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41 The God of Games Loves His Flock

 "That's probably because the war between Valla Empire and the Grand Duchy of Rominos left many displaced and seeking refuge." the branch chief answered distractedly.

"Starting a war in the middle of the winter? Are they for real?"

Marni was stunned despite having himself started the random conversation.

The winter season was the coldest time of the year. There were months of darkness and terrible snow that would decimate any army.

Unless it was a nation which patron deity was the God of Flame, who could maintain widespread divine protection that prevents any damage from low temperatures. Otherwise, most armies would lose their ability to fight or even move in the snow, and even if they should force a war, their enemies just had to rely on defending their ramparts to easily wear down an army ten times their own size!

In fact, there was an unwritten rule in this world that any warfare that was extending into winter would enter a period of ceasefire by default, which was a chance for many smaller nations to take a breather.

"According to the pope of the Brilliant White Church, Lyante, God of Light and one of the seven Heavenly Fathers and Kratos the God of War had developed irreconcilable differences in the Heavenly Kingdom. King Kanpas of the Valla Empire, being devoted to Lyante and Duke Silverhorn who was a loyal follower of Kratos hence started a 'One Year War' as their patron gods' will, and the outcome of their final battle would decide the victor in the gods' gamble.

"Gamble...?"

"Yes, they delegated the honor of deciding the victor to Kanpas and Duke Silverhorn because a war between gods could get many others involved," the branch chief said. "The war will be fought on Lovenia, one of the four major cities of the former Tierra Empire and their imperial capital. Word is that it was all but ruins, with any former citizens forced to leave their homes and becoming refugees who wandered nearby.

"..."

Marni did not say a word as he watched the branch chief excitedly predicted the troops who would be fighting.

If it was in the past, what he learned from how big the world was would perhaps leave him finding the war a normal situation, and he would go about his business after a moment's mourning for Lovenia.

However, after becoming a Player, he had a completely different opinion after mingling with the God of Games.

That god had prepared a gift called the System for all who believed in him, and every believer would formally become a Player when they received it.

The God of Games did not shackle his flock, demanding prayers every day or holding mass on every Sunday, or that his believers would convey their devout heart to the bishops of their church from time to time.

Instead, the XP setting that came with System appeared to be an encouragement from the God of Games so that Players would explore new places and go on adventures, granting great freedom so that his believers would follow their own instincts to journey around the world.

Even if there was the occasional quest that was similar to a divine decree, there was no compelling intention behind it. Players could choose to abort the quest even if most would not, but follow its instructions and accomplish it in the manner that pleased themselves the most while enjoying rewards from the divine.

If one was to describe that the other gods sat loftily upon the heads of their own believers, slave drivers who swing their whips to drive and oppress believers so that they sacrifice everything, the God of Games would be a senior and friend-ever quietly watching as his believers matured, and give them a gentle push when needed so that they could cross that difficult gutter.

Moreover, the God of Games would not rely on the mouths of clerics and clear religious text like the other gods to half-heartedly declare that the gods take pity upon them and to multiply their numbers.

In fact, Marni could clearly feel that the God of Games loved his flock (Xi Wei sneezed in his Divine Kingdom).

It was precisely with that comparison that Marni found how the God of Light and the God of War were uncaring towards humans-or indeed their own believers, to the point that they would start a war where countless would die and leave endless broken families for a gamble...

There was little wonder that the King of Tierra would brave the heresy to declare his faith in the God of Games.

Just as there was little wonder why Tierra would be destroyed by the mortal puppets of other gods.

It was an indescribable dejection that Marni found hard to bear.

He accepted the letter of evidence that the branch chief passed to him, took off the ring that proved him a member of the Silver Chimes and returned it to the chief before turning to leave without another word.

It was outside the building where he breathed the cool air of winter that Marni found the hardness in his chest easing.

"I'm starting to miss those dimwits back in the village..."

That being said, he was not giving up on preaching to the refugees.

In fact, when he understood that the God of Games may be the one divine being who stood on the side of humankind, Marni had resolved himself to do all he can and recruit more believers without drawing attention from the other churches.

It was also one of the few things that he, a most normal human could help that great god with.

***

When Marni climbed on to his carriage to leave for the refugee camps outside of the city and look for someone he could preach to, a girl dashed out from an alley turning, catching his attention.

She looked around sixteen or seventeen and appeared to be avoiding someone. Still, her ragged appearance did not conceal her elegant face: her blonde ponytail seemed to reflect the sun and danced as she ran, bringing some mysterious degree of warmth to the winter day.

Being a merchant who had experienced many a badger game or honey traps, Marni was not the type so easily allured. What really caught his attention about the girl was the white name that hovered over her head.

Leah Yakaran.

The girl also caught sight of Marni atop his carriage then, as well as the same Player name displayed in the same style above his head.

Utterly anxious at first, she paused and hesitated for a moment, before hesitantly saying, "O Master of Games, grant us new life?"

Marni quickly nodded in understanding, realizing that she was a believer of the God of Games like himself and echoed, "O Master of Games, grant us new life!"

It was the password that opens the System bestowed by the God of Games after all. Equivalents back on Earth would be the 'Namo Amitabha' that Buddhist monks would chant, Taoists''Immeasurable Heaven' or 'the twin trails of tears of loved ones' for fans of the movie Wandering Earth.

Either way, it was a secret code that only believers of the God of Games would know.

Marni opened the door to his carriage and gestured for Leah to hide inside.You can find this movie on Netflix. I personally couldn't sit through it.