66. Kingdom of Aylans (1)
Sunlight was streaming through the window in a VIP guest room in the Kingdom of Aylans. The room was spotless and was filled with luxurious furniture and an opulent bed, fit for kings. The room was commonly used by the nobility and no expense had been spared in its preparation.
However, despite this, the current occupant wasn’t satisfied with it by any means and began to loudly complain about it.
The bed was too small and hard, which kept him from enjoying his quality time with his women. He also felt that the room was too small and the ventilation too poor, which had the effect of rendering him intoxicated too quickly and removed much of the enjoyment that he could have had within its confines.
It didn’t take long at all before he began to whine and moan through the door, making his grievances known to anyone outside. It had been advertised as a room specially made for important guests, but he saw it as nothing of the sort. It was small, shabby, pitiful, and the audacity of his hosts to stoop so low astounded him. It was a disgrace to the Kingdom of Aylans―the so-called greatest kingdom of magic on the continent―and everyone involved with its preparation should be ashamed, in his view. He felt truly, truly looked down on. As the true ruler of the world, he felt that he deserved far better.
“… This isn’t suitable for me, Salem Gattschuranche!”
The middle-aged man in his 50’s was staring dumbly at the ceiling with an expression that was the picture-perfect example of extreme dissatisfaction. On the shelf next to him was an incense burner filled with the narcotic known as Petrification Herb, which was currently emitting a faint haze. Despite it being the middle of the day, as he lay on his back, he felt as if he were flying higher than the clouds and his eyes were completely dilated. There was a naked woman lying beside him and, completely lost within the drug, he tried to grab at her as if she were a doll and pull her into his embrace.
“Truly… insulting! I feel like I’m being sullied just by staying here!” He began slurring his words. “So.. purification… purify… purif…!”
His eyes had become bloodshot and erratic. His entire body trembled with euphoria. While he was in this haze the door to the luxurious room suddenly opened, and the Captain of the Holy Knights entered.
He was an old knight with brown eyes and hair. His face was wrinkled, but he maintained a healthy body and a straight back—a stature befitting of a Holy Knight.
The instant that the well-respected Captain, Helpharon, entered the room, he found himself with a face full of herbs.
The ashes and powders of the angrily tossed Petrification Herb fell onto the ground, leaving a dirty smudge on his face. Helpharon looked at Salem without a single change in his expression.
“… Who said you could enter here whenever you wanted?”
Salem glared at him over his shoulder, still holding a woman in his arms. His intense eyes were steeped in madness, but to Helpharon, who had watched over him for so many years, it wasn’t all that intimidating.
He picked up the incense and placed it back onto the table. Then, he turned to Salem, lowered his head, and went through the usual formalities.
“Pope of the Holy Kingdom, Salem Gattschuranche, as you are blessed by Arrtark… The Holy Knight, Helpharon, has come to meet the Son of God, Salem.”
Upon those words, Salem perked up a bit.
“The Son of God? Ah… are you talking to me? Haha! Yes, that’s right. I am the Son of God! That is what it means to be the Pope!”
Salem squeezed the woman in his arms with both hands and suddenly hid behind her. He started moving the woman’s arms as if she were a puppet and smiled lewdly. Then he made a drunken attempt at ventriloquism and started speaking in a high pitch-voiced, attempting to sound like the girl.
“Aah~! So I slept with the Son of God? Oh my! This is certainly a blessing! I’ve been purified! Aah, I’m so honored~! I’m definitely going to heaven when I die!”
It was a truly pitiful and cringy display. None of the Holy Knights that were guarding the entrance of the room knew how to react to the sight and they were all drenched in a cold sweat.
They had watched over Salem for some time, but they didn’t know how to adjust to his gradual descent into insanity.
“….Hahahahaha… Ha…Ha… Huh?”
Salem tilted his head and started shaking the woman around, expecting some sort of reaction from her. Not getting anything, he held his ear to her chest with a detached curiosity only to discover that he couldn’t hear anything from her at all. She had no heartbeat, and she wasn’t breathing either.
“What the? She really ended up dying?”
Without a care, Salem suddenly kicked the woman off the bed with his feet. He turned to Helpharon and leaned closer to speak.
