The Nebula's Civilization-Chapter 198: Reversing Pieces
Chapter 198: Reversing Pieces
"...Where are we?"
Bion answered Ramin's question, "Don't you recognize it? This is the Prairie of Beginnings.”
Ramin looked up. It was the landscape she had only heard of in stories. She could see a green field, and scattered across the field were people in their slumber.
"So, are we dead?"
"I’m just kidding."
Ramin stared at Bion.
Bion ignored Ramin’s stare and continued to say, "There are many ways to reach the pantheon, but for the living to come, there are certain procedures that need to be followed. Of course, there's a faster way, but you all have a place to visit first, which is why you were brought here."
"A place we need to visit?"
"Yes. Get on the carriage."
Ramin looked around, puzzled about which carriage Bion was referring to, but then she noticed a big shadow that certainly wasn't there a moment ago. Calling it a carriage seemed an understatement as it was so big. There were four wheels, and each wheel appeared to be 5 meters in diameter. A tall staircase led to the carriage's main compartment, which was as spacious as the deck of a sailing ship. But what was most striking wasn't the carriage itself but what was pulling it. It wasn’t a horse or any other animal that would be used to pull carriages, but a giant beetle.
When everyone had climbed onto the carriage, the beetle said.
-My name is Hekab.
Ramin recognized the name of the famous guardian. She looked down at Hekab from the carriage's railing.
-Well, I’m Hekab the carriage puller right now.
Ramin wondered if it was okay for them to be comfortably riding a carriage pulled by Hekab, who could be considered an elder or superior entity.
"...Oh, I'm sorry."
-What are you apologizing for? I consider pulling this carriage an honor.
Before Ramin could say that Hekab didn’t have to feel that way, Bion cut in, "Hekab, we need to move quickly."
-Yes, especially during the ongoing war.
Hekab started moving.
Ramin turned to look at Bion.
"While searching for Hwee-Kyung, Night Sky made use of the conspiracy of the Angry One. Thanks to that, the Angry One suffered a major blow, and unlike previous wars, they decided it was more advantageous to end this war quickly, so movements of the Union Kingdom are being tracked worldwide."
"So, should we, I mean..."
Ramin glanced at Hwee-Kyung and Sairan, who were still holding each other.
She whispered to Bion, "Wouldn’t it be better for the war if we leave those two and head back…”
Bion shook their head, "The reason we summoned you all is just as important. And don't worry about the war. Everything is going according to Night Sky’s plan."
Hekab was fast, but the scenery was changing even faster than Hekab's strides. Ramin thought that in addition to Hekab’s speed, there must be some secret about the carriage itself.
After crossing a portion of the Prairie of Beginnings, massive mountains, dense forests, rivers, and lakes came into view. These were the Afterlifes once held by gods of the third continents, and later, all of them became similar in nature to the Prairie of Beginnings. Just as the Lizardmen felt peace on the plains, Dwarves felt it in the mountains, and Kobolds in the burrows.
As Ramin looked at the view, she noticed Juran talking with Hwee-Kyung and Sairan and approached them.
Sairan said, "So you must be a descendant of Hwee-Kyung and Gyo Joong."
"It goes back several generations, but yes, I am. And I'm honored...to also bear your name. But of course, my grandmother always wondered if it was okay to have that name..."
"It doesn't matter. If Hwee-Kyung willed it, it would naturally be permitted. Even if not, your blood is worthy enough to carry the name of Muel. Gyo Joong was a good person, after all."
Hwee-Kyung, having cried her heart out, wiped her reddened eyes, "I thought you would be. You're still my descendants, after all."
Juran gave them a small smile.
Gyo Joonh was Hwee-Kyung's second husband. He was her childhood friend, stood by Hwee-Kyung's side when Sairan wasn’t there, and assisted her when she ran away from Automation. Because of this, Juran suffered for a long time as a descendant of a persecuted family. But now, receiving acknowledgement from the two most important people, the family's long-cherished wish was fulfilled.
Ramin cleared her throat. "Um, Sairan?"
"What is it?"
"Do you know where we are heading? I'm somewhat hesitant to ask Bion..."
Sairan slightly smiled. "Bion has sharp ears, so they probably heard every word you just said. It might be wise to be cautious while speaking."
Ramin took a quick glance at Bion. Bion acted as if they didn’t hear anything.
"And I don't know either."
Hwee-Kyung shook her head. "They might be planning to punish me."
Everyone fell silent at that statement.
It was a plausible speculation.
Hwee-Kyung said calmly, "For a long time, I impersonated Night Sky’s priest and misled people. And I used his power to perform miracles. So the reason he spent so much time and effort to find me...wouldn’t it be to punish me?"
Sairan replied, "That won't happen."
"...Sairan, we should consider the worst-case scenario. That way I can be mentally prepared."
"...I will prevent that from happening."
"You died for Night Sky, but now you're saying you'll defy Night Sky's will?"
Sairan firmly said, "Yes. It was a mistake back then. If I go against him now, I see it as an opportunity to correct that mistake."
"Yes, Hwee-Kyung. Night Sky allowed us to act as we please. Therefore, he should also be responsible for the consequences."
Ramin didn’t know what to react, hearing that Sairan would attack Night Sky if it came to it.
