Volume II : The First Sin
Chapter 71 – In the Name of Allaha[3218 words]
The pursuers continued on and arrived at the city of Djanet before sunset. Havon was indeed a good hunter. He successfully identified Amon’s hoof prints and located his horse not far from the north gate of the city — Amon had left the horse outside the city and walked through the gate on his own. His footprints couldn’t be found on the paved streets. The trail was lost!
Djanet was not a big city. There were only about eighty thousand people in it. Compared to Cape, the city was less vigorous. Most of the inhabitants were simple farmers, fishmongers and minor artisans. Amon picked a nice-looking hotel and paid for the best suite. After having dinner, he stayed in the room and rested. In his present situation, he didn’t have the luxury of idly admiring the view of the city.
Amon rested through meditation. He didn’t skip out on meditating daily even on his way here. He had already reached the peak of the fifth level of magic and body arts. According to Bair, the test of “limit breaking” awaited him now. But he first needed to find his limit and attain it. Only then would the test present itself.
For mages, mastering at least one supreme magic was the sign that they had reached the sixth level. It was not as difficult as ascending to the seventh level and truly becoming a supreme mage, but many advanced mages still found it impossible to master a supreme magic even after a lifetime of practice. It was a long and bitter process for most of them. Fortunately, Amon didn’t lack patience.
According to Bair, “limit breaking” was actually a test in the practice of body arts. The “bloodline purification” marked the beginning of a qualitative change in the practitioner’s body, and the mental training in the following test actually accelerated the transformation. The whole process was similar to the forging of an artifact. The practitioner’s body would be so drastically changed that even he himself couldn’t know its limit. After the “devil’s temptation”, the next task was to find the limit of the practitioner’s own ability in order to then break it! The problem was that only in the midst of extreme adversity could one find his limit. But in such situations of extraordinary danger, surpassing the limit would almost certainly lead to death!
To Amon, it sounded paradoxical.
Amon remained vigilant as he meditated throughout the night. He used the Detection Eyes to constantly surveil the area around the hotel. At midnight, noises suddenly arose from the street out in front of the hotel. Patrolling soldiers shouted and broke in the front door, asking to check the identities of all the guests. Any foreigners were going to be taken away for further interrogation.
From the conversation between the hotelier and the soldiers, Amon learned that there was an emergency situation taking place tonight. A high noble mage’s belongings had gone missing, something about magic scrolls? The governor ordered a full-scale search of the city in response.
The search was exceedingly thorough. Naturally, Amon’s room was included in the search. But nothing was found. The cat had walked out through the window. Amon had hidden everything in Osiris’ rib, and the rib itself was hidden between the tiles on the roof.
Amon was searched as well. He proved his identity with a certificate issued by the governor of Cape. It was the one he had previously received from Mayor Dusti. He had signed his name and completed the certificate. Now, he was an authentic citizen of Ejypt. The name he wrote on the papyrus was Allaha.
It was Vitru’s idea to conduct the city-wide search. He found Yonna, the governor of Djanet, and told him that he was on a mission issued by Lord Urhiya. The supreme mage had given him some precious magic scrolls, but he had lost them after entering the city of Djanet. The scrolls had been left in his coach when he parked it outside a restaurant. They must have been stolen by some rogues while he was dining!
It was a bad excuse. But nevertheless, Lord Yonna was convinced to conduct a thorough search of the city. The soldiers were obviously not in a good mood. Who would want to work in the middle of the night and knock down every door in the city?. But an order was an order. The sophisticated hotelier slipped the leader of the soldiers some money to ensure that they wouldn’t frighten the guests. The search went smoothly, and Amon encountered little trouble. He had paid for the best room and had an impeccable certification of his identity, after all. The leader of the soldiers briefly glanced at him and left — They were looking for a foreigner.
The raid was surprisingly fruitful. Many wanted criminals were apprehended, and many long-pending cases were thus closed. The soldiers even caught the governor’s youngest son in a stable with his youngest concubine. Foreigners, and even some young men visiting the city with no identification papers, were arrested and taken to be interrogated. Not everyone travelled with their papers in hand, after all.
To Vitru’s surprise, he didn’t find Amon among the arrested people. But he couldn’t do anything more, since the mission was supposed to be kept secret. The city regained its peace with the rising of the sun.
Amon became even more vigilant after what happened last night. He suspected that he was the target of the search. He packed up at night. As soon as the city gates opened in the morning, he rushed out through Djanet’s south gate. The inspections were still strict. But Amon had a proper certificate, and so he departed without any trouble.
A man stood on the city’s rampart. It was Shuite, Urhiya’s nephew. He saw Amon’s back and felt it was somewhat familiar. But he couldn’t be sure, perhaps because Amon had changed his clothes and dressed like an Ejyptian. It wasn’t easy to recognize someone he had only seen a few times, to begin with. Shuite observed the figure for a good while, and then climbed down from the wall filled with doubt.
Shuite had been sent up to the wall by Havon. When he found that Amon wasn’t among those arrested, the chief guard was certain the foreign young man would soon leave the city. Vitru immediately asked the warriors to intercept Amon at the gates. But in order the keep things secret, Havon chose to watch the travellers from the top of the city walls.