“So… why did you come? Did you want to see the Son of God? Were you excited? Haha! Sorry, but I don’t sleep with men! Ah, maybe if you were a pretty girl, but do you really think that I’ll sleep with some dying old man?! Hahahaha!”
Salem snickered as his body shook with laughter. He looked at Helpharon and spoke again. This time with a different tone.
“Ey, old man. How about you get on this boat with me and get younger? I’m already over 80 years old! But I’m still this young! I’m in my 50’s! I’m still how I looked dozens of years ago. I can also embrace women like this! Aah… that magic… It is the best! To be able to extend the lifespan of someone to this extent…! Haha! Magic is truly wonderful!”
“The banquet is going to begin soon.”
“The banquet with the Kingdom of Aylans. To seal our alliance with the Kingdom of Aylans diplomatically…”
“Alliance…? Ah, that’s right. That happened.”
Pope Salem hopped off the bed and began to sloppily pick up the clothes on the ground. He was excited.
“Then, it must mean she’s there as well. Aah, I’m so excited!”
“The Hero Ludin is dead.”
Pope Salem paused upon hearing those words. He dumbly looked at Helpharon and spat out a single question.
“… Who’s that?”
He truly looked oblivious. It looked as though this was the first time he had ever heard the name.
“… He’s the Hero that was drafted for the excursion this time.”
“Ah, is that so? Was he a famous figure? Well… We’re producing Heroes as fast as dwarves stamp out weapons, so who knows who is who anymore. I’ve heard there were at least 3 Heroes this year? Aha, I don’t even know the name of the woman I slept with last night, so how am I supposed to know the name of some Hero!? Hahaha!”
Salem began cackling once again. The drug caused his emotions to fluctuate erratically.
“A large number of Holy Knights were killed as well. The Holy Knights that were involved with the Heroes Allied Forces invading the border of the Demon Kingdom.”
“The Holy Knights in that army? Are those even Holy Knights? To call the probationary knights that we knighted right before we sent them to battle Holy Knights is a bit too much. The Holy Knights of our Holy Kingdom will cry! Please refer to them as probationary from now on. Also, does it even matter if they die? Can’t we just grab any of the knights walking the streets and make them a probationary Holy Knight? They’re all dying to be a Holy Knight, you know!”
“We get support by offering them a chance to elevate their status and get more manpower as well. In return, they get the honor of fighting against the Demon Lord’s army. How swell is that? Those kinds of insects, who cares if they are gone?” Salem’s lips curled up as he spoke. “But… if the Hero’s forces were defeated, then what happened to their funds? Is there still funding left for this year’s Hero’s Allied Forces and the next?”
“I already transferred the funds for the Hero’s Allied Forces to our home nation. Also, I’ve already prepared the funding, under the support of each kingdom, to form a new Hero’s Allied Forces.”
“I see. From that, transfer a third of that to our vaults. Use the rest on the formation of the army and buying combat slaves. Ah, prepare some good equipment as well. Let me know if we’re lacking funds. I shall personally go out to the other kingdoms to gather more.”
Once he finished dressing himself, he picked up the dead girl and began to handle her like a doll. He raised his voice and began to speak mockingly once again.
“Oh my~! What will you do if they don’t give up the funding and manpower when you ask for it?” He then lowered his voice and spoke as he licked the woman’s face. “Then, this Pope will lay down the law! For I am the Son of God!”
The Captain sighed.
“Oh, my~! So scary. As expected from the Pope! The Son of God~! There won’t be any place that won’t give up the funds to kill the heretics~! If there is…” Salem’s eyes narrowed. “You’ll bring them judgment in the name of God~! Hahahahahaha!”
Salem exploded with laughter steeped in madness before finally tossing the woman aside and heading out. Once he left the room, the Holy Knights followed after him. As he walked the hallways of the beautiful palace, the plaza opened before him. There were all kinds of luxurious foods laid out in the place, and he could see the nobles of the Aylans Kingdom and the priests of the Holy Kingdom enjoying themselves. They noticed Salem and hurried to lower their heads.
“If it isn’t the Pope?”
“Haha! An honor to meet you…”
Salem met with countless nobles of the Aylans Kingdom, as it was advantageous for them to make as many connections with the high nobles, the royals, and the imperials, as possible. Salem ignored these people for the most part, however. His eyes wandered in every direction until it finally landed on someone familiar, causing his face to light up.
