I Became The Pope, Now What? - Chapter 604
A few hours earlier,
"Don't hold so many expectations; they will only lead to disappointment."
On the deck of the elven ship, King Rathagun stood, watching the Holy Land's shore draw nearer. "How can I not be elated when I'm about to see them? You don't know how much I longed to see them all these years… I'm sure they'll understand."
"He's the Pope," Avanss warned his elder brother. "He won't roll out the red carpet for you. You're an enemy in Sol's eyes—No matter what, he has to treat you like one."
King Rathagun sighed, but the smile on his face didn't disappear, "I still can't help but feel hopeful. He's my blood, Avanss… He's my… son."
Avanss shook his head and stopped trying to warn his brother. He could only hope that Sylvester wouldn't be too hard on him.
The murmurs among the crowd only grew louder as the Clergymen wondered why the King of Elves had come. This was the first time in the history of the Church that the leader of the sworn enemy had set foot on their shores.
Two figures entered the hall, moving slowly. The two elven men were stripped of any weapons or armor, so they only came in their royal attire, green in color with a hint of gold, their hair tied with knots adorned with green vines. A different, pleasant scent emanated from the two elves, a novel experience for most.
Sylvester didn't speak nor greet them, maintaining his higher stance. However, he noticed the eyes of his supposed father stuck on the person beside him. 'So you do recognize Mum—Let's see how far you're willing to go for us.'
The sentries at the bottom of the stairs crossed their spears to block the two elven men.
As the Saint Wazir, Gabriel spoke up, "As you requested, His Holiness granted you a safe passage into the Holy Land. It's advised you speak before your intentions we misunderstand."
With long ears, tall, and long black hair, King Rathagun, who was far from home, still looked like a proper King. But he was in a daze, staring at Xavia first and then at Sylvester, realizing his son had achieved something greater than he had—It filled him with some sort of pride he couldn't understand. His mouth constantly held a smile, confusing many as to why the elven king seemed so happy.
"Speak!" The Inquisitor High Lord thumped his staff.
Finally, after Avanss nudged, the king spoke, "I come in peace and hope, Pope Maximilian. You may have been informed through your people and my letter of a plague ravaging Alfia. After intensive research, my people learned that a similar plague occurred in the Blackhart Kingdom, south of Sol. I was informed that it was you who discovered the cure—I come here in hopes of that same miraculous allure."
Felix interjected, according to their previous plan, "You come here and expect us to help you? After you've killed countless of our men? After you've enslaved countless humans?"
"The sins go both ways," King Rathagun said solemnly. "The ways of the old have harmed our two realms equally. For every elven life, a human has fallen. No more!—I hope to establish a lasting peace with Sol through a written and magically enforced treaty."
"How dare you make demands!" Felix boomed, his superb acting skills had improved. His skin had been restored, but he still wore his armor. "What's to stop us from killing you right here and now?"
"Because you're not barbarians—Pope Maximilian wishes for peace, and so do I." King Rathagun replied.
"That won't d—"
Sylvester abruptly stood up and stopped Felix from speaking. Radiating an aura of holiness, Sylvester sang a hymn and descended the stairs with a proudly raised chin. He only took three steps, setting himself apart from those standing beside him.
'You may hate me for this.' Sylvester had planned so much and could not back away from it now.
A halo illuminated behind his head, shocking King Rathagun. This was his first time ever seeing Sylvester, let alone his famed, mythical magic.
♫Elf from the land beyond—you desire a bond?
Only in death do you hope for me to respond?
Words, hollow promises—Just a dishonest appeal,
You want my aid—show resolve—Kneel!♫
Gasps left many mouths, and even King Rathagun's eyes widened. He didn't expect Sylvester to be so uncompromising and unwavering, even after knowing the blood they shared. Of course, he couldn't kneel before the Pope, as that would bring shame to the elves.
For a long moment, King Rathagun looked into Sylvester's eyes, trying to find reason in them and hoping to find hints that his son was merely jesting or acting. However, he only found seriousness and honesty. It broke his heart and worried him—'Am I too late?' he wondered.
"Pope Maximilian, I cann—"
Sylvester interrupted him, continuing to sing.
♫The more you stall, many more shall die,
One after another, no elf shall be left to cry.
Make a choice, king of the elven kind,
What's at stake, I feel I need not remind.♫
'He's not acting.' King Rathagun realized it in his heart, his breath sinking to its depths. 'He will not give the cure unless I kneel… But I am the king of elves. I can't.'
In the hope of finding some reason, he looked at Xavia, who was staring at him in return. He looked for any semblance of love and worry in her eyes, but once again, he found nothing of the sort. She stayed standing without any expressions, eyes firm, not even showing a hint of tears.
'After decades, has she forgotten me?' King Rathatgun felt broken and remembered Avanss' words. 'My expectations shattered. I shouldn't have been this naive. Blinded by love, when did I become this obsessed with them? To even ignore my duties to my kingdom.'
