I Became The Pope, Now What?
Chapter 325: 325. Augustus Steel, A Broken Man

Looking at Sir Dolorem's face, Sylvester felt utterly confused and conflicted. He had nothing to say.

'What about Sir Dolorem? He knows it, too, now. This is far bigger than killing Romel and Gabriel seeing it. This can get me killed. Then, must I kill...'

He tried not to think about it immediately and recuperated under the calming rain. But, once again, he was at the crossroads of something that could kill him if he didn't make the right choice.

He had known that this day would come eventually, but not so soon.

"It makes sense now." Sir Dolorem exclaimed all of a sudden as he sat beside Sylvester on the muddy grounds, drenched in the rain. "You being half-elf and the son of the Elven king makes every sense!"

Sylvester tiredly looked at him. "What do you mean?"

"You are God's Favoured! The Lord's Bard! Now it all makes sense!" Sir Dolorem showed his excitement. His face turned happy, and his voice got louder. "Fate has played its game, and we're all merely the witnesses! You are destined to unite our two worlds! If not someone like you, then who?--A man destined to take the highest seat in both worlds!"

Sylvester sighed and dismissed the man's enthusiasm. "I have no wish to become anybody's King, Sir Dolorem. Even surviving is getting hard at this point."

But Sir Dolorem shook his head and took to one knee like a knight. "Lord Bard, you don't understand this. Fate works in mysterious ways. I do not doubt your devotion or your heart. I know you stand for the faith, and nothing will change that. But, what you told the Forest Spirit, that everything in the world that exists is the creation of Solis, the Supreme Lord--that theory changes everything.

"We don't need the Beastaria to convert to the Faith of Solis, we just need them to acknowledge that Solis is the father of all, and hence, in essence, they are related to Solis as well. They will start praying to Solis on their own after that."

Sylvester knew that already, as this was his plan from the start.

"You don't understand, Sir Dolorem. The elves are after me now and won't stop until I'm their slave or dead. They will never allow a man with royal elven blood and the talent of the Supreme Wizard to stand with the Church. And once my secret is out, the Church will kill me first. So for me, one side is a cliff, and the other is a seaâ€"Both lead to imminent death or slavery."

Silence ensued after his words. The Church was unpredictable, and what the elves would do next was also unknown.

Boom!

The thunder still raged in the sky, and without even knowing, the night was peeking at them. It went without any question that everyone's mind was as raging and chaotic as the storm.

"Sir Dolorem is right, Lord Bard." Even the spirit possessing the dead body of the child spoke. "I fought you, heard you and felt you--You are the bridge between the two worlds."

Sylvester shook his head while getting up. "Don't! Don't put more burden on my shoulders. I'm already tired."

Spirit Mirnor made some soft vines come out from the ground and form a chair under him. "The fate has already been decided, Lord Bard. Whether you like it or not, you will have to fight, or they will end you."

Sylvester could smell the feeling of excitement, hope and even worship from the spirit of the forest. It was a strange thing that a being like her was revering him. But he also agreed with her conclusion.

Yes, it was either do or die for him.

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"You're not alone, Lord Bard." Sir Dolorem added. "As long as we keep this matter a secret, everything will be fine."

Sylvester noticed Sir Dolorem's gaze darting towards Augustus. "Let's move. Spirit Mirnor, I'm sure you wish to discard this child's body so I can hand it to the tribe."

"Indeed. This body is already withering away--poor child. Please bid him farewell by burning him and burying his ashes in the earth.

"One more thing. After I leave this body, I won't be able to speak with you. So, if you ever wish to talk, merely go to my temple with that priest. I can use him as a short-term medium." Spirit Mirnor bid her farewell.

Sylvester bowed his head. "Thank you for being understanding. I will teach the tribesmen how to avoid any future conflict with the Church."

"Thank you." The feminine, motherly voice echoed as the child's body slowly regained its normal human skin colour, and the eyes turned blue from green.

Thud!

Sylvester caught the body of the child and picked it up. "Augustus, put all the elven bodies on fire."

"Lord Bard, you must kiâ€""

Sylvester patted Sir Dolorem's shoulder. "Everything has a time and place, Sir Dolorem. So please be calm for now."

So, they focused on getting rid of all the elven bodies and only left the few remaining intact bodies of other soldiers. With the elves, they didn't even leave the ashes behind and took them along to throw in a river.

After dealing with that, in the heavy rain, they made their way back towards the village named Mirnor. It was hard to move around in the night and wet mud, but they had no other choice.

"When did you find out about your bloodline?" Augustus walked beside Sylvester and talked calmly.

Sylvester ensured to read Augustus' emotions, yet again, he was confused. Again, going against what he expected, there was no hate or disgust. Instead, the same old sadness with the strange sense of emptiness was overpowering everything.

"After we graduated from the School of Dawn," Sylvester answered. "I never really bothered with it since the Church does not discriminate based on species but faith. To the Church of Solis, even an elf is welcome as long as they sing the song of the true lord."

Augustus remained silent for a while. Then, he stopped and stayed until Sylvester turned around.

"Sylvester, I need you to come with me," Augustus asked while staring into Sylvester's eyes.

'What does he want now? I smell no hostility, not even the slightest hate or jealousy.' Sylvester was extremely alert at the moment.

