A Soul Unmasked, A Soul Lost
As night comes that very day, Robert and his friends are still fulfilling their duties to guard Xylen, the Supreme Leader of Vadisianity.
They are stationed in separate areas within the Basilica Vadisium. Carol guards the west wing dormitories, Iris the southern parts, rooms for research and study, Andreas the east wing dormitories, and Chris the north gates.
The central area looks secure, says Robert in his mind. I hope it stays this way after we're gone. Vordac surely understands that they cannot defeat the Forces of Light by killing their leader. As long as we keep our faith, we can still fight back. Being a part of the Light Side is my new life's resolve. My homeland can wait. Eloise can wait. I'm fighting for them; that's my priority.
The giant bell in the topmost tower of Basilica Vadisium clangs ten times. Robert rubs his face, trying to keep himself awake after five sleepless nights.
'Robert Chandler... Sir?'
Robert is startled. He turns back quickly, his hand on his Grimlock that hangs on his back. To his relief, it's only a Vadisian monk.
The monk is not surprised on seeing Robert's reaction, and speaks in a grim voice, 'You are expected in Her Holy Grace's room on the double. Please, follow me.'
Robert doesn't bother to ask for reasons. He just follows the monk towards the Pope's bedroom, in a Restricted Area where men are forbidden to enter.
The monk leaves Robert at the area entrance, saying, 'Just walk straight and you'll find a carved, big, white door. Report yourself to the guards, they will inform the Pope and she will give you permission to come in. Praise Vadis.'
Robert nods and walks staright through the gate into the Restricted Area. The nuns there stare at Robert warily, but as it was the Pope's order, they don't do anything else. Robert does exactly like the monk's direction, and the Pope lets him in.
Soon Robert finds himself in one of the grandest bedroom he has ever seen. Everything here like the dining room is mostly made of marble. The bed lies in the middle a round, big, marble bed with fluffy white mattress on top of it. Marble statues, table and wardrobes are placed around the wall with alabaster pillars.
Robert looks around. Among the beautiful, state-of-art things in the bedroom, nothing compares with the occupant: a beautiful, blue-haired and blue-eyed lady lying on the bed.
She is dressed in a long night gown made of very rare fabric that's thinner than silk, but do not look transparent at all. Nevertheless, a highly esteemed lady like Xylen should never wear it outside the so-called 'Restricted Area', because it'll ruin her honor and decency. Robert is stunned. He never saw a Pope that looked like that before. He smells... trouble.
Xylen, on seeing Robert's awkwardness, says in a soothing yet seducing tone,
'Don't be afraid, Robert. It's only me. Come closer.'
Robert hesitates, but then he takes three steps forward. He still doesn't trust Xylen, and more so when he meets her in an indecent fashion like now.
'Come closer. Or do you want me to come to you?'
Although this is such an outrage in Robert's eyes, but Robert's rudeness will be an outright insolence. So, Robert takes five more steps forward with extreme caution.
'Come closer, I said. Real close.'
'This is as far as I can go, Your Grace unless you are properly dressed first.'
'Know you what of proper? Know you what of holy? That was what you think of me eh, Robert?' says Xylen, now sounds a bit irritated. 'Oh, yes, I can read your mind. And now let me say the same thing to you: Know you what of proper? Know you what of holy?
You only know it's holy and proper when you see it with your own eyes! Only the surface, and never within! You have disappointed me by saying that you're leaving, and now your thoughts of me disappoint me once more! You think I can rely fully on the magical mechanisms and guards alone? No, Robert. I need you to stay near me all the time until the heir is vanquished!
I let the other champions hunt the heir down, but at least one must stay. I thought you and your friends fill stay here as long as it takes, but no, you're no different than the others. You'd rather use me as bait to lure the heir to attack quickly and you'll leave here quickly so you can return to your homeland and visit your beloved!'
Robert is thunderstruck. This woman can read my thoughts! My innermost secrets are in her hands now! If she tells anyone else about this, I'll be doomed!
'Oh yes, Robert. You'll certainly be doomed if I tell anyone how improper and unholy you are. A secret, forbidden love affair with a princess. You'd rather go and persuade her to give her status up and follow you than to undertake a mission that is holy and proper in the whole.
But, then again, what use is holiness and properness if they deprive us of the things we really want in life? They deprive us of our own happiness!'
'What do you mean by that? I'm willing to give up my happiness for the sake of others,' says Robert.
