Time to choose a side.
S34 – Turning Point
As we followed the pope of the Divine Word Religion, we arrived at a reception room. In the middle was a refined table, with sofas placed spaciously around it. On sitting down in one of those sofas, he encouraged us to sit down in the sofa on the opposite side. Katia hesitated for a moment to sit down, but I sat down without concern. I felt that it was meaningless to be on guard here for a start, and to be honest I felt so unwell that merely standing up was painful.
I was sitting in the middle of the sofa, directly opposite the pope, when Sue sat next to me while pressing her body against mine. That position just happened to block Katia who was still standing. If Sue sits there, then Katia can’t sit. I was about to suggest that she sits opposite me, but after glancing at Sue for a moment, Katia briskly walked around the sofa, taking the seat next to mine and opposite Sue. It seemed that she was sitting unnecessarily close to me though. I felt uncomfortable at the pope’s knowing gaze.
The women who had accompanied the pope here began to make preparations. They brought out some tea with a nice scent and laid that on the table in front of us with some light snacks. Once they completed that, the women left the room. The only ones remaining were the pope and us. Even when I tried searching, I couldn’t find the presence of anyone within the room. It would be another thing if there was someone here whose concealment ability exceeded my perception ability, but at least as far as I can see there is nobody else here. Isn’t this a bit too careless?
「Are you sure about being here all alone?」
「Indeed. It does not bother me at all.」
I cannot grasp the true meaning of the pope’s calm reply. Just what is this? When in front of this person, I just can’t compose myself. It’s of a different kind to when I faced Wakaba-san, but I can feel something unfathomable. It feels as if I’m facing a giant ball of cotton. It seems easy enough to set it on fire, yet it wouldn’t be affected in the slightest by striking it. Something so fragile and yet it could repel anything, is the vague feeling I’m getting.
「That’s right. How about we start with you trying Appraisal on me? That should serve as proof that I’m not being brainwashed or similar. I’ve made it possible for you to see it now, so go ahead.」
It is considered rude to use Appraisal on people. This tendency is particularly strong for nobles. I can agree that it is indeed impolite if having your status values read is considered to be an invasion of privacy. For someone who has become the pope, it would surely wouldn’t be a frequent occurrence to be Appraised by others. Is he perhaps trying to show his good faith by that alone?
「Then, excuse me.」
For the time being, thinking that it’s best to sweep away even the smallest doubt, I attempt to use Appraisal on him.
『Human LV1 Name Dustin
Average Offensive Ability：27 (details)
Average Defensive Ability：25 (details)
Average Magic Ability：33 (details)
Average Resistance Ability：34 (details)
Average Speed Ability：23 (details
「SP Consumption Down LV4」「Magic Perception LV3」「Magic Manipulation LV3」「Concentration LV10」「Thought Super Acceleration LV2」「Foresight LV8」「High-speed Calculation LV10」「Memory LV10」「Cooperation LV2」「Command LV3」「Distant Speech LV2」「Appraisal LV10」「Harmony」「Light Magic LV3」「Holy Light Magic LV1」「Treatment Magic LV3」「Miracle Magic LV1」「Poison Resistance LV8」「Sleep Nullity」「Pain Nullity」「Sense of Pain Alleviation LV2」「Enhanced Vision LV3」「Enhanced Hearing LV3」「Enhanced Smell LV2」「Enhanced Taste LV1」「Enhanced Touch LV1」「Life LV5」「Magic Amount LV4」「Agility LV2」「Endurance LV2」「Powerful LV2」「Sturdy LV2」「Magician LV3」「Protection LV3」「Dash LV2」「Dignity LV4」「Temperance」「Taboo LV10」
「Ruler of Temperance」「Reincarnated One」「Leader」「King」「Rescuer」「Saint」』
What the heck, is this? The pope’s Appraisal result, was just too strange. Not only was his status values low but almost all his skills are considered non-combatant ones. No, it’s not like this can’t be reasonable. Just because he’s the head of the incredibly large organisation called the Divine Word Religion, it doesn’t necessarily follow that high combat ability would be a requirement. To stand above others, he was chosen for his mental abilities rather than his physical abilities – I guess that’s how things are with the pope.
However, that was all a trivial matter. No matter what, I couldn’t overlook two skills – Temperance and Taboo LV10.
I muttered that without thinking. Within the Divine Word Religion, the possession of Taboo by itself is supposed to be considered an unpardonable sin. That is something I knew because Yuri, who was both a fellow reincarnator and a Saint candidate, would go on about it with bloodshot eyes. The Divine World Religion considers people who hold the Taboo skill to be absolutely unforgivable.
Yet despite that, the person at the top of the Divine Word Religion not only has the Taboo skill but at maximum level? What kind of joke is this?
