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Chapter 38: Conflicting Thoughts
As he gazed at Leila, who was standing before him, Vernell slowly sheathed his sword back in its scabbard.
He acted like she was not even worth fighting. Leila frowned at this but Vernell kept moving forward without minding her.
“Leila-san, let us pass.”
“It seems like I am being underestimated. Do you honestly think that I’m that weak that I’d let you pass just because you asked?”
Needless to say, Leila was not weak.
She didn’t usually have much opportunity to show her skills since she had always stayed beside Saint Elrise, who was quite powerful on her own. However, her becoming the Prime Knight at the age of 20, and attaining such a rank despite being a woman were proof enough for Vernell to acknowledge how amazing she was.
True, Leila was nothing like Elrise, who was capable of erasing a horde of demons with a single attack, nor could she do miracles like restoring lost limbs.
Even so, her capability was enough that she could’ve matched the match previous Saint, Alexia (if one ignored the Saint’s immunity to damage), in battle.
There was no way such a person could be called weak. She was obviously strong.
Even so, Vernell didn’t take any fighting stance and continued to move even further.
“You don’t look weak. But at the same time, you are weakened now”
Leila quickly drew her sword, and thrust it right in front of Vernell’s neck.
The speed of her strike was so fast that Eterna, who was standing beside him, was unable to see the movement of her sword.
Even so, Vernell did not flinch, and continued to look straightforwardly at Leila.
“Leila-san… you’re actually already aware of it, aren’t you? This is not what you’re supposed to be doing. This is not what a Knight supposed to do… you don’t need me to point it out; you already know the answer in your heart.”
“Even if I do shut up, Leila-san’s own heart won’t stay silent… right?”
Leila’s sword shook.
It was just as Vernell said. More than anyone else, Leila herself was the most aware of her own mistakes.
If Elrise really wished to do so, she could have escaped from this castle anytime.
Yet why didn’t she do so?
Was she actually enjoying her current lifestyle so much that she didn’t run? …of course not.
There’s no way that her master, who was practically the embodiment of the word ‘Saint’ would stay because of such a reason. Leila knew that such a thing would be impossible, even if the world was turned upside down.
…It was for Leila.
Because she thought Leila was taken hostage, she obediently stayed as a captive.
And Leila, who knew how much Elrise cared for her, used those feelings and conspired with the schemers who imprisoned Elrise.
More than anyone else, Leila was aware of just how sinful her actions that were.
“I know… I already know about it… But even so, no matter what… this anxious feeling won’t leave my mind!”
Leila recalled the conversation she had with Elrise back then.
What Elrise had told her.
That destiny could be changed.
That such a sorrowful fate will end with this generation.
That there was a way for the Saint to not end up as the Witch or end up dying.
And that in the end, they will definitely reach a Happy End where everyone will be joyful…
So Leila should please believe in and follow her; she said such words.
And Leila was really happy in those moments.
She was happy that she didn’t need to lose the master she had sworn to protect and to hear that this cycle which has continued for so long could be broken.
— But, how would she change such a destiny?
Elrise didn’t say anything to her about this most important part.
And as such, Leila’s hesitation caused her to be tempted by a certain cunning man.
“Well, well… I came here since I was curious, but to think you are still hesitating. I’ve told you before. There is no such convenient solution like what Elrise-sama has spoken about.”
The person who arrived on the scene, each step resounding on the floor, was a white haired man.
While he looked as if he was past his 70’s, his body was still firm, his back was straight, and he still stood tall.
He was about 170 cm tall.
His wrinkled face showed a depth of experience that young people couldn’t possibly possess and his sharp eyes were reminiscent of a bird of prey.
He was the king of the Billberry Kingdom — Aiz And Ay Billberry, the 13th .
He wore a blue mantle which was a token mark of his status and he stared coldly at Leila with blue eyes that were akin to blueberries.
“I have seen four Saints pass, including Elrise-sama. That’s why I can say it. There is no such method. Perhaps she plans to commit suicide after defeating the Witch. But if it were that simple, the cycle should have already ended with the earlier generations… and even if she succeeded, Elrise-sama will still be lost to you. Are you really alright with that?”
“I can attest to this. There is no such method. Saying she wouldn’t die is merely a kind lie she said to assure you. If you truly want to protect Elrise-sama… even if it’s a traitorous thing to do, there’s no other way but to keep her detained in this castle.”
This man who continued to tempt Leila was King Aiz.
It couldn’t be helped that Leila believed his words.
The weight of his words were different after all. It was backed by history that he truly had seen the transition between several Saints.
For better or worse, they were the words of man who knew the tragedy behind the Saint and the Witch.
No, on top of that… there was no doubt that he was the one who had tried to kill Alexia, the previous Saint, once she turned into the Witch.
That was something that was hard to forgive, a cowardly action.
But it was exactly because he dared to tarnish his own hand with such a dirty action… that confirmed he knew the darkness of their history more than anyone else here.
