24.0 Zero_Chapter 9: Headache

Ever since I tested my Ability on the Hill, I’d known that my life would be boring.
Because while sitting on that Hill, I explored the limits of my Ability.Only to find that there were none.It was an interesting dilemma, really. Someone who had been so utterly powerless in the real world was now so ridiculously powerful that he was lamenting his power.

But even though I had grown so powerful that nothing fazed me anymore, there were still two things that gave me a headache.

As I watched the guard shove the wanted poster in Lily’s face and saw Lily bite her lips, I didn’t react at all because I knew nothing would happen.

Just as I expected, the guard went back to her post without sparing a glance for the stunned girl that matched the portrait on the poster, as if she didn’t recognize her at all.

Because she didn’t.

“You guys go ahead to Betern Inn, I have some business to take care of.” I said, walking away while ignoring the still frozen Lily as well as my other friends who were staring at my back.

Friends…could I call them that? They hadn’t known me for long, even though I’d watched them for a long time from the Hill.

And why were they so stunned? Didn’t I tell them that the rings would help disguise them?

Well, I knew the answers to both questions but that just made me even more depressed. Not enough to give me a headache and definitely not enough to make me feel as depressed as I had on the Hill but they were answers that made me feel a little melancholic.

But I was sure that I’d forget all about it in a while.

After all, I had to deal with the first thing that gave me a headache despite everything that I had learned and felt on the Hill.

I lifted up a hand and knocked on the door in front of me.

“Who is it?” came a voice from inside.

“Mrs.Baner, I’ve come to talk to you about your husband.” I replied.

The door opened and a middle aged, brown haired woman appeared from behind it. She was carrying a little pink bundle in her arms, inside which was a baby, barely able to open its eyes. The woman’s blue eyes shone but she couldn’t mask the anxiety that made her lips tremble ever so slightly.

“O-odog? You know where he is! Please, please tell me. I’ve been worried sick. Ever since he went dungeon diving with his adventuring buddies even though I told him not to…it’s been months. Please, tell me he’s alright! Please…” she said frantically.

I took a deep breath.

“I’m sorry Mrs.Baner. Your husband is dead.” I said, solemnly.

Her face froze. Her eyes dulled. Her lips trembled.

Tears rolled down her cheeks as she turned away and sat down on the sofa inside.

I let her cry for a while, unwilling to interrupt her sorrow. After a good fifteen minutes, I walked into the room and offered her a glass of water which she grasped with trembling hands. She’d already put the baby inside a cot in the corner of the room.

“Your husband was a good man. He risked his life to give his family a better life.” I consoled.

She nodded absentmindedly and took big gulps of water.

“H-how did he…” she whispered.

“A monster. An accursed, ruthless, heartless monster. It got him right when he’d won the prize.” I said, bringing a pouch out of my robes.

“He wanted you to have this.” I said, putting the pouch on the table.

She stared at the pouch and reached for it. Her tears spilled down even faster as she saw the fortune inside.

“O-odog…why…who cares about money…you idiot…always were a musclebrain…I don’t care about money…I just want…our family to be-” she mumbled, turning her face away to cry on the sofa’s armrest.

I felt a pain in my chest.

I ruined this family.

I was the monster. An accursed, ruthless, heartless monster.

But then…he wasn’t exactly a good man either.

Or was he? Even though I felt so sure about so many things after what I’d learned and experienced on the Hill, I still couldn’t answer this particular question.

But I’d settled on a good enough answer. In fact, it was the answer to the biggest question I’d asked myself on the Hill.

“Mrs.Baner, it may not be my place to say this but Odog was a good husband and a good father. He wasn’t perfect but when I first met him, I knew that he loved his family and would go to the ends of Erath for them if he had to.” I said, standing in front of her and bowing.

“I apologize for not being able to save him. I could have- should have tried harder. Please, should you require any assistance, do not hesitate to contact me.” I handed her a communications prism and walked to the door.

“Wait…”

I hesitated, then turned around.

“Thank you…”

I bit my lips and walked out just as the baby started wailing.

“Don’t mention it.”

I took a deep breath as I walked down the main street.

Meeting Mrs.Baner was a moment I had dreaded ever since I’d killed Odog but I’d managed to prepare myself for it somewhat.

After all, I’d learned a lot of things on the Hill and this wasn’t even enough to give me a headache.

But even as I went into a dark alley in the impoverished Eastern side of the city, the place where I’d have to deal with my first headache, my thoughts went back to Mrs.Baner and her painful tears.

I couldn’t help but ask myself.

I feel guilty for the pain his family is going through, but should I?

He’d probably been a bandit for a really long time. Wasn’t his family’s happiness built on the pain and suffering of others? If so, wasn’t the pain they were feeling justified?

Didn’t they deserve to be punished for living a life, albeit unknowingly, supported by the heinous actions of a murderous thug?

But was he a heinous thug?

Was he wrong to choose the life of a bandit and ruin other families just so his own could prosper?

And even if he was a murderer, did I have the right to kill him just like that?

Was he evil? Am I wrong?

Does it even matter?

I knew the answer. I’d learned it on the Hill.

But that wasn’t what gave me a headache.

A hooded figure glanced furtively in both directions before knocking on the wall. He looked around again, trying to make sure no one was watching but he looked right through me.

“Password.” came a husky voice from inside.

“Pi.” said the hooded figure.

The wall shimmered before revealing a dark passageway. The hooded figure walked in and the passageway disappeared, leaving behind an ordinary brick wall.

I walked up to the ‘wall.’

 <re:write.self.intangible>

I walked right through it.

The guard inside didn’t notice me at all because I’d hidden myself with one of my favorites; Invisible.

