A few hours ago, when Sylvester decided to roam around the town's market, he had a chat with Miraj. He waited for the perfect opportunity until Sir Dolorem was out of earshot.
"Chonky, do you trust me?"
"With all my lives." the cat nodded vigorously.
"Good. I may have free will, but there are many eyes on me. So I doubt I can always act in any way against the Church's principles. But, they do a few things I do not condone, so I will need your help doing a few things, starting with that elven woman. I had expected other sub-human species out there, but the hatred against them was what startled me.
"But again, the human and sub-humans fought for a thousand years non-stop. So it's not too surprising. However, killing is something I shall always accept, but what those Inquisitors are about to do to her. It's not holy at all, and if I don't do something, I will hate myself. Can a man even be considered alive if he doesn't have morals?
"I can't directly involve myself, so I need you to go to a random house and steal something."
"Chonky does as Maxy commands!" After saluting, Miraj ran away and entered a random home.
A few hours later, Sylvester stood in the dungeons talking with the elf. Miraj had silently followed them and had slid into the jail cell with his flexible body.
"...Mother must be waiting for me at the dinner table."
As everyone started to leave, the elven woman screamed for freedom. But soon, she lost her energy and fell into utter defeat. Then, all of a sudden, she heard strange noises as if someone was vomiting.
Ting!—out of nowhere, a fruit knife fell in front of her. She wasted not a second picking it up. At first, she was rageful and planned how she would use her abusers. But slowly, the reality seeped into her mind. She could never kill them all. And if she hurts them, they will be crueller than they already are.
In the end, she cried in frustration. There was nothing at all that she could do for freedom. So slowly, she brought the knife near her own neck. She felt that dying on her own terms was much better than being abused by the Inquisitors in all mind-breaking ways possible. She didn't even know for how long the torture would last. A swift death seemed like a better option.
"I-I just wanted to see my babies again… they must have grown up…" tears trickled down her tired, baggy eyes.
Then as she took one last strong breath, she cursed from the bottom of her heart. "If there is a god, burn these mad men! Burn the Church… argh! Ugk…"
Soon the sounds of her pain-filled cries turned into choking, and the floor turned into a little puddle of blood. Today was a win for madness, as love, peace, and respect sat on the sidelines, once again proving that rage and misery define this world.
Miraj saw it all until the elf stopped twitching. The sight was very bewitching. For some reason, it struck the poor cat that maybe… just maybe… his caretaker was never returning. Perhaps, she, too, left this world like this woman.
Dejected, Miraj strolled the way back to Sylvester. He found his adopted human kitten sitting by his mother and talking. He jumped onto the table and then sat down on Sylvester's lap, silently tucking himself into a furball. He wished not to play today, for the memories of his last caretaker crossed his mind. From the first day he found her to their last goodbye.
The first person who could see him, talk to him and give him a real… home.
Sylvester, being an observant fellow, noticed Miraj's strange behaviour. He reckoned the bloody sight must have irked him. So he softly caressed his fur and tucked him closer… tighter to himself. After all, although Miraj may be old, he still had the mind of a cat.
"That heathen! How did she get a knife? Where did it come from?" The Archpriest's angry scolding resounded throughout the Monastery.
"What will we burn to get rid of the disease now? God's Favoured passed us the Lord's orders himself."
Xavia tried to ask what had happened. "What's the matter, Archpriest?"
"That damned elf killed herself. We're doomed. This town is doomed now. Everyone will die." He started blabbering like a mad man.
'Death was a better option than getting her modesty trampled on every hour. I hope she felt less pain than slowly burning.' Sylvester sighed as he caressed Miraj's fur.
But now he had a bigger problem. He needed to resolve this village and return. To do that, he needed to convey the message that the disease is related to contaminated food and water. 'Should I talk directly about it and just say Solis enlightened me?"
So he spoke up. "I can make the disease go away."
His words would have been ignored and ridiculed if they were from a typical five-year-old. But since it was God's Favoured, even if he spat, it would be holy water. So the Archpriest calmly asked what it was.
Sylvester tried to be smart and childish at the same time. "Food and water. I ate bad soup, and my tummy hurt once. Everyone here looks like that. Their tummy hurts."
Archpriest dismissed it, however. "How is that possible? We get the water from the well and food from our farms and newly slaughtered animals. This has to be a curse… perhaps we should burn her body. Maybe Solis will enlighten us again."
'Go ahead. I tried warning you. Why should I care if you all die?' Sylvester let the matter go since it didn't concern him directly. His professional life was yet to begin, and he was restricted due to his age.
The dinner ended, and the sun had disappeared to shine on some other land. The Monastery was lit up with various torches and candles. The architecture was stunning. The ceilings were high and decorated with multiple paintings of battles and religious scenes related to the old Popes.
Xavia held Sylvester's hand and guided him to their room. It had twin beds and enough space for the invisible cat as well. Sylvester took one side of the big bed, hugged Miraj and fell asleep. Too much had occurred in one day.
This was a backward world with no modern facilities such as electricity. So sunlight was precious, not to mention all worshippers of Solis were advised to wake up as soon as the first rays of Solis graced the land.
