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Chapter 37: The Hesitation of Knights
A week had already passed since Elrise was put under house arrest.
Guard Knight Rex, who stood in front of her door as a watchman, was thinking.
Did we really do the right thing? …That was what he was thinking about every single day for the past week.
It wasn’t just him.
Every single knight who participated in this situation spent their days repeatedly trying to convince themselves while wallowing in self-hatred.
Because they thought it was the right thing to do, they agreed with the plan headed by King Aiz.
The Saint who defeated the Witch would inevitably die… while they didn’t know the reason for this, looking back at history, they came to understand that it was an unchangeable truth.
That’s why they cooperated… and why they betrayed the Saint.
Even if their names were to be tarnished as traitors, if it could lead to a future where she didn’t have to die… they kept trying to deceive themselves with such thoughts.
But at the same time, they also experienced opposing thoughts. Things like, they didn’t tarnish themselves as traitors just to protect her… protecting the Saint as stated in their written pardons, but imprisoning her was done for their own sakes.
They didn’t want her to die; they wanted her to keep on living, even if they had to become traitors for that… they prepared such beautiful excuses to fool themselves.
Rex kept thinking of such things.
From the moment she was imprisoned, Elrise never blamed Rex’s group, not even once.
However, this made Rex’s group suffer instead.
They would’ve preferred it if she had gotten angry at them for it. They prepared for such a reaction the moment they decided to become traitors.
However, they weren’t prepared for her calm acceptance.
It was just, looking at Elrise’s gloomy expression as she gazed outside the window hacked at the conscience of Rex’s group.
They were aware that she sometimes prayed about something.
There was no doubt that it was prayer for innocent people.
Because she was unable to save them herself, all she could do was pray for them.
Even when she was locked up and unable to move, her heart still thought about the people.
Because of such actions, Rex felt their own choice in this might actually have been a very sinful thing to do.
“Rex. Did anyone suffer by the hand of the Witch and the demons today?”
“…No. The Witch remains the same as before, and has not even shown herself… The demons too, the soldiers and vigilantes are currently capable of dealing with any clashes themselves, so no damage has been reported.”
“I see. That’s good.”
As she asked that question from behind her locked door, it showed how much she was thinking about the people she had been protecting.
She was always thinking about other people more than she thought about herself.
She truly was such a Saint.
Comparing himself to her made Rex feel like crying.
Betraying his own master, the Saint, enforcing peace as they liked and imprisoning her… which part of these deeds made him worthy of being called a knight…?
“Messenger here! There are intruders inside the castle!”
The messenger ran toward the floor where the perturbed Rex was stationed.
He wondered what happened; it seemed that some intruders had breached the castle.
He might have betrayed her, but he didn’t completely abandon his duty of protecting the Saint.
The expressions of Rex and the other Guard Knight who watched the door turned grim.
“The intruders are thought to be students of the Magic Knight Training Institution! We speculate their objective is to free the Saint from here. They are quite capable and we are currently struggling!”
“Very well. I will go.”
As he answered the messenger, Rex continued thinking.
It seemed that the intruders were not demons, but Academy students who sought to rescue Elrise from this castle.
They were very naïve. Naïve… but, they had the courage and drive to take action.
At very least, they are more knightly than me.
As he thought that, Rex glumly sighed at himself.
Vernell and Eterna were discovered almost immediately.
They didn’t know how to infiltrate such a facility in the first place. Furthermore, even if they did know how to do such a thing, this place was so heavily guarded that even an expert assassin would have had a hard time entering without being noticed.
Currently, the Billberry Kingdom’s royal family was residing in the Saint’s Castle to monitor Elrise’s movements.
On top of that, many knights and soldiers were present besides the top 10 Guard Knights, and they would never let their guard down. This was not only to protect the Saint and the King from enemies that might intrude, but also to prevent the Saint from escaping from this place.
