77. Canibar Fief (7)
The Holy Kingdom’s soldiers near the castle gate backed off hesitantly. Janus also turned toward the sound, his attack at the ready.
The moment his eyes met the man coming out from the castle gate, he sensed a mountain of pressure crushing his body. The air became heavy, and his heart beat so fast, it felt it was going to explode. His spine shivering, and he broke out in a cold sweat.
The hair all over his body stood up, like an animal instinctively sensing a life-threatening danger.
‘It’s dangerous, it’s dangerous, it’s dangerous, it’s dangerous, it’s dang…!’
“It’s dangerous…!” Janus mumbled as he tried to pull himself together, stepping back at the same time.
His instincts were shrieking at him, telling him about the might of the other party. A powerful character who was above the level of Heroes…!
‘Why in the world is someone like him here in the Aylans Kingdom!?’
The man strolled toward him, his light travel robe and golden hair blowing around in the wind. His bright, transparent amber eyes squinted, glaring at Janus sharply.
“Did Aylans Kingdom secretly raise a monster like him…!?”
‘Monster? Right, that’s the right expression! That’s a monster! A monster in human skin! ‘Incomparable with things such as demons! We need to retreat…!’
Janus froze. He had received an order from Pope Salem Gottshuranche before he came to this place.
“Don’t think of coming back until you crush the heretics. Risk your life to cleanse the bastards. If you can’t… you yourself will be cleansed.”
‘…The Pope is known as God’s son! His words are God’s words! I already lost the battle. But God would want me to cleanse at least one more heretic!’
Janus gathered Holy Power in both his hands. The flames raged like an enraged beast baring its fangs. The blazing fireball was so hot, it could burn its surroundings to ash.
Sparks roamed about his hands like naughty little fairies, scorching and melting anything in they touched in Janus’s vicinity.
These were flames that could melt even iron!
The ceremony of blessing—the ‘Iblis’ experiment—had bestowed Janus this overwhelming power.
“Monsters are living beings! Just like everyone else, they will also be cleansed by my flames! I’ll use all of you bastards as offerings for God! May God Artarrk bless you…!”
Janus swung his hands, launching the compressed flames into the air. They spread out into turbulent waves of fire, then dripped down like magma and melted the ground. In the chaotic scene, an ocean of fire charged and struck Tom.
“…It seems the Holy Knights these days are learning strange skills.”
Tom gripped his holy sword and slashed. The billowing ocean was cut by a flash of light and parted to the right and left.
The embers scattered around, as if they had been discarded by the frightened sea of flames. Tom frowned at the pricking feeling and looked at his own body. The splattered embers stuck to him, setting his cloak on fire in a last-ditch effort to reach him.
“…Such a troublesome power.”
He threw away the burning cloak. The fire was so hot that it would smolder his skin and melt even his bones if it really got on him.
When Tom averted his gaze, Janus instantly grabbed the opportunity, flames accompanying his swinging fist. Tom dodged the incoming attack while stepping back.
Janus’s fist was so hot that Tom could feel the heat searing his face even after avoiding it. Not just that, the flames even burned the air, making it hard to breathe.
‘…That would hurt if it touches me. No, would I get a fatal injury as soon as it touches me?’
Tom recalled the battle against the Hero Ludin. As he recalled the memory of getting attacked by flames used by the female mage, he broke out in a cold sweat. The feeling of his body burning and dying in the hot flame was still vivid.
“…As expected, dying is scary.”
Although he could be reborn as Artarrk, the process was far from enjoyable—it was the worst.
At that moment, his lungs stood still and his heart stopped beating. He had lost all his senses in an instant, as if he was isolated in absolute darkness and silence.
‘Aah, not that kind of feeling, please.’
He had no thoughts of easily accepting things like death.
“More than anything, someone who used to be a Hero can’t lose to a Holy Knight.”
Tom inserted his holy sword in the ground and opened the holy book, summoning dozens of light swords into the air, all aimed at Janus. Tom then ripped pages from the book, throwing them onto the ground.
The flames around Janus were cut apart by the swords of light and extinguished. In that moment, the pages glowed brightly, and chains of light shot out toward Janus. As the chains restrained Janus’s arms, his holy power vanished.
Janus looked at the chains and the swords of light sticking around him in astonishment. Then, he stared at Tom.
The holy sword and holy book in his hands; Janus knew better than anyone else what those things represented.
“How… could this be…?”
‘Hero Ludin’s sword? On top of that, doesn’t that holy book belong to Rahon, a member of the Iblis Knightage?’
“That… How did you…?” Janus wasn’t perplexed about how Tom ‘had it’ but how he was ‘using it’.
For example, what was a holy sword?
The sword chose its user, remaining faithful to that person forever. It meant that it was a weapon that nobody but the owner could use properly.