But he also noticed the sincerity. "Alright. Sir Dolorem, can you take this child's body to the village."

Sir Dolorem agreed instantly. "Take care, Lord Bard. I'll see you in the village. Same for you, Archpriest Augustus."

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"I thank you for your guidance, Sir Dolorem. However short while it lasted, I enjoyed it." Augustus bowed his head while saluting ceremoniously.

With that, Sir Dolorem left, and Sylvester watched Augustus. "So, where to?"

"There is a hill nearby, and I wish to see the view from its top and perhaps have some private words with you." Augustus started leading Sylvester.

Boom!

The thunder only became louder, and the storm became wilder. The trees started to get uprooted and fall here and there, but being powerful wizards, they had nothing to worry about.

On their way, Augustus didn't stop talking and asking questions. "Are you sure you will become the Pope one day?"

"I have no other choice, my friend. Either I reach the top or die trying. The faith will never let a possible Supreme Wizard go." Sylvester argued with a deep sense of hopelessness.

"So we're all stuck in the same endless swamp? I spoke with Louis and Griffin a few months back. Both wished to leave the Inquisitors and return to their noble families by renouncing the oath."

Sylvester self-deprecatingly chuckled and chimed in. "Let me guess. Were they denied every request? It's a waste to even try, Augustus. You all have the talent to be Grand Wizard someday. You all hold the potential to become a Guardian of Light."

"I feel the same, Sylvester," Augustus muttered and went silent again.

After a few minutes, he asked something else. "What will you do once you become the Pope?"

"That's a tough one. First of all, I will eradicate slavery and destroy the Tower of Godless. After that, I will reorganise the entire governance system of the Church so no senseless village burning or murders take place. I will also make education free for all kids below fourteen. I will bring peace to the life of a common person." Sylvester told him all his plans, some too big and some too small.

The whole time, Augustus' face had a smile, and he kept nodding.

"I will try to broker long-lasting peace with the Beastaria and connect the two worlds through trade. I will unite the Sol Continent under the banner of the Church, so no inter-kingdom mass violence happens. But first, even the Church will need to be cleaned. It's hard to do, but achievable as long as I have the proper support--Your support." Sylvester finished speaking just as they started to walk uphill towards the peak where no trees were present, and one could look at the entire treeline under the small bursts of lightning.

Augustus shook his head while still smiling. "Sylvester, I'm afraid I can't support you."

"Why? Due to my tainted blood? If you're worried that I doubt you, then please don't. We all took a vow in school to be brothers for life. And I'm leaving Sir Dolorem alive too."

"That's not it, Sylvester. Sir Dolorem sees you as his son. While I... I don't even trust myself. But worry not, this is not because of you. The truth is, I've been contemplating how to end myself for weeks now."

Sylvester stopped in his tracks, and instantly it hit his mind what that strange emptiness sensation was.

"Why kill yourself?"

"What's there to live for?" Augustus blurted.

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"Family? Don't you love them?"

Even to that, Augustus replied while continuing to walk. "They're dead, Sylvester--Been dead for two years now, just after our graduation. The Church did it--So I won't have any strings attached that could weaken my resolve when I'd one day take a Guardian's seat."

Sylvester was horrified by the revelation, and it instantly dawned on him that Saint Seer's actions affected so many people that the aftershocks were still echoing.

Augustus continued. "You said your mother was attacked? I'm afraid you were not the only one, and I wasn't lucky like you either.

"It's strange. We are the best of the best, so we got selected for God's Favoured Class. But they seem to keep forgetting we're meant to be smart."

Sylvester silently kept following him. 'This emptiness--So this is the scent of a man who is alive and yet dead.'

"Do you want to enact your vengeance? I know who did it." Sylvester offered.

Thud!

Augustus sat down on his knees and started to open his robes as soon as they reached the clear hilltop. "Only fools chase vengeance, Sylvester, for it's the first step towards becoming what you hate. But, don't worry, I have no requests or second thoughts as I had died long ago--Killed by the faith because I had been too blessed."

Sylvester knelt beside him and saw Augustus removing all clothes from his torso, then taking out a sword that was not his own.

"Don't, Augustus. I need strong men like you at the top level. Men I can trust."

Augustus merely turned his face to Sylvester, still smiling, but tears covered his eyes and slid down. "I'm sorry, Sylvester, my friend. I'm tired--I feel suffocated and disgusted to be a part of this organisation. Since I can't leave, I'd rather be with my family--My little sister. So please don't stop me..."

Augustus held his sword perpendicular to the middle of his chest in a way that it pointed at his heart.

Then, as he looked at the sky and felt the rain touch his skin, even more tears fell. "Even though I never got to live the life I wanted, I wish to leave this world on my terms. Still, I can't help but wonder what life could have been if I didn't have this curse of a blessing."

Bam!

Fast and effortless--Augustus' palms pushed the hilt of the sword, and the blade penetrated deep into the chest in one go. His face still smiled, yet the eyes were riled. With the diminishing echoes of thunder, the beating heart was torn asunder.

The face slowly turned pale, and Augustus' last words came out as a low wail. "M-May the h-holy light e-enlighten y-you... S-Sylvest--"

The valiant head finally fell, lifeless and powerless, but not in cowardice.

To Sylvester's eyes, this was no suicide--This was a premeditated murder.

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