「Precisely because I know about Taboo is why I cannot allow it to be spread. Surely you understand that as well?」
Although the subject of his question was left out, the pope seemed to be convinced – that I had Taboo at level 10. How does he even know that? I got Taboo to level 10 when I resurrected Anna at the elf village. Not only should the pope be unaware of that due to not being there, I never even told anyone that I had Taboo in the first place and since I was scrupulously careful there’s no way it should have leaked. Despite all that, how does the pope know about it?
Perhaps it’s because I let out a garbled response in a panic, but the pope’s smile becomes deeper. Ah! Am I stupid or what!? Given my behaviour, isn’t that basically like I’m accepting that the pope’s words are correct!? In fact, Katia and Sue are now looking at me in surprise. Don’t tell me… he was tricking me into revealing the truth?
「Heh heh. Please don’t make such an expression. Since it would help make the discussion easier if you already knew about Taboo, I simply wanted to confirm it. It’s already no longer any concern of ours as to whether you possess Taboo. That stage has passed by long ago.」
Matching the pope’s words, I cannot sense any malicious intent from the pope towards us. But, I couldn’t decide whether it would be a good idea to trust him or not. Considering this tough elderly man, I got the feeling that if that calm smile was concealing any malice then I still wouldn’t be able to spot it.
「Taboo is the memory of our sin.」
The pope erased his smile, closed his eyes and spoke calmly.
「We committed that sin in the past. Taboo is the record. Precisely because it is something that one is forced to remember, is why it is taboo. We must atone for that sin.」
Even now, that coercion continues to emanate from Taboo. Perhaps the pope sincerely accepts that and takes action accordingly then?
「However, people are weak. They crush their awareness of their sins, fleeing down the easy route instead of atoning. Even if that means erasing themselves. They believe that it is easier to surrender themselves to the urge to want to erase themselves, rather than enduring years of pain. Thus, I had to keep them from knowing about Taboo.」
That… might be the case. When I consider that this discomfort will continue forever, even I get depressed. Even I as a reincarnator who has absolutely no connection to the past of this world. From the point of view of those people who have in fact always lived in this world, they couldn’t see it as someone else’s problem and might well suffer more than me.
In the Taboo menu, there is a record of one’s personal reincarnation history. For me, that entry is simply empty. Because my previous life was not spent on this world, it is outside of the System’s perview, so it has no record of it. However, that’s not the case for the people of this world. This personal reincarnation history has the complete records of that person’s past lives. The records made since the System was created. How were you born within the System? From since the System was created until now, just how did you live? Everything is exposed.
Together with that thought. It’s fair to call it a record of sin. I can understand that people would rather crush that down rather than being forced to see such things and be continuously coerced to atone. In fact, precisely because such people exist, that is why the pope regarded Taboo as dangerous and harshly cracked down on people with the skill. In order to protect them.
「However, this has to be remembered sooner or later. Since the debt of our sins has not been paid off, our worn-out souls cannot even cope with the built-up interest and we are approaching bankruptcy before our very eyes.」
With his eyes still closed, the pope turned his face upwards. At that moment.
『A World Quest is issued: Will you obstruct or will you support the plan of the Evil God who is scheming to sacrifice humanity in order to avert the destruction of the world?』
The familiar voice of the Divine Word resounded directly inside my head. At the same time, what floated up in my mind was a white figure seen from behind.
It was so abrupt that I couldn’t organise my thoughts. I immediately turned to look at Katia, and Katia also had her brows wrinkled while looking serious. Turning to my other side, Sue seemed a bit out of it, but she also seemed to grasp it. Given their reactions, it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case that the Divine Words just now could only be heard by me.
「So it has begun huh.」
Then, the pope who was the only one here who had maintained his composure, wearily muttered that in a tired voice.
「What do you mean, it has begun?」
「The time has come to make a choice.」
After I asked that before I could think, the pope calmly faced forwards and opened his eyes in response. I was overawed… by the unwavering glint in the pope’s eyes. I felt that I was seeing true strength in this old man who had far lower status values than me and had almost no combat ability at all, yet his body contained an indomitable will.
「We the people must make a choice. Shall we repay the great kindness that was received from the gods with ingratitude in order to survive? Or shall we repent our own sins while being destroyed?」
Katia and Sue, who didn’t know the contents of Taboo, weren’t able to follow the conversation. Even so, perhaps they understood that something terrible was occuring, or perhaps they were pressured by grave spirit of the pope, as they had become stiff with tension. I was also in a similar state.
「In order for people to survive, I will sacrifice the revered god of the Divine Word and oppose the evil god. That is why I said that the Divine Word Religion is finished.」
That was an outrageous declaration, as if overturning heaven and earth.
「Hero Shurein. Which will you choose? The people or the gods? Which of them should be allowed to survive?」
“The people” – the literal translation would be “mankind” or “humanity” (as with the “world quest”) but by stressing this word the pope seems to be including those related to “normal” humans (ie the so-called “demons”).