"We don't have time to waste," Gabriel shouted. "You heard the Pope. If you desire his aid, then you must prove your sincerity."
Gritting his teeth, King Rathagun glanced at his brother. Avanss also looked worried at that moment.
"I need a few days to decide."
The Inquisitor High Lord slammed his staff, "In today's time, you must haste. We do not have days to waste."
Slightly angered, King Rathagun knew he could overpower everyone in that room. He was a Supreme Wizard, after all. However, he controlled himself since he didn't come there to fight but to find a cure.
However, instead of speaking or kneeling, King Rathagun sat down right there, cross-legged. He folded his arms and closed his eyes as if he was meditating and thinking. Avanss followed suit and watched his older brother. Meanwhile, Sylvester stood in place, a few steps above, without a hint of mercy emanating from him.
The crowd of Clergymen murmured amongst themselves, wondering if the king of elves would agree. At the same time, many wondered if they should just kill the man right then and there, while others debated if they even could. It was a chaotic Holy Court that day, far different from anything they had ever expected.
Sadly, they failed to realize that when monsters like Sylvester and King Rathagun discuss matters, the stalemates could go on for a long time… a very long time.
As tensions escalated in the hall, time ticked away. An hour went by, and Sylvester remained standing in his place while the Clergymen were given seats to rest, as was Xavia.
King Rathagun continued to sit cross-legged, eyes closed and chest unmoving, appearing almost lifeless. What he was thinking was anybody's guess. But Sylvester could smell the scent of anxiety, along with hints of doubt, confusion and… love.
'Just do it.' Sylvester muttered silently, hoping his tactics would work. 'This is for the future of both our continents.'
Sylvester could have spoken with King Rathagun in his mind, but he chose not to. Despite sharing blood, he had no idea about the man's character or how far he was willing to go to protect his people. In a way, he was testing the elven king.
"Nyaaaa…" Miraj yawned while perched on Sylvester's shoulder, snuggling near his neck and closing her eyes. "Maxy, I sleep here."
Undoubtedly, many Clergymen in the hall were also dozing off since five hours slowly passed. No changes had occurred, and the stalemate persisted. However, since Sylvester hadn't adjourned the Holy Court, no one could leave.
Ten hours passed, and night dawned over the lands outside, but the Holy Court remained brightly lit with torches. Except for water, nobody was allowed to eat anything or go anywhere. It only made the onlookers feel nervous, wondering if a battle might suddenly erupt at any moment.
Twenty hours eventually passed. Even the morning sun came close to gracing the realm with its warm light. Sylvester, with eyes firmly opened, stood still the entire time, a halo vibrantly illuminating behind his head.
'You should be done calculating all possible scenarios by now.' Sylvester made his own predictions. 'What will you do next?'
Slowly, another hour passed, and finally, the sunlight outside began to cascade into the massive hall through its large windows and ducts. At that moment, King Rathagun also opened his eyes slowly and looked at Sylvester for a while.
'Why are you doing this to me, my son?' Pained in heart, King Rathagun wondered.
'Forgive me, but I must—I have to.' Sylvester told himself.
"As the king of Alfia, I cannot kneel while representing the Kingdom." King Rathagun voiced, sounding gentle and composed. "But as a man responsible for the lives of all elves, I must—If that is the prerequisite for your aid, I'm willing to make this trade."
Sylvester took another step down, though he didn't voice his thoughts, allowing King Rathagun's actions to speak louder than any words. Did he feel bad for the man? Yes, but this was purely politics. He had a soft spot for the man somewhere in the corner of his heart, but it wasn't enough to hinder his decision-making.
"I…" King Rathagun got onto one knee but couldn't look up at his own son in the eye. "King Rathagun Xeek Eldraron…"
Murmurs increased, and everyone woke up from their slumber, ready to witness the greatest moment in history.
"Brother… Don't!" Avanss tried to stop him.
But King Rathagun continued, finally revealing some quiver in his voice. "...k-kneels before Pope Maximilian and asks him to provide a cure to the misery, a curse on my people that remains a mystery."
"Amen." Sylvester raised his right hand, his halo still shining bright. Even his right palm showered the elven king with golden light.
All of a sudden, a massive white light flashed, blinding everything for a split second and confusing them. It all happened so suddenly that nobody had any idea what happened—except for Sylvester, who smiled ear to ear because of the successful completion of his long scheme.
"Rise, King Rathagun. The humility you have shown today makes it impossible for me to deny you help. Rest within my palace, and I shall bring you the cure within three days." Sylvester announced. "I pronounce the Holy Court adjourned."
With that, Sylvester didn't spare a glance for the elven king and turned around. His eyes focused on Gabriel as he spoke to the Wazir mentally. 'Gab, start printing it. The entire Sol must see it—their Pope has made the elven king kneel.'
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