Because of this, Leila was more convinced by his words than Elrise’s, which had nothing to support it.
“Did Elrise-sama say that this destiny could be changed? If so…”
“And I told you that’s impossible, young man. Are you the same kind of person as Leila who clutches to a dream world that can’t possibly come true?”
Wasn’t it okay to trust Elrise since she said so?
Vernell intended to say that but Aiz coldly cut off his words with his own.
His word carried the weight of reality and a deep conviction and contained an overwhelming pressure.
“When I was 4 years old, that generation’s Saint, Griselda, had defeated the Witch and became the next Witch. I was a kid back then and, like you youngsters now, I had believed that there must be a way to change it.”
Aiz spoke of his past nostalgically.
Even this man who has chosen to imprison Elrise for the sake of the world was a naïve person once.
Vernell thought that there was a slight trace of sorrow in the king’s face as he spoke.
“Next was Saint Lilia. She was born when I was 9, and for me she was like my younger sister. When I succeeded the throne at the age of 19, I told her the truth in the hopes that she wouldn’t end up like the previous Saint… But that was a foolish act of a brat that couldn’t be taken back. Back then, I didn’t think of the consequences of my actions; I was only influenced by a compassionate, naïve heart, and believed that what I had done was the correct thing to do. And what do you think was the result? …Lilia fought demons as if she wished to die, and was miserably killed. While that really prevented her from becoming a Witch… it didn’t change the fact that the previous Witch remained and nothing had changed. It only prolonged the age of darkness. What we came to realize from Lilia’s death was that the Witch will keep on living without aging so long as no one defeats them, as well as the fact that the truth is merely a poison to the Saint.”
That was the story of the Saint from two generations ago who ended up getting killed by demons.
The king had tried to fight fate in his own way, but that generation’s Saint, Lilia… might not have been that strong.
She was unable to endure the thought of a destiny where she would become the Witch, and sought her own death by suicidally fighting demons.
If only the Witch aged with time, it wouldn’t have been a dog’s death, but unfortunately, the Witch didn’t age.
It was meaningless.
She merely died without even initiating the short period of peace like the other Saints before her had.
Because of this, Lilia’s name was often omitted when listing the names of the Saints.
Actually, it was Vernell’s first time as well to hear the name of the Saint from two generations ago.
“When I was 48… the previous Saint, Alexia, did her duty as the Saint. After that, thinking how Lilia was able to be killed by demons… I imprisoned Alexia in this castle and filled it with demons. While I was well aware that I had done bad things to Alexia and Diaz, I thought I could break the chain with this.”
“…To think that a person like you…!”
Vernell couldn’t hide the hatred in his voice toward Aiz, who spoke so indifferently about such a history.
That was not the treatment you expected to be given to the woman who fought desperately to protect the world and defeated the Witch.
Yet Aiz didn’t even flinch at Vernell’s contemptuous gaze.
“Do you disdain me? That is a natural feeling to have; my actions can only be seen as a complete betrayal. The demons I placed in this castle didn’t attack Alexia at all… and even ended up becoming her followers and helping her escape. Even I thought it was foolish… because I let her escape, the world was once again plunged into the terror of the Witch… Actually, in those moments, I was already about to give up. Ah, there’s no possible way. Regardless of what I did, nothing would change. In the end, there was no way to keep the peace. Those were my thoughts.”
That’s not what you should be saying, Vernell wanted to shout.
Indeed, Aiz deserved disdain as he had failed to finish Alexia and let her escape but that wasn’t what Vernell was angry about.
He was angry at the fact that Aiz committed a dirty betrayal toward Alexia.
But Aiz didn’t even notice or care about such a reason, and continued.
“And now, with the current generation… well, I don’t think I need to tell you much about it. As you all know, it is this generation of Saint Elrise that was incomparable to any of the other generations … Honestly , when I saw her, I felt like saying ‘what were all those Saint before her for?’ Every time I heard about her achievements, this feeling of mine only grew. The balance of power between the Saint and the Witch in this generation is clearly different compared with the previous generations. While the past Saints did have the power to defeat the Witch, they were not as absurdly strong as Elrise is. That’s why the strategy employed by the previous Saints was to avoid fighting the Witch’s followers, demons, and Greater Demons… And even while the Saint existed, the world would never be at peace until the Witch was defeated once again.”
A short period of peace arose from the period between the defeat of the Witch up until the Saint’s transformation into the next Witch.
It wasn’t like the peace was maintained merely because the Saint existed.
This was because the Witch had many followers, demons, and Greater Demons, all of which had only grown in number over the years.
If all of these forces were mobilized to fight simultaneously, the Saint would be killed in no time.
Therefore, the strategy employed by the Saint was to break through one point.
It had led to many sacrifices, with many of the weak left to die, and all for a chance to open a road of blood to lead the Saint toward the Witch.
All of that was necessary for the Saint to attain the “miracle” of defeating the Witch.