Vitru and Havon hurried to the south gate as soon as they received Shuite’s report. But Amon was long gone. Havon inspected the ground outside the south gate carefully, in the hope of finding Amon’s trace. He was indeed an excellent hunter. After a thorough check with his utmost attention, he found a valuable clue. Amon was running with the branch-like stick in his hand, thus leaving a small round mark on the ground every dozen feet. The marks led to a small path in the mountains, but then suddenly disappeared. Amon must have thrown away his stick.
Vitru used the artifact again at the last mark. The pursuers saw Amon’s figure once again. The foreigner was walking on a twisting path in the mountains. He wasn’t running, but still managed to advance at an astonishing speed through the rough terrain!
Havon looked at the mountain peaks, “He’s in the mountains now, two peaks away from us. It’s not a great distance, but these are the mountains!. We’ll have to travel on foot. It’s impossible to ride horses and drive the coach here.”
The faces of Vitru and the other three warriors took on a ghastly expression. They originally assumed it would be rather easy to catch the foreign young man. Yet, they had spent several days chasing after this man without a good rest. And now they had to trek in the mountains on foot. This was something they had never experienced and definitely didn’t want to do. But Amon apparently wouldn’t make it easy for them by staying on the main road. They had to accomplish the mission given by Lord Urhiya, no matter what.
Travelling in the mountains was Havon’s forte. Amon couldn’t erase all traces of his passing. The imprints on the trodden grass, the broken branches and the mud stains left on the rocks were all signs for the pursuers to follow. When there weren’t any clues, Havon didn’t waste time to search the area. He instead called for Vitru to perform the [Eye of Horus], and then directly chased after Amon. In this way, they could always find shortcuts and thus traveled less distance than the young man.
Generally, the escapee would have the advantage over the pursuers. But on the contrary, Havon’s experience and Vitru’s magic gave them an edge against Amon.
Unlike Amon, Havon grew up as a hunter’s son. He spent his first fifteen years in the mountains. Afterwards, he went to the Isis Shrine and systematically learned many tracking and assassination skills. He was talented and diligent. The current Havon was only a single step from becoming a supreme warrior.
Vitru was an outstanding sixth-level mage. In addition, he had a precious artifact from the Isis Shrine called the [Sheuthe Tuspir], which meant “Shadow-soul Chasing Lamp”. With its help, a sixth-level mage could cast the [Eye of Horus] and track a target’s location from his imprints. It ensured that the pursuers could take a shortcut whenever they found that Amon was making unnecessary detours.
Fortunately for Amon, the pursuers didn’t have the means to fly.
Conversely, the pursuers were fortunate that the mountains to the south of Djanet were not as high or steep as the ones between Duc and the Euphrate River. Had these paths been as dangerous as the ones in the mountains where Lynk lived, only Havon would have been able to keep trailing Amon. The others would have quickly been shaken off. Even though Amon was deliberately travelling along the steepest paths in the thickest woods, the pursuers were still barely able to keep up.
The pursuers continued onward through the winding paths of the mountains. Havon walked in front. He had taken out his dagger to clear the path ahead. Vitru was gasping in the rear, assisted by two warriors. He fitfully grunted and cursed the sly foreigner. Having lived a privileged life, he had never suffered like this before. What rankled him even more was that he had to keep casting an exhausting magic every so often.
Havon looked back and saw the mage’s pale face. He comforted him, “Please hold on, Lord Vitru. Once it gets dark, he’ll have to slow down. When he stops for the night, we can still advance with your help. We’ll catch up to him before the next sunrise.”
The rest of the team were cheered by his words, thinking that the long hunt was finally going to end. For several days now, the foreign young man had caused the whole team to feel absolutely miserable. The remote, dense forest in the deep mountains offered a perfect place to torture this weasel before cutting off his head. This was the only remedy for their traumatized minds and bodies.
Amon would have found it funny if he knew of the grievance in the pursuers’ minds. What else could he do? Stop and cheerfully wait for them to catch him?
Night fell. The pursuers despairingly found that Amon didn’t slow down even the slightest bit. Havon suddenly realized something and said, “He can clearly see the path in the darkness! He doesn’t even need a torch. The target must have mastered some kind of detecting magic. Lord Urhiya was right! He must be a sorcerer. We cannot underestimate him anymore.”
Shuite muttered hatefully, “So what? We have Lord Vitru. Even if he has some lowly tricks, he is still a dead fish.”
“Don’t forget about the scrolls he carries with him. Those are what really matter.” said Vitru, frowning, “We cannot give him the chance to use them. We must disarm him as quickly as possible. If necessary, I will use my scrolls first. Since he’s a sorcerer, we can lawfully arrest him. No one can say anything against it.”
Havon reminded him, “Lord Urhiya told us that the secrets he holds are very important. We’ll have to kill him anyway. And it’s not like his corpse can be used as proof that he was a sorcerer. Nothing’s changed. We must still act covertly.”
