshiping all of the gods. Every single one of them had a pantheon, even the Mad God.”


“Huh… I never knew about this.” Ren mused, emptying her cup.


“Most of the books are lost to time.” Aerthus continued, mistaking her words completely. “Even those we brought back from Rumira, barely mention them. The amount of books that you went through is not even 1% of what we had lost when the ents eradicated them. The House of Ein was the leading force at our side of the continent. Here, in the south, to them we were only scattered, small kingdoms. Little countries and city states, a playground for the Eins’ nobility. Their fall set us back hundreds of years, if not more!”


“How far are we from the west?” Ren asked, folding her arms.


“It’s hard to say. I wouldn’t say we are behind them with talent but by techniques and knowledge. As we lost a lot of it. But if you want my estamination I would say we are behind by at least a 1000 years. But it is also our luck. This part of the world is seen as a backwater place by the Gods. No strong cultivators here have worshiped them since the start of the change. Luckily, it stayed that way. I always thought that instead of praying for good fortune you should work for it yourself. Do not wait for change or hope for happiness, falling into your lap by itself. Aim for it. Work for it. Fight for it. Just sitting around and asking a ‘higher being’ to make you into something is not the correct way. That is why I slowly pushed religion to the sides when I formed the Empire, placing people at the front and not some deities.”


“It was a lucky and good choice, Master.” Ren smiled, clearly agreeing with his words.


“More lucky than I thought. Learning about it made me realize I saved my descendants' lives.” He laughed, standing up, walking to the window, opening it as he watched his Sect. He was visibly proud of his new home. “I want them to have a chance to reach the Immortal realm. A few will do. I don’t even know if I will. But everyone should have the same chance and not be blocked by those who are already at the top. The real enemy they should face is their own will and determination only.”


“I agree, Master. Borrowed power never can be really yours.” Ren said, standing next to him. “Nobody can say for sure if the one you borrowed it from will not ask for it to be given back… with interest.”