So, by five in the morning, the town and monastery were full of activity. Sylvester also got up and sleepily went to the privy and sat down there. He hated using this kind of toilet. It was nothing but a wooden board above a big long shaft that went all the way to the giant underground bucket that stored all the waste.
'When I grow up, the first thing I will make is a good ceramic toilet seat. Can't have the most important time of a man's life be this unpleasant and… stenchful.'
"I poopy too?" Miraj walked in on him.
"You do it outside. What if you fell through this hole into the poop bucket?"
Soon he was done and tidied himself and combed Miraj before leaving with his mother to visit the sick once again. But this time, as they were walking in the town, Sylvester noticed a well in the middle of the intersection.
Just to quench his doubts, he ran to it and looked down. But when he was merely a metre away, he smelled an intense foul smell. It seemed like a mix of rotten bodies and excretion. 'So this is the water? Where is its source?'
But he couldn't investigate anymore because the body of the elf woman was going to be burned on a stake soon. She was dead, but they hoped for a miracle. The people also dragged themselves out to see it, no matter how sick they were.
The town square was precisely how its name sounded. It was a square space between twin-storey buildings. It had muddy grounds, and animals were tied outside the houses around it since people were sick and none could tend to them.
The Archpriest read some words from a book and threw salt and water on the elf's body. "O'Lord Solis, your children here cry in pain. All healings attended have been in vain. Accept this sacrifice and let this plague be gone before it magnifies. Let it conclude while it is just the prelude before the bigger storm.
"May your holy light enlighten us… heal us."
The Inquisitors who caught her came forward and torched the wood. Then the fire burned the elven woman's body. Thankfully, there was no life in it, hence no screams. But Sylvester looked around him and saw the smiles on faces. Children as young as him were jumping near their parents, and the sick ones were praying with closed eyes.
'This burning body could have been me that night. It can still be me if I dare to go against the church. This is the reality. Lixiss—I won't forget this name… the first elf I saw in this world.'
The flesh melted like wax, and then the bones fell apart. The gory sight was stomach-churning, but it appeared people in this world were used to it. The Monastery's Archpriest and other minor priests kept chanting words from their books. The Inquisitor Knights used long spears to ensure the body was wholly burnt.
It took an hour for the body to burn and turn into ashes entirely. Then, finally, people dispersed, and the sick returned to their gathering spot, where Xavia healed them one after another, tiring herself out by wasting her magic.
Sylvester noticed the priests gathering the ashes and putting them in large mud containers. The Archpriest would then seal them with clay and church markings.
"What will you do with the ashes?"
"As per the tradition here, we shall throw evil into the Black Pit. All evil shall remain there, and let this land bask in the lord's warm light. Would you like to see the pit, God's Favoured?"
"Yes!" He chirped, showing his fake childishness. He also glanced at Sir Dolorem and gave the nod.
Soon three horse carts were brought in, and they loaded the mud jars of ashes on them. Sylvester used his own stagecoach and invited the Archpriest to go with him. It brought visible joy to the man.
Yes, Sylvester was disgusted by their actions towards that elf, but there was nothing he could do about it. Since he was to live among these men, he couldn't hate them forever either.
"Our town used to be so beautiful before this plague came. Travellers from the Masan Empire would stay here and preach in our monastery. Beautiful folks and beautiful times. I even converted a thousand mountain tribesmen to the Faith of Solis. One day, I will convert all-mountain tribes and bring peace here… then the Holy Father will surely call me to his embrace."
'An ambitious fool, it seems. The most dangerous kind, sadly. How many Lixiss will be burnt and violated before he reaches his goals? I hope folks like these don't get reincarnated like me.'
Sylvester thought. Reincarnation was something he wondered about a lot since he was reborn. He wondered if he was special or if everyone gets to be reborn with memory somewhere?
"Ah, we're here, just across the Desert Road." The three horse-carts took a left turn onto a worse uneven road.
Sylvester soon started to sense the same stench he got from the well in the city. Now he knew he was near the source of the water.
"Is there a river nearby?"
Sir Dolorem responded quickly, "Snake River flows through here, Master Maximilian. It's the most dangerous river, as both banks are mating grounds for snakes."
'Great, now I know where I must never go.' Sylvester hated snakes in his past life and this too.
After a few more metres of travelling, the caravan stopped. The sound of air being pushed out of a closed space echoed there. The stench was also unbearable.
"This is the Black Pit that gave the town its name. Legends say it's the gateway to hell. We don't know what's inside, as it's too deep and dark. It must be connected with the river and full of snakes, as the air coming out of it is intense." Archpriest said as he stood beside the hole in the ground. It was at least as wide as five horses standing in a line. To call it menacing was an understatement as the deep whistling noise made by the wind and the stench did their job.
"Throw it all in!"
The Priests chanted as they brought the jars to the edge and kicked them in.
Sylvester didn't dare go near the hole. His body was too small and could be thrown away by the wind itself. So he waited for the Archpriest to come closer and asked. "How long have you been throwing the ashes in there?"
"Ashes? We throw everything there. Ashes, garbage and privy waste. We even threw the mountain barbarians in there… those wretched heretics."
"Since forever. What's the matter, God's Favoured?"
Sylvester facepalmed himself. "I think I found your plague."
[A/N: I hate snakes.]