At midnight, Amon finally stopped. He was too tired and had to take a rest. He found a hidden place and sat down to meditate. Vitru had already asked the team to stop. He felt that even one step more would be the death of him. He had been running and casting magic for far too long. He couldn’t endure it… After all, he was not a warrior.
Amon set off again before sunrise. The pursuers followed him much like they did yesterday. It was a tough journey. Amon felt something strange. He didn’t know whether it was a premonition or perhaps something caused by his meditation. But ever since Schrodinger had warned him, he could always feel a pressure from behind. It was like someone was staring at his back.
The chase in the mountains lasted two days. The pursuers discovered the places where Amon rested at night. There were traces of a bonfire. They could even smell wine! This man treated himself well indeed. Vitru and Havon hadn’t brought too much food with them. They would run out before too long if Amon continued to stay in the mountains. But this didn’t come to pass, for they left the mountainous area the next day. Amon returned to the main road and entered a town.
Vitru was greatly relieved. The pursuers trampled out of the thick forest and also entered the town, where they learned that Amon had bought several horses and a carriage, and afterwards drove it south. They bought enough food this time, together with two coaches and the best horses in town. Sitting in a bumpy coach was still much more comfortable compared to trekking on foot through the mountains. This also gave the warriors a little time to rest.
To the south of Djanet was the sepat of Bubast. Amon didn’t enter Per-Bast, the major city of the sepat. He instead circled around it and headed towards Heliopolite, the sepat to the south of Bubast. Apart from a few hours after midnight, he hardly rested. The pursuers were all exhausted as well. Havon was the only one who could endure the long and arduous journey. Vitru and the other warriors were at their limit. They all thought, “Is that Amon a man of iron? Isn’t he exhausted?”
Amon was certainly exhausted. The pursuers could take turns resting in the coaches and rotate the pulling horses regularly. But Amon had to drive his carriage the entire time. The stabbing pressure in his back reminded him at every second that the danger was present. He tried his best to get rid of it, but no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t succeed. The feeling haunted him, wringing out every bit of his strength, draining every drop of his energy. He had reached his limit.
If things continued on like this, it wouldn’t matter whether or not the pursuers could catch up to him. He would definitely collapse and be unable to defend himself. Noticing this, Amon decided to preserve some of his strength. He chose to stop running at full speed.
He had to prepare for the coming emergency. At the very least, he had to save enough magic power to activate the scrolls he had recently obtained. Amon had once escaped from the Underworld. He felt he should be able to escape from this predicament as well.
The sepat of Heliopolite was situated on the east side of the holy Nile River. Across the river was the city of Memfis. It was beside the fertile lands of the Nile Delta, Lower Ejypt’s central area of economy and culture. The sepat was heavily populated. Amon left the carriage on the road and walked to the undulating area to the south of the city. Another gruelling chase began.
This time, Amon walked slower, and he slept longer at night. He purposely chose the most difficult paths and travelled to the most remote places.
Amon had discovered that he was being followed right before he entered Djanet. The pursuers were truly excellent hunters. They somehow traced him all the way to the riverside of the Nile. It seemed that he couldn’t avoid them forever. Before he was cornered, he had to strike back! He felt that his best option was to ambush the pursuers in the deep mountains by activating a large number of scrolls all at once.
While Amon thought about his plan, Vitru was also scheming venomously. Vitru had learnt from Havon that Amon had already passed by the sepat of Bubast. He couldn’t help but ask the chief guard, “Where do you think he is fleeing?”
Havon thoughtfully replied, “He’s heading southwest, towards the Nile. Just think… where would he choose to go if he wanted to escape from Lord Urhiya?”
A flash of intuition came to Vitru’s mind, “Memfis!”
Havon nodded sullenly, “If I were him, Memfis would be the perfect place to hide. Sometimes the most dangerous place is also the safest place. The other high lords are all in Memfis. Lord Urhiya wouldn’t be able to cover up everything there!”
As one of the high priests of the Isis Shrine, Urhiya enjoyed a high social status in Memfis. But he couldn’t dominate the city. Other high lords and senior supreme mages had their own spheres of influence. Urhiya couldn’t have the last word on everything. Once Amon entered Memfis, their mission would definitely end in failure.
Vitru thought of this as well. He squinted,
“I believe that the target’s destination is Memfis. He’ll have to cross the river. We must intercept him before he does so…! But beware of the scrolls he has. It would be better if someone else attacks him first.”
A hideous smile appeared on Havon’s face, “Now that we know where he is going, things will be much simpler. We should send a message to Abham Ramose now. Let him confront the target first! We can just follow the target quietly and continue to put pressure on him. He has been fleeing for a long time, trying to shake us off in the mountains. But he failed. He’ll soon meet his end! Abham can take the main route from Cape, and it won’t take much time for him to arrive.”
Once Vitru and Havon finalized the plan, they ceased to worry. Amon had abandoned his carriage and horses, and he went into the mountains not far from the city of Heliopolis. The pursuers just followed him casually. Havon had already studied a map of the area. He knew that Amon had to cross through the south-western mountain pass if he wished to go to Memfis. It was the only way to the ferry on the Nile River.
[List of Characters]
Yonna: The governor of Djanet