Salem’s face immediately changed to that of a child filled with desire.
He began to move in their direction. He collided with and shoved a pair of nobles who had been talking to each other out of his way as he hastened his steps. They glared at him disapprovingly, but seeing the Holy Knights surrounding him, they couldn’t help but quickly avert their gazes.
It was all too easy to notice his blatant actions. As such, it took almost no time at all for the highest authority within the Kingdom of Aylans to take note as well. With chubby cheeks, a red nose, and a rotund belly, the king gave off a benevolent impression. He was in his 80s this year, but with his constant upkeep, he only looked to be in his 60s.
Paulie Aylans frowned as he noticed the Pope approaching him. It was unpleasant watching him approach as he shoved around the nobles of Aylans. He didn’t understand how the Pope could be so disgraceful. However, these were things that couldn’t be expressed outwardly. Salem was the most powerful man on the continent, so much so that even the Kingdom of Aylans, labeled as the Kingdom of Magic, couldn’t hope to stand against him. As such, this alliance was very important to set up.
King Paulie stopped his conversation with his wife as Pope Salem approached him.
“Why, if it isn’t Pope Salem Gattschuranche! It must have been difficult arriving so late at night. I hope you’ve rested―”
He couldn’t finish his greeting, however, as Salem continued walking past him.
The enjoyable atmosphere of the banquet chilled. King Paulie watched Salem’s outstretched hands suddenly clamp onto the wrist of the person next to him.
“Aah, I was looking for you. I came here to see you.”
The one that Salem’s drug-addled, bloodshot eyes were looking at was King Paulie’s wife. A noblewoman in her 30’s, the woman with plum colored hair and eyes and wearing a fancy golden colored dress froze in response to the Pope’s actions and her mouth clamped shut.
“I was looking for you, Akareal.”
Queen Akareal’s eyes grew wide, then her expression soured.
“Aah, amazing. It’s been dozens of years since we’ve met, but you managed to maintain your youth? Haha! You’re just like me…”
“… You’re overstepping your bounds! Let me go… ugh!”
Akareal’s expression crumbled as though she was suffering. She looked at her own arm. Her wrist that the Pope was clutching too roughly, with too much force, hurt. It felt as though he might sprain it by mistake.
Paulie, who had been frozen with his warm expression, suddenly turned red as he looked at Salem’s arm.
“W-what are you doing!”
Paulie stepped in front of Akareal in a hurry in hopes of defending her and grabbed Salem’s wrist. Salem frowned at being interrupted, but as his eyes met with Paulie’s, he smiled and relaxed his grip.
“Aaah, I’m sorry. It has been so long since I met my close friend…”
“You’ve still stepped much too far out of bounds! She may have once been in the party of the former Hero, but she is currently among the royal family!”
The soldiers who hadn’t been able to react to King Paulie’s angry shouting beforehand began to move now. When the King began to retreat with Akareal in his arms, the knights around them began to form a barrier and the mages raised their staves. The Holy Knights also reached for the grips of their swords.
Paulie frantically examined Akareal’s wrist. Once they removed her white gloves, the red hand marks could be seen. King Paulie grit his teeth upon seeing this.
“Are you okay? Dear…? Your wrist…”
The King softly brushed his wife’s wrist and began casting healing magic. Her swollen wrist began to recover. Akareal stood dumbfounded and in shock but began to shake her head in an attempt to reassure her king. She forced herself to smile.
“I am fine.”
“… I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to protect you.”
King Paulie became enraged by the idea that he couldn’t protect his own wife and glared at Salem.
“Haha! It was truly my bad, King Paulie.”
Pope Salem smiled without a care as though he had just been playing a joke and lowered his head. The smirk on his lips didn’t truly reflect the apologetic gesture, however. Even his speech barely held any formality.
“Is this a joke?!”
“What are you going to do if it was?”
The Pope smirked and glanced around the room. The mood was glacial. The ambient conversations had all stopped and there was no music being played anymore. Everyone’s eyes were all on Salem and King Paulie.
“What? Why are you guys so serious…? It wasn’t me that put a damper on things, was it? Now, smile. Laugh! Why are you looking so sour at such an enjoyable party?”