"H…hold on. Didn't you say Bion has keen ears?"
"Bion doesn’t have a big mouth. That's why they are the messenger of the Pantheon. Even if Night Sky hears my words, instead of getting angry at me, he would think twice about how to handle me if I truly defy his will."
Ramin thought that sounded reasonable. Night Sky seemed more rational than the other gods of Pantheon.
Bion then said, "You can see the tower."
Sairan nodded. "It's the Tower of Trial."
Ramin hadn't perceived it as a tower at first. She had only seen it as a white line spanning between the earth and sky. But as the carriage that Hekab was pulling approached it, it became clear that it wasn't a natural landscape but a man-made structure. The thin white tower grew bigger as they got closer, and soon a massive city built beneath the tower came into view.
Ramin also knew about this white tower. The Tower of Trial was constructed after the Pantheon was established, connecting the Prairie of Beginnings and the realms above. However, as its name suggested, not everyone could go to the higher realms. Inside the Tower of Trial was a complex maze, and only those deemed worthy could ascend, while any unqualified visitors would automatically be led out.
Bion said, “Many of the deceased choose a dreamless sleep, but if they wish, they can stay in the Prairie of Beginnings even after waking up. They could run through the prairie under the never-setting sun, climb mountains, and swim in rivers. However, to ascend to the higher realm, one must be qualified. The city beneath that tower was established by those who couldn't ascend, living in hope that one day they might be able to.”
Ramin said, "I've heard the qualifications are quite complex."
"Yes. One needs to have performed significant good deeds during their lifetime, acquired outstanding academic knowledge, earned honor in wars, or achieved something exceptionally distinguishable from others. If not, they should strive to achieve such things in the Afterlife."
While not everyone did, some wanted to move to the higher realm in the Afterlife. Due to this, those who followed the Pantheon strived to align with the values the Tower of Trials demanded. However, the strange thing was that they did so without a clear understanding of what the world above the tower was like.
‘The only thing actually known was that they would become closer to the gods.’
One reason for the tower's massive size was that it wasn’t just a trial for all; for sinners and those who deserved punishment, they would have to undergo even more tests.
With a concerned expression, Ramin asked Bion, "Then are we to be tested as well?"
"There are no exceptions. Since the establishment of the Pantheon, any deceased person has to go through the tests if they wish to go to the higher realm."
"But of course, not this time. That’s only when you eventually pass away."
"But you just said there were no exceptions?"
Bion didn't answer and murmured something to Hekab. Hekab went around the city and headed straight to the white tower.
"How do we go up that tower without taking the test? Is there some secret entrance or something?"
Bion replied, "No. Inside the tower, we’ll have to navigate through its complex interior. There is a shortcut, but since we're on this carriage, there's no need for that."
Hekab began to ascend the tower's exterior. The carriage swayed a bit, but even with a 90 degree change in angle, no one fell off. It felt as if gravity was pulling them towards the tower.
Bion said, "Amazing, right? Insects don't really differentiate between ground and vertical surfaces."
"...Well, that's not exactly what surprised me."
As Ramin looked out the carriage, she saw the Prairie of Beginnings and the city getting further away.
Ramin then said, "If it becomes known that one can ascend not just through the tower's interior but its exterior as well, wouldn't more people try to exploit it?"
"Some already do."
"...Is that okay?"
"It’s okay. If someone can ascend the exterior of this Tower of Trials, they are certainly worthy of the higher realm."
Ramin assessed the tower's height and felt that Bion was right. With the mysterious power of the carriage, they came close to the top of the tower that seemed to reach beyond the sky. Below them, the Prairie of Beginnings began to curve, and above, the space that used to be sky-blue gradually turned into a star-lit darkness.
At that moment, Ramin noticed something unusual happening beneath the tower. The air ripped apart, revealing a massive flat panel. It didn’t seem that big as she was looking from the top of the tower, but if viewed from the land below, it would stretch across tens of kilometers.
"...What is that?"
Bion answered, "A reversal is occurring. Things are about to get busy."
Bion slightly glanced back at Hwee-Kyung and explained, "There was a fake god known as the One Who Stands Behind. Many died believing in this fake god, and these souls have been trapped in the world of the Angry One. But Night Sky killed the One Who Stands Behind and revealed himself as the real god."
"Oh, then that means..."
Bion looked down at the split land beneath them. "With the power of causality, those who died believing in the One Who Stands Behind are returning to us. That broken land below is where the believers of the Pantheon being reversed are. I've witnessed small-scale reversals before, but never one this great."
Then, another light appeared over the land being reversed. The giant entity had a white buffalo skull on the head, and the body below looked as if it was wrapped with the night sky. Radiating starlight and fluctuating aura, the entity extended their hand toward the broken land.
Bion then said, "Night Sky is reintegrating the lands."
It was just as Bion said. Night Sky reached out, split the Prairie of Beginnings, and slowly integrated the pieces of the reversed land within.
Ramin briefly felt as if Night Sky looked in their direction.
Bion said, "We'll be seeing him closer soon. Now look above, Ramin."
Ramin raised her head.
"We've arrived at the higher realm."
Hekab climbed up onto the top of the tower.
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