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Sunny remained silent for a few moments, absorbing what Noctis had told him. The Altar Island was calm and tranquil, the lake surrounding it shimmering in the darkness with the reflected moonlight. The branches of the ancient tree swayed gently above his head.
'Because she was worshipped…'
He snorted and looked away, feeling bitterly disappointed, for some reason. After a while, he said darkly:
"So, what? That is all there is? Sun God was jealous?"
The sorcerer glanced at him, lingered for a moment, and then slowly shook his head.
"No… no, he wasn't."
Noctis remained silent for a bit, then sighed.
"The gods had never shown any animosity toward daemons. In fact, their relationship was somewhat friendly. In the battles of the ancient times, they even fought side by side as allies."
"Neither had the gods ever cared about whom or what the mortals worshipped. Ah, there were all kinds of silly cults before! There were rulers that proclaimed themselves divine, people who built temples to beasts and spirits… some oddballs even worshipped rocks. Or the Corrupted abominations… by the Moon, can you imagine? But the gods did not mind at all."
The sorcerer glanced up at the sky, thought for a bit, and then said somberly:
"However, people had never worshipped a daemon… before Hope. The daemons, you see, are elusive and solitary creatures by nature. There is the eldest, mysterious Weaver — the Demon of Fate, who is shrouded in countless layers of lies. Then there is the youngest, Nether — the Demon of Destiny, who secluded himself in the darkness of the Underworld. There is the Demon of Oblivion, whose name is long forgotten…"
Sunny listened attentively, absorbing the new information. Already accustomed to wielding the emerald medallion, he reflexively let go of the beautiful stone and allowed it to hand from the chain wrapped around his fingers, so that his thoughts remained private.
'Huh… so the Prince of the Underworld was actually called Nether? I wonder which came first, the name of the title… and he was also the Demon of Destiny, it seems. Wait, aren't fate and destiny the same thing? I guess they're not… the rune for destiny can also mean choice, after all… so, was he actually the Demon of Choice?'
His thoughts were interrupted by the sorcerer's wistful voice:
"…and the rest, each a personification of calamity and disaster. Mysterious, distant, and terrifying, each and every one of them. Or at least they were, until the Demon of Desire decided to come and live among us mortals, becoming known as Hope. She built her kingdom here, and soon, people learned to love her. And not long after that, they started to worship her."
Noctis paused and then continued, his face growing darker:
"And that was when we learned that while the gods were friendly to daemons and indifferent to mortals building temples to beasts, spirits, and rocks… they would not allow a daemon to be worshipped. They were so unwilling, in fact, that the Lord of Light brought down his flames upon the mortal realm, obliterating a whole chunk of it."
Sunny frowned, feeling a cold sense of dread permeate his heart. Remembering one of his nightmares, he shivered.
The sorcerer looked at him with a bit of surprise and shrugged.
"Who knows? I guess only the gods do… well, and maybe a daemon or two. I doubt that even Hope knew what she had done wrong… but maybe she does, now. In any case, after her imprisonment, slowly, the idea of worshipping a daemon became tantamount to heresy."
Noctis suddenly laughed.
"What a strange word, heresy! Don't you think? It had not even existed when I was young, you know. But then, suddenly, each of the six cults started treating daemon worshippers as criminals, pests who were spreading a vile disease… and the concept of heresy was invented. Now, becoming a heretic means being hunted down and saying goodbye to your life…"]
He grew silent, and then sighed.
"…We did not know it at the time, of course, but the destruction of the Kingdom of Hope was a turning point in history. With it, the Age of Heroes ended, and the current one — whatever it will be called one day — began. Ah, what a dreadful era! Nothing has gone right from then on…"
Sunny remained silent for a while, thinking that there was something strange about this whole story. Nothing made sense… the gods and the daemons had been allies once? Knowing that they would eventually clash in a devastating war, he could not quite believe it… however, on second thought, the Prince of the Underworld… Nether… was indeed described as having been close with the Goddes of the Black Skies once.
Who was to say that the other daemons had not consorted with the gods, as well?
But that only made the divine punishment that the Lord of Light had brought down upon the Kingdom of Hope more inexplicable and strange. And who had they been allied together against? The creatures of the Void? What was the exact timeline of all this convoluted nonsense? The Age of Heroes had ended with the imprisonment of Hope… but when had it started? And what had been happening before?
'Damn, so many questions…'
Sunny glanced at Noctis, hesitated for a few moments, and then grasped the emerald amulet again…
However, the sorcerer was having none of it. He glanced at Sunny and said with a smile:
"…I feel like you are about to ask me a question. That would be the second question… wait, no, the second one was whether or not Sun God was jealous! Wicked demon… you tricked me!"
Noctis shook his head, looked at Sunny with reproach, and stood up.
"Shame on you, Sunless! Good night. Tell your friends to prepare well in the time that we have left…"
With that, the sorcerer gave him another hurt look, then turned away and started walking back toward his residence.
After a few steps, however, he stopped and said in his usual carefree manner:
"Oh, yes… I almost forgot… you will have to go and retrieve the third knife, too. Don't worry, though, it is not going to be hard. Rather easy, really…"
Sunny, who was staring at the tranquil lake with a dark expression, simply nodded.
"Sure… wait, what? Why do we have to do it?! Go and get it yourself!"
Noctis hesitated for a bit, then sighed.
"Ah, I wish that I could. But… well… I might have said some nonsense about how my friend should only give the knife to someone of pure thought and heart… or something like that. And sadly, while I am the most outstanding person in all of the Kingdom of Hope in many regards… uh… purity is not my strong suit. You and your friends, however! You reak of purity… well, one or two of you, at least… for now…"
With that, the sorcerer winked at Sunny and strolled away, whistling a jovial tune.
Sunny watched him go, and then shook his head with a bewildered expression on his face.
'Wait… did he just… swindled me into getting another knife for him? Again?!'
He blinked a couple of times and clenched his four fists.
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