157. Fallen Monarch (1)
Karakul, who had taken command of the outer gates of the Kingdom of Aylans, ordered the soldiers to resupply. The wounded were healed as the surrendered soldiers of the Golden Cross Army and slaves were captured as prisoners.
The capital of Aylans was burning. Despite the heavy rainfall, the winds seemed to be fueling the fire rather than putting it out. The fleeing citizens screamed, while others simply watched their own houses burn down with numbed expressions. The war had taken a toll on everyone, and the citizens had been the ones to suffer most.
The war was finished. The Demons began their rescue efforts, firefighting and clearing the rubble. The soldiers of Lome didn’t lose out either; they were evacuating the residents of the capital. Nonetheless, the situation didn’t seem like it would improve any time soon.
“God shall not forgive you! God will…!”
“He shall purge your sins with fire!”
“I suppose your Gods permit this kind of mass murder?”
Karakul punched the face of a Golden Cross soldier who was being led away. The guy’s teeth fell out and his eyes rolled over as he fainted from a single blow. Seeing his miserable condition, the nearby Golden Cross soldiers shut their mouths.
“From now on, it’s fine if you destroy the limbs of those flapping their gums.”
The Demons’ smile terrified the Golden Cross soldiers. They kept their mouths shut and shook their heads.
“Captain Karakul! Captain Karakul!!”
Karakul lifted his head, watching the Harpy patrolling the skies, Skarni, land in front of him. She flailed her wings around and poked at Karkaul’s head. She then began to shout.
“There’s been a big incident! A big incident!”
“I can’t understand you if you act like this.”
“It’s the enemy! An enemy!”
“Yes. And there are a lot of them too, like a locust swarm! Human soldiers are coming at us.”
Just as they were talking, a huge boulder flew in and collided with the outer wall, blasting it away. Rock fragments flew everywhere, along with a dust cloud. The large boulder rolled to a stop before Karakul’s eyes. Amidst the chaos, Skarni straightened her feathers and floundered them again.
“What is this!?”
“Where did this come from?”
Karakul climbed to the top of the outer walls, ignoring the shouting Skarni behind him. His vision was covered with individually styled flags, each representing different factions. Countless soldiers in varying outfits were coming up from the surrounding forest and hills. Karakul confirmed each of the flags with his eyes and groaned.
“It’s the allied nations of the Holy Kingdom.”
The seven most powerful empires and kingdoms had arrived at the capital of Aylans, and they were soon going to launch their offense. Seeing this, Karakul clenched his fists.
“Damn those humans. Their greed knows no bounds!”
“Haha, tell me about it. Looks like they’re tempted by something called immortality. And we’re in this state because of their insatiable desires!”
Karakul turned to the side. Pygni was suddenly standing near him, observing the situation. His arms were crossed, and his expression said it all—he was sick of this. He seemed to think of something as he turned to Karakul with surprise.
“Wait, their greed knows no bounds? It seems like you know their goal in coming here.”
Karakul averted his gaze. “What will you do?”
“Ey, don’t change topics.”
“Didn’t Lord Pygni say that it was immortality?”
“You said, and I quote, ‘their greed.’ Yes, no matter how you think about it, it’s strange! Even if the Pope issued an edict, it doesn’t make sense for them to gather like this. At this point, with the Pope’s reputation at its lowest, will just the word ‘immortality’ tempt them? Have the emperors gone senile? Why did they assemble such a massive army and charge in this recklessly…? Could those guys…”
Pygni frowned intensely.
“Did you guys call them here?”
Karakul said nothing.
“Demons have gathered.”
On a two-wheeled cart, an elderly emperor in elaborate armor turned to the capital of Aylans. Two robust horses were pulling his carriage. His advancing years were evident from the wrinkles around his eyes and the loose skin on his neck.
His gaze turned to his soldiers, who all appeared fatigued. Hundreds of soldiers had been left behind during this reckless march. However, he couldn’t stop. No, it wasn’t just that. It was no different for the other emperors here as well. Their determination to get their hands on the prize was firm like a wall.
-If you wish for Eternal Immortality, follow the Holy Kingdom and wait for further orders. If you do, the Fragment of God will be with you all.
Those were the words spoken by some black crow, and that was almost thirty years ago.
Although the incident was old, the strangeness of a Magic Power the crow had left behind an indelible mark on them. Nonetheless, these old men were all sovereigns of their nations, so they knew to step with caution. Immortality was tempting, but as they didn’t know whether it even existed in the first place, there was no reason to follow through. However, that would only be if the strange crow had appeared in a single nation. It had appeared before the emperors of each nation and whispered sweet words in their ears.
-If you desire Immortality, follow me. If you don’t, the Fragment of God will cause great calamity unto you all.
After getting the news that other leaders had also been visited by the crow, they began to investigate the so-called ‘immortality’ and ‘the Fragment of God’, only to obtain a single piece of information.
-Do you mean how the Ancient God of Creation, Artarrk, killed himself and buried the ‘Fragment of God’?
Some young priest with golden blonde hair and golden eyes had told them as such. At first, they considered it as the ravings of a mad priest, but sifting the ancient texts, they discovered something—Eternal Immortality could only be obtained by God’s chosen. They could get an extraordinary power and lay claim to the entire world in their hands!
Now that they knew all this, the emperors couldn’t help but be excited. It might turn out to be some myth, but what if it wasn’t? After all, the Pope of the Holy Kingdom, Salem Gottshuranche, had been seeking immortality for a long time. They believed the story because of the strange crow’s appearance and Pope Salem’s obsession with the Fragment of God. Moreover, Pope Salem had overexerted himself under his mad fixation of invading the Kingdom of Aylans.
-Come to the capital of Aylans. If you do, I shall reveal what Eternal Immortality is.