The passage was long and mostly dark, illuminated only by glowing rings attached to the walls every few feet.

I heard voices coming from the end of the passage and took a deep breath.

“…we……….glory…..praise………our sector….oh……..never forget……..for the…….rad….”

Strange whispers echoed along the passageway, making it seem even more eerie and haunting.

“…radiant…our supreme lord……savior…foolish heathens…..false gods……”

I sighed and walked through the door at the end of the passage, ignoring the dark robed guard standing outside.

“Brothers and sisters! I thank you once more for joining us today at this most sacred ritual. Know that you are the true believers and the heathens outside shall be punished by our Lord for their insolence. And if they be ignorant of the truth, remember that it is our duty to bring them to the right path! The straight path! The righteous path!
It is our duty to bring them into the Circle!” said an old man wearing jet black robes with a large circle drawn on its back.

“To the Circle!” cheered the crowd of black robed figures standing around him.

Nearly thirty grown men and women, holding hands to form a circle around a crazy old man in a dingy old wine cellar.

I might have laughed if I hadn’t known who they were.

Circle. A radical religion infamous for its alleged role in numerous assassinations, murders, robberies and political uprisings all over Erath.

They were rumored to worship a god instead of a goddess and to perform arcane rituals that would strike terror into the hearts of innocents.

The old man continued his speech as the hooded figures walked around him in a circle. They maintained the same distance from each other so the circle always remained the same size and slowly quickened their pace.

“Our sector is not the largest, my dear brothers and sisters, but we will grow and expand! We shall bring them all into the circle!”

“Into the circle! Into the circle!”

Their pace quickened even further.

“Those fake Goddesses dare to transgress upon the majesty of our Lord! Yet, they are nothing! Nothing in front of our Lord. Even they cannot resist. Even they lie inside the circle!”

“Into the circle! Into the circle!”

They were running now, panting even as they cheered.

One of them lost their hood while running, revealing short brown hair and a young teenage face.

I sighed as I felt a headache coming on. A simple Observe revealed the boy’s identity.

Joey Baner…Title: Son of Odog…Hidden Title: 253rd degree radical of the Circle…Ability: Conversationalism.

When I’d first seen him from the Hill, I’d felt a little uneasy when I realized that he was part of some weird cult but I hadn’t been too worried.

But when I found out that he was a part of the Circle, I’d felt my head starting to ache.

“Our Lord is All Powerful! He is All Knowing! He is everywhere! He governs this universe and everything in it!…”

You see, Circle didn’t just worship some random god….

“For our Lord taught us our place in the world! Gave us guidance and a purpose! Gave us his blessings!…”

They worshiped…

“For our Lord is the Creator! He made our world! He made the Goddesses and bound us all with Fate! He is…”

…me

I couldn’t endure any longer so I rushed forward and caught Joey’s hand. Before he could even express his surprise, I teleported us to the center of the Ashpoole bridge.

I let go of his hand and let him fall to the ground.

“What the-” he grunted.

Now how do I deal with this? He’s a die hard fanatic. I don’t think he’ll listen to reason.

“Why have you not gone home for a month, Joey Baner?” I said in a deep voice.

“W-who? Who is it?” he said, crawling back to the edge of the bridge while looking around for the source of the voice.

“Answer me Joey.” I said, letting a little anger leak into my voice.

“I-it’s none of your business!” he stammered.

“It is. Your mother has been worried about you all this time, even while she worried for an absent husband and a sickly baby.”

“You…how do you know so much about our family? Look man, just let me go okay. If you know what my family’s going through, you should know that I don’t have any money.” He cautiously stood up.

The hitherto calm lake rumbled and water sprayed in the air as waves crashed against the bridge, rocking it back and forth.

Joey fell back on the edge of the bridge.

“While you were running circles around some crazy old man, your mother was shouldering the burden of taking care of your little sister on her own! She could barely pay the rent because her husband vanished! And now she’s facing eviction and a broken heart!” I said, loudly.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Your father is dead, Joey!”

He blinked.

“What?” he whispered.

“He died in a faraway land. Your mother just received the news. Go to her. Now.”

“You-you’re lying! Dad can’t be-he can’t be dead!” he shouted. “Who are you anyway? Why did you bring me here? Why are you trying to mess with my head?”

I walked closer to him and brought something out of my robe and put it on my face.

“You will know who I am when you see me. And you will also know that I speak the truth.” I said, in the same altered voice.

“Oh yeah? But I can’t see you now can I?”

“Look behind you.”

He swung his head around.

“There’s nobody here…”

He froze as his gaze wandered to the calm lake waters.

It was night now, so a reflection of the moon shone on the lake. Next to it was his own reflection. But there was something else too.

A masked figure in dark purple robes. It had long purple hair, which was fluttering in the wind. The figure’s piercing purple eyes stared unblinkingly at Joey. Its mask was white, with a purple circle on its forehead.

Joey turned around but he couldn’t see me. All he could see was my reflection.

“Go to her.” I said.

He gulped and stood up, trembling.

“The city gates are closed.” he said.

“I shall send you inside.” I replied, gently patting his head.

“…Thank you…but I never got your name…” he said.

“I am…Origin.”

His eyes widened just as I teleported him outside his house.

I’d ended up using the name that they’d given me; Origin. It was the only way he’d listen and the only way he’d go back to take care of his mother and baby sister.

I sighed, removing my mask with re:write.

It had been a tiring day but at least I’d taken care of one headache.

Guess I’ll go relax for the night-

Boom!

A loud explosion resounded through the air as a beam of light pierced the sky.

…or maybe not.

 

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