The nobles looked stiff. None of them could believe what they were seeing. It was not just the nobles and the royalty of Aylans that were participating in this banquet. There were those from the neighboring kingdoms as well. They were supposed to be celebrating their ‘alliance’. However, the mood was flowing in a very different direction now. The most insulting and degrading act in the history of the continent was unfolding right before their eyes, arrogant and proud. Salem wasn’t showing even a speck of the dignity expected of a sovereign leader.
None of the spectators could understand just how the Holy Kingdom could continue to function with such a disgraceful leader in power.
“Haha, you guys really don’t know how to take a joke.” Salem looked directly at Paulie. “Don’t be so stiff, King Paulie. Isn’t that right, Akareal.”
When Salem smiled and turned to Akareal, King Paulie stepped between them.
“Don’t talk to my wife with those filthy lips.”
“Filthy? Just what are you saying, King Paulie, the one that’s dirty isn’t me, but…” Salem’s mad gaze settled on Akareal. He pointed his fingers and continued. “Wouldn’t it be the queen over there? Why? Because anyone that would sleep with an old man like you and refuse me is a whore!”
The surrounding knights of the Kingdom of Aylans drew their swords. Their weapons were suddenly enveloped with auras of fire and frost as mana began to overflow from them. Staves were raised and ice and fire arrows appeared in the air, aimed right at Pope Salem. The surrounding knights and mages glared at him, their eyes filled with rage.
The swords of the Holy Knights were also drawn. Their blades held Holy Power and were shining brightly, filled with energy. The priests wielding staves signaled that they were ready to support them at any time. The Holy Knights and the priests all glared at King Paulie, ready to attack.
The nobles that had been dispatched by the other kingdoms retreated stiffly, not wanting to get involved. It was clear that this was no longer a celebration of the union between kingdoms. It was quickly becoming a battlefield.
“Truly, there is no one more insolent than you, Pope Salem. Do you not possess even a speck of decency?”
King Paulie calmly spat out his reply as he gripped the staff that a magician had brought for him. The weapon began to gather an enormous amount of mana, causing it to shift into the form of a massive spear. The surrounding mana began to resonate and ripple outwards in waves. He was the most powerful man within the Kingdom of Aylans, and he had an enormous pool of mana and a depth of knowledge regarding magic that even the oldest of magicians couldn’t hope to match. And now, he was furious.
Salem exploded in laughter. He shook his head as he held his gut.
“Queen? Hahaha! King Paulie, are you truly having satisfying nights with that woman? I find that hard to believe?”
Salem looked around and began to shout.
“An old man like you with a beautiful woman like that in bed…? It’s truly chilling!”
Nobody there could believe what they were hearing. It was absolutely unprecedented for a sovereign leader to speak in this way. This insult to the nobility was nothing short of a declaration of war.
King Paulie slammed his staff onto the ground and cast a magic spell that blocked out all sound towards Akareal, who was suddenly looking pale. Then he glared at Salem.
“Are you trying to start a war?”
“Do you really think you’d win if I was?”
King Paulie glared at him with murderous intent as Salem exploded in laughter.
“Hahahahaha-! King of Aylans, do you wish to become my ally?”
“Then get down on your knees. Beg for it. And then hand over your wife.”
“It’s time for you to leave now.”
King Paulie spoke his warning but Salem ignored it. The Pope smiled lecherously and continued to ogle his wife.
She stood frozen in place unsure about what to do.
King Paulie raised his voice once more.
“… I said get out, Salem Gattschuranche! From today forth, I declare war upon your Holy Kingdom! Be grateful that I don’t detain you here and now!”
Salem exploded in laughter in response to King Paulie’s declaration.
“Hahaha! It isn’t that you choose not to detain me, but rather that you can’t! That’s right. If you do arrest me, you’ll be isolated! The continent will rise up once they hear that you dared to arrest the Pope of the Holy Kingdom, the most powerful nation on the continent! Rather, if you want to declare war using my insolence as an excuse, then I guess our two nations, Aylans, and the Holy Kingdom, will be the only nations involved. Well, our Holy Kingdom…” Salem licked his lips as he continued. “… Could we even ask for support from other nations without embarrassing ourselves?”
“Hahahaha! Then… Next time we meet, I’ll be after your head… and your wife’s bosoms…”
Salem exploded in laughter as he left the banquet. Akareal could only stand there, trembling with clenched teeth.
— Ω —