The white crow finally made an appearance after a long wait. It was so holy and mystical that it might even be called a true Divine Beast. Seeing this, the emperors tossed aside their ‘suspicions’. The white crow’s claim of showing them ‘what Eternal Immortality truly is’ was no different than it alerting them that something existed within the capital of Aylans. The emperors got the hint and carried a forced match to invade the capital. They did not want someone else to jump ahead and get their hands on the Fragment of God.
“Immortality… Can I escape this old body of mine?”
The emperor was envious of Pope Salem. He had started up all kinds of magical research in hopes of getting young like Salem, but it was all futile. When he was slowly dying… a final ray of hope appeared.
“What will you do?”
Hearing a knight’s question, the emperor spoke excitedly.
“This is the moment of the birth of an Immortal Empire! Strike… the Demons!”
“The order from His Highness is here!”
“Plunder those insignificant Demons and show them the glory of the empire!”
As the soldiers of the empire began to move, the other kingdoms that had surrounded the capital of Aylans also followed their lead. The armies charged from every side, as though they didn’t want the initiative to be taken from their hands. The allies and vassals of the Holy Kingdom were all moving in accordance with ‘Tom’.
“Hah… Haha? What is that? What is it? You’re joking, right? You’re joking. That’s it, right? Akareal?”
Salem slowly approached Akareal. An elderly mage who had been protecting her immediately stepped forward to stop him.
“You filthy priest, get away from her.”
Salem lashed out with his arm and grabbed the mage’s neck. After a slight twist, he tossed him aside. His intense gaze then turned to Akareal, his eyes looking pathetic. Blood was leaking from his eyes as he held out his trembling hands toward her.
“Just what… what is that? Stomach? Hm? Akare—”
“Don’t call my name with your filthy mouth.”
Akareal slapped his hand away. Salem glanced at his hand and turned to her stomach.
“You rejected me? You’ve chosen that old fogey? That dirty and disgusting old man? You want that old man’s child? Is that right?”
Salem scratched his own face. His nails dug in between the twitching muscles, and blood poured out like a stream. He gritted his teeth until they were twisted as he glared at Akareal’s stomach with insanity. Then, he broke out into laughter.
“I-it’s fine, Akareal. You’re not in your right mind at the moment. That old man must have cast some strange magic on you. Though, it’s fine even if you’ve been sullied by another. The fact that you are still my woman won’t change! So…!”
Salem smiled with his eyes.
“Let’s tear your stomach open and waste that child. You will bear only my child.”
Akareal’s spine tingled at the sincerity of Salem’s words. She hoped that he was joking, but seeing his next actions, she couldn’t help but freeze. Salem had found a fallen sword.
“Don’t worry, Akareal. You won’t die. I’ll take good care of you. I’m just pulling out the rotten tumor stuck in your body! Then, I’ll treat you with my Holy Power… You’ll probably be fine! Ah, how good it is that I can give you my blessing! Perhaps even God Himself will be pleased.”
Salem raised the sword in his hand. Akareal tried to move her terror-struck body, but her legs refused to budge. Salem watched her struggles before slowly nearing her. He then stepped on the hem of her skirt and pointed his sword at her bulge, shouting maniacally at the same time.
“I am a priest. I shall cleanse your body from that filthy evil! I’ll purify the foul energy with my blessing.”
Salem, displeased by having his most important moment be interrupted by someone, frowned as he turned around. A man in white armor was stepping through the entrance of the broken-down throne room. He was struggling to walk, his body soaked in blood. Salem shook his head with exasperation.
“Just who is this crazy bastard? Do your job! Didn’t that crazy bastard just call my holy name?”
Salem’s displeasure made the Evilesse Holy Knights get to work, even if unwillingly.
“Aah, so annoying.”
“Ey, he’s crazy! He looks like a Holy Knight, but did he hurt his head in the war? We’re finally about to see something fun after so long.”
When the Evilesse Holy Knights approached him, Helpharon retreated with his mouth shut. His eyes were trembling, as though he couldn’t believe the scene before him. Helpharon recognized who he was. Despite his changed looks, his youthful face, the appearance that Helpharon had seen when he met the former Hero, allowed him to recognize that he was Hero ‘Thoma’.
‘He’s… alive? He didn’t die? Then, he really has the Fragment of God…!?’
Even though he had expected it and had been thinking about it all this time, when it came to witnessing it with his own eyes, he still couldn’t believe it.
‘The Fragment of God exists for real!’
Helpharon kept his mouth shut.
“Hah, ignore the crazy bastard ruining this important moment. Akareal, let us continue. It’ll sting a bit, but please endure… Hm?”
Salem was no longer interested in the newcomer. Just as he aimed his blade toward Akareal, she muttered with a dumbfounded expression.
“Tho…ma…? You’ve come… to save me.”
Salem tilted his head. His displeasure reached new heights, and he even dropped his sword.
“…Hah, since that old man, King Paulie, can’t protect you now, you’re searching for that dead Hero? Haha! You have truly been sullied. Relying on every man you see? Rely on me now! He is no more. He doesn’t exist in this world…”
Salem’s voice got lower as he spoke. That figure he couldn’t bother with moments ago, that voice calling his name, and that face, it all finally connected in his mind. Salem’s back broke out in a sweat.
“Hah… Haha… How could that be… How could that be… How could that be…!”
He continued to repeat the same words as he slowly twisted his head. His eyes grew wide until they were like saucers and his pupils were trembling intensely. His mouth opened, trembling faintly. He began to retreat in denial of reality while shaking his head.
“No…! No! That can’t be…! He’s already…”
The voice that was so familiar to his ears, the golden hair, and the terrifyingly clear and pure golden eyes in between them. Salem looked over and was struck with terror.
— Ω —