So was Rahon’s holy book. To use magic tools forged by the archbishops—who did so by combining complicated and difficult formulas—the user needed to be able to translate and comprehend the complex formulas in their entirety. Even if someone could, they would only be able to manifest a small portion of their power, as the magic tool was bonded with a chosen owner.
They would have to waste a ridiculous amount of holy power to increase the strength of the tool. On top of that, it should have been impossible to enhance the tool’s ability, like he did, for anyone but the owner chosen by the magic tool.
Therefore, it meant that nobody could use that holy sword and holy book, save for Ludin and Rahon themselves.
‘But he is using them freely…?’
Janus looked at Tom. His eyes grew wide as saucers while he shivered. He understood enough about holy power to grasp the ramifications of what Tom was doing. There were many kinds of holy power, and the stronger a person’s holy power was, the more unique attributes it would have, making it easier to recognize.
The holy power belonging to a person would always be unique. But… the man in front of him had characteristics of Ludin’s and Rahon’s holy power intermingled within.
‘As if… as if…!’
“…You, do you kill and eat humans…!?”
‘…As if he had killed and eaten the Hero Ludin and the Iblis Holy Knight Rahon!’
Startled by the question, Tom answered in a sarcastic way, “Amazing. How did you”—Tom’s eyes squinted like a crescent moon, and his pupils turned sharp like a beast looking at its prey—”know?”
‘Horrible! A monster that grew while killing and eating humans and absorbing their power? Such a freak is dangerous even for the Iblis Holy Knightage formed by Pope Salem! If he kills and eats each of them one by one… nobody would be able to stop this monster…!
‘This is impossible to handle! I can’t kill him by myself! I need a troop of knights! I need the Iblis Knightage! I need to inform them! I must tell them about this!’
Pope Salem was confident in winning the war. However, Tom appeared capable enough to grow into someone who could eventually threaten the whole continent. Someone who could rival, or even endanger, the Holy Kingdom’s influence and authority.
The Iblis Knightage would be hunted and consumed—used by him as ‘nourishment’.
Tom approached Janus, who was scared witless. Janus hurriedly squirmed around to get away, instinctively terrified of this unexpected enemy. He broke out in a cold sweat and struggled to free himself from the chains with all his might.
In this moment that felt like centuries, his gaze met Tom’s amber eyes. Janus was startled and stiffened. The monstrosity was looking at him as if he was a delicious morsel. As if he yearned for Janus’s power.
His mind buzzing, only prayers to God echoed in Janus’s head. Soon, they completely occupied his mind.
“Are… you a devil?”
“Well… what do you think?”
Janus gritted his teeth. He tried to gather holy power in his hands and make flames with all his strength, but it was all for naught.
Resistance, defiance, such meaningless efforts were impossible.
“Fuck, fuck…! This devil bastard-! I’m not dying! I won’t die! I can’t die…! I won’t get eaten…!”
‘I need to get out of here, no matter how! Or I’ll end up being eaten by him! I’ll be murdered. I will…!’
A horrified scream echoed through the streets, invoking sympathy from listeners. The chains of light reflected the blooming lotuses of blood; his restrained arms were free, in a sense.
He had torn off his arms to forcefully escape the chains. His bones broke, and his flesh was torn from the shoulders. The gruesome sight painted his despair in all its entirety.
Janus hurriedly turned around and escaped as fast as he could. The Orc soldiers were on the lookout, but he didn’t care.
‘Things like demons are still better than going against that kind of devil!’
“…I need to tell them! I need to tell everyone that the devil exists! That bastard… that bastard is going to destroy the whole continent…!”
Tom finally threw an attack. When Janus was startled and looked behind, Tom’s holy sword was already inches away from his neck, its cold glimmer signifying his end.
Janus looked at Tom’s twisted smile and mumbled, as if leaving his last will.
There was nobody except the freak of nature listening, though.
The sword’s sharp edge pierced his skin and cut through his neck like a hot knife through butter. His head fell to the ground and rolled away, a fountain of red shooting to the sky.
The wide eyes, open mouth, running nose, and disheveled hair portrayed his regret and horror before departing from this world. His head stopped in front of the castle gate, facing an audience.
Count Shabel and his soldiers who were standing at the castle gate froze, looked at Janus’s head, and then moved their gazes to Tom and the demons.
Tom approached the demons and reached out his hand. One of the soldiers held out something: the Demon Kingdom’s flag affixed on a long pole. That waving flag had a skull of a mountain goat drawn on it.
Count Shabel and the Aylans Kingdom’s soldiers couldn’t react for a moment and just stared at it quietly. It was their first time in life seeing this flag. Nevertheless, they knew how it would affect the continent.
An unusual phenomenon had started unfolding, in this ‘country’ that had horrifying ‘authority’.
Tom carried the harbinger of chaos on his back and looked at Count Shabel.
“Count Shabel of Canibar.”
Count Shabel swallowed dryly. Tom smiled and said,
“You are now a traitor to the human race, just like me.”
— Ω —