It was always like that. Because of that, the short period of peace where the Witch was dormant was more precious than anything else.
But during Elrise’s generation there was a clear anomaly in the flow of the situation.
The power balance between light and darkness was suddenly reversed.
This generation’s Saint, who was supposed to be closely guarded by knights, didn’t need such protection at all.
She destroyed hordes of demons alone, healed the injured people she came across, revived the cracked earth, and revitalized the withered rivers.
She renewed the scorched forest, created rain for the lands which suffered drought… and she didn’t abandon anyone, or let anyone die. She saved everyone that her hand could reach.
The Witch feared such a paragon and hid herself; the world was now filled with light and hope.
This golden age has been ongoing for 7 years. It was clearly strange.
As long as Elrise still exists, such miracles continue to be sold at great bargains.
“This made me think… this generation’s… this Saint has to remain for as long as she could. This is the first and the last true miracle. A Saint like her will never appear again… the forest that she so easily revived, how many centuries would it take for it to revive naturally? The land that Saint Elrise retook from the grasp of the demons in only 3 days, are you aware how many of the past Kings and Saints tried so hard to retake it? Only to give up on it without a choice after paying so many sacrifices? The battle of the Rutin Kingdom where she cleared all the demons within tens of minutes, how many soldiers’ lives would they had to pay to do the same?”
As he said that, Aiz laughed.
It was a derisive laugh at his own past, useless efforts , and at the irony that God had produced such a miracle at this waning period of his life.
“Do you understand? One year of Elrise’s life is equivalent to tens of years from the past Saints’ lifetime… it is outrageous to let her fight the Witch! No matter what it takes, even if it’s only for a year longer! To let her stay at the top! That is the mission of us who lived through these generations!”
The Old King shouted those words without hesitation.
“Hey, Aniue. Are we really doing this?”
While the castle was busy trying to apprehend the intruders, there were people who snuck around silently in the shadows.
They were the three sons who had accompanied King Aiz to the castle.
Since the other kings couldn’t leave their own nations unattended for too long, they went back, leaving Aiz alone to stay and monitor this place.
Naturally, that also meant that the three of them had stayed as well.
The one who had spoken with a worried voice was the youngest prince, Maca, who was 14 years old.
His face still had remnants of childlike features, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call him a bishounen.
“Heheh, if you don’t want to go, then just quitely stay here alone. Th- that kind of woman, there would be no other chance to meet one like her ever again.”
The one who let out a disgusting laugh was the eldest between the three princes, Ukon.
At 19 years old, he had indulged himself in luxury and had grown fat.
In this world where people often died of starvation, his hulking weight, which had already exceeded 100 kg, was a blatant sign of how prosperous he was.
“Fuh… such a pure, untainted, beautiful flower. It makes you want to witness the moment it gets tarnished. Right now, the guards around her should be reduced. Obviously, this is a great crime… If we get caught, we can’t get away with it, even if we are princes… yet — if I could do what I like to that white skin, it would be worth the risk of throwing this life away!”
The one who said such absurd things was the second prince, Amino1.
He looked handsome, but had the worst mind of the three.
As for what they were doing… simply said, since the protection around the Saint had been weakened by the intruders, they aimed to trespass in Elrise’s room and to violate her.
Obviously, such a thing would be considered a crime among crimes. Once discovered, their life would be no more; it would be inevitable that they would be tortured and dragged around the city.
But they had lost their minds.
Elrise’s good looks has often gathered such feelings like worship, devotion, and yearning.
On other hand, it also spawned this kind of lust.
They wanted to touch that hair that was akin to golden threads and they wanted to do what they liked to that white skin.
There was no man who didn’t think of such things.
Yet for most of those men, their lust didn’t grow too much.
Elrise looked so ephemeral that it was hard to make her the target of such feelings.
As such, most men would merely worship her from afar and be thankful of her existence.
In a way, they didn’t see Elrise as a “woman.”
She was completely different being compared to them… she was like a higher existence, and because of that it was hard to lust over her.
But as for the princes, they had met quite a number of ladies in their social life who — while a far cry when to Elrise, would still be considered as beauties.
They were surrounded by women who had healthy skin, gained from nourishing food that was typically unavailable to commoners, and aided by cosmetics and accessories that were unaffordable to commoners. Because of this, they had become used to beauty.
As such, they could see Elrise as a “woman”. And one with a high level of beauty that they had never seen… and perhaps would never be able to see ever again. She was an unbelievably beautiful woman.
As a result, their rationality was completely destroyed by Elrise’s beauty, and only lust remained.
To the point where it became a higher priority than their own lives…
But because of that…as someone who was of the same kind who had also lost his rationality, he easily understood the intention of these princes.
“— Hou, that’s an interesting thing you are talking about. Why don’t you tell me more?”
The three princes shivered as they heard this voice.
As they turned around, they saw a person whose expression was hidden in the shadows due to backlighting. The man’s glasses glinted mysteriously… Supple Ment was standing in front of them.
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