Even if Vernell and Eterna had outstanding capabilities, they were still merely students of the academy, so there was no way they wouldn’t be noticed in such a place.
The two of them ran around inside the castle as they were being chased by soldiers.
“Ah-, this sucks! You idiot! You didn’t even think of a plan!”
Eterna’s scolding echoed in the halls, but it was justified.
Vernell confidently went to the castle so she thought he had some sort of plan but, actually, he strode in there without any plan at all.
As they approached the Saint’s Castle, he swung the great sword he got from Elrise toward the patrolling soldiers and attempted to break into the castle quite openly.
He’s only thinking with his muscles. Since all he’s done is self-training, it seems like his brain also turned into muscle.
Eterna began to seriously think this might actually be the case.
There was no way such a brazen action could’ve gone well, and soon the two of them were surrounded by soldiers.
Vernell frantically searched for an opening between the soldiers.
The objective this time was merely to rescue Elrise.
It was not to fight against soldiers; killing them would be even more unacceptable.
But their opponents were soldiers who, while less skillful compared to knights, are still properly trained in combat. They were not small fry to be easily dismissed.
It wouldn’t be easy to slip past them.
But suddenly, ice and fire magic materialized and blew the soldiers away.
The extreme temperature changes, suddenly shifting from high then low,broke the soldiers’ equipment and everyone quickly moved their gazes toward the source of the attacks.
“We will handle things here! Go ahead!”
“Sorry… we’re late…”
The people standing there were Aina and Mary, the contrasting duo.
These two had hesitated to go against the nations, as such Vernell was surprised to see them here.
“You guys… why!?”
“Obviously, I came to repay my debt to Saint-sama from before. I thought about it a lot… and I decided to ignore the question of what is right or wrong for now. However, I will repay my debt now! I will think about the other things later!”
“Me too… for now, I will only think about helping my friend…”
That was the answer that Aina and Mary had reached: to do what they thought was correct “now” and think about the consequences later.
Because her benefactor was currently being detained, she came to rescue her.
Because her friends tried to rescue their Saint, she came to help.
It was naïve and thoughtless… and you could say that they just stopped thinking about it properly; it was that kind of decision.
But if they were too fixed on thinking about the future consequences, they wouldn’t be able to move. And they wouldn’t be able to do anything when time to act comes.
That’s why for their “first step”, they decided to act based on what they believed was the right thing to do.
Aina invoked Fire magic and used it to form a tunnel of fire in front of Vernell.
Vernell and Eterna quickly rushed in and ran ahead.
As the two of them passed though, the path between the fire quickly closed and became a wall, obstructing the soldiers who were chasing them.
Aina and Mary may have allowed them to move forward, but they were forced to stop at the foot of the stairs.
Because there in front of them stood a person who was clearly on a different level from the soldiers they fought earlier.
“Oh, brave young citizens… if you withdraw now, I shall pretend this never happened.”
The man near the stairs drew his sword as he said that.
Vernell observed his stance, which had no openings, and guessed he was likely a Knight.
No, he seemed very capable even among the Knight… yes, just like Leila.
“A Guard Knight, is it?”
Even amongst the Knights, they were the cream of the crop who were permitted to stay by the Saint’s side.
Compared to mere students… and Vernell, who was just a 1st year, they were like an existence that exceeded the heavens.
Even so, he was unable to withdraw.
Because if he did, he wouldn’t ever become the kind of knight he that was aiming for.
Both of them drew their weapons, and just as they were about to rush forward — an arrow flew from behind Vernell, arcing towards the knight.
The knight swung his sword and fended it off without problem, and looked toward the people who were standing behind Vernell.
The one who stood there were Vernell’s friends from the academy, John and Fiora.
They reached Vernell’s side, and both took stances with their weapons.
“John, Fiora… even you guys.”
“Go ahead, Vernell. We’ll take care of things here.”
Vernell had a perplexed expression as John told him to go ahead. John then turned to face off against the knight in front of him.