'Tsk, tsk. But you are wrong, Robert. You don't have to give up your happiness for others' sake. You can always search for other things that can make you happy.'
'You can find yourself another lover. Take your friend, the sorceress for instance. She has her eyes on you, no doubt about that. Why don't you accept her love? You two can be happy, you know.'
'That's really none of your business.'
'Oh yes, that's not my business, mind. But my business is what I'm going to offer you: myself.'
'What? Oh, no, no, that's not possible.'
'Why not? Am I not beautiful enough for you?' says Xylen, crawling on her bed to go near Robert. Her moves are so seductive, Robert's heart races on seeing that. She continues,
'Or is that because I'm a Pope? Oh, forget that. In here, we are just a man and a woman. And I have the power and authority to determine what's holy and proper around here. Besides, Vadis didn't teach us to commit celibacy to serve him, right? So, I'm going to change things up. I'll be the first Pope with a husband and we both will make history!'
'Please, Your Grace, don't make me do things against my heart! Indeed, you are very beautiful, perhaps more than anyone I know. But we have our own responsibilities! You are the Pope, leader of all Vadisians in the world! You'll mar Vadis' face if you do this!'
'Didn't we all? Sinners everywhere, including you and me. You and your little secrets, me and mine.'
Xylen is now real close with Robert. Robert tries to back away, but Xylen moves even closer.
'No, My Grace, please don't do this. I beg you.'
'I can't. You see, my innermost desire in my life is to make love with a stud like you. What use is all my beauty treatment if no man can feel my body, my silky skin and my blossomy lips?'
'It's a waste, honestly, but for the sake of all Eternia, If I were you, it's a worthy sacrifice.'
'Oho, but you're not me and I am I. And I say, I want you.'
Xylen keeps pushing forward, cornering Robert on a wall, saying,
'It's a curse being beautiful, you know. The thought of getting myself tasted keeps torturing me, every day and every night. I can't live the rest of my life in peace until I feel it. I desperately need to feel it. To feel... you.'
'No... no... Don't.'
Before Robert can push her away, Xylen presses her body against Robert's. Robert feels his heart throbbing uncontrollably, his blood boiling and rising to his head, and he's shivering all over.
'Or at least, give me a bit of satisfaction through...'
Xylen hugs Robert tightly.
Her face is right in front of Robert's.
She closes her eyes. Robert is totally mesmerized now.
Without warning, Xylen kisses Robert's lips.
It's a kiss of passion alone, a total submission to lust, not to love. It's a very dangerous game that can ruin someone's reputation and someone's life. Only true love based on a firm commitment can prevent that.
That very thought snaps Robert back to his senses.
Oh, no! Eloise! I won't submit myself to this!
Robert pushes himself away from that kiss, preventing himself from betraying his own true love and making the worst mistake of his life.
'No, I still can't.'
'What, not even a perfect kiss? You disappoint me, Robert. How dare you refuse this offer no other man can get? Being the "Protector of the Pope" and all the privileges that come with it?'
'Because nothing worth more than true love. I'm sorry, My Grace. But my heart belongs to another.'
Suddenly the Pope bursts out in anger and slaps Robert's face.
'Get out! Out! No one has ever, ever insulted me like this in my entire lifetime! But you! A Pope, insulted by a lowly bounty hunter! Get out of here now! Leave the Basilica right now, and don't let me see your face again! EVER! You're discommunicated from the Church of Vadis!'
'As you wish, Your Grace,' Robert responds.
Xylen mutters some kind of spell, and the door to her bedroom is magically unlocked. Robert bows slightly and then opens the door and gets out immediately. As the door shuts, Xylen picks a statue of Vadis made from a single pearl and throws it to the door. The statue hits the door and breaks up in pieces.
Xylen grunts and grits her teeth in her wrath, and then she suddenly smiles. She has one hand on her back and takes out a sword. It's Robert's father, Emmerich's kiliji sword. Apparently she stole it when Robert was totally mesmerized and distracted, and now she hugs it lovingly, thinking.
Oh, well, at least this is not a total loss. I lost a man, but got his sword. A souvenir for a soul masked in decency and holiness. When I became myself, all I got was a rude rejection. Know you what of proper? Know you what of holy? Aren't they just masks of your soul, imprisoning you in a cursed life, depriving you from the true happiness? What an irony!
Xylen keeps hugging the kiliji. She's laughing with tears coming out from her eyes, and cries in her laughter.
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