In his mind, it was already decided that the one who would reach the Saint would be Vernell, and their role was to open a path for him to her location.
Seeing his friend’s confused expression at his words, John smiled ruefully.
“I hesitated. I was afraid to take on the nations as my opponents, and froze. I really feel disappointed in myself. Even though she… Elrise-sama always went forth toward the most dangerous places herself for the sake of others.”
John remembered the moment he was saved.
That moment, Elrise faced hordes of demons and fought for the sake of protecting other people.
She didn’t think about how strong, how big… or how many her foes might be… she gave her all and fought to protect people.
And John was one of the people she had protected.
Yet, when the time came for him to repay such a favor, John was unable to move his feet because his opponents were the nations.
And because of that, John felt miserable.
“Me too… I wondered if helping her was the right thing to do and I hesitated over such a stupid thing. ‘If she stayed imprisoned here, it would be better for the world and for the person herself.’ Now that’s a weird thing to say… That person saved me back then without even thinking about such things, and when Elrise-sama in danger, I still hesitated about what was right, and was paralyzed.”
When Elrise saved Fiora, she told her that she would always save those who she could reach.
Worring about things that haven’t happened yet, such as whether she would profit from helping people or not, she wouldn’t do such stupid things.
Didn’t she already swear to herself that day?
That she would stop hesitating. That she would use the second chance in life she had received for the sake of the Saint.
Yet she wasn’t able to immediately act like Vernell did.
That’s why she thought, the one who ought to go meet the Saint was Vernell, who had gone forth without hesitating from the very beginning.
And so Fiora and John both shouted.
John ran forward and swung his sword at the knight.
Fiora also started shooting arrows, and even as the knight moved to repel it, John kicked at the knight, pushing him back.
With the path to the stairway unobstructed, Vernell moved forward without hesitation and Eterna ran after him.
John laughed at their running backs and then turned to resume his fight with the Knight.
“I know your face. You’re John… correct? You were already a soldier, but you threw away your post and entered the Knight Academy… from what I recall.”
“He—h, I’m honored that Guard Knight Rex-sama remembers this lowly soldier.”
“I remember indeed. At very least, I had thought that this man might fight by our side one day.”
The Two of them moved within striking distance of each other and, once again, struck at each other with their swords.
As their swords sparked, both of them exchanged glances.
“I thought for sure that you would one day reach our level. So it’s disappointing… for it to end up like this”
“Is that so? I’m more disappointed in you though. You are aware that you currently don’t know what you are fighting for, aren’t you? It’s written all over your face.”
“…Fuh. You sure hit where it hurts.”
John and the Knight — Rex, traded multiple blows with their swords, trying to size up each other’s capabilities.
Rather than a fight, it was more like a conversation.
The two men channel their thoughts and beliefs through their swords… As she watched them, Fiora couldn’t help but think as such.
As they heard the sounds of fighting below, Vernell and Eterna continued to run upstairs.
Elrise’s room was located on the topmost floor… the 5th floor.
But as early as the next floor, they encountered the person who they somehow didn’t want to meet the most.
She was 167 cm tall, taller than the average height of the men in this world, which was 165 cm.
Her glossy black hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she stood in a dignified stance that had no openings.
She wore silvery white armor, the proof of her status as a Guard Knight, and held a sword that was only granted to the Prime Knight.
She had managed a victory against the previous Prime Knight, Fox, despite being a woman, and was crowned as the pinnacle of the Knights at 20 years old. She was the sole Knight who was allowed to stand closest to the Saint, the highest rank of Knight.
Yet her gaze, which was usually filled with an unwavering resolve, now felt weak, as if she was a puppy who feared being scolded by its owner.
Vernell quietly murmured the name of the poor, traitorous female Knight.
https://img.syosetu.org/img/user/244176/62201.jpg Illustration by ろぼと様
Elrise glumly looking out through the window. As for what she was thinking…
(What will we have for mealtime today?)
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