VOLUME 2: CHAPTER 97 - THE HERO'S RETURN
Class King; Ruler
Possessed Skills Ruler of the Demon Children of Chaos; Defiant Soul; World Devouring Howl; Sword Mastery A-; Dominator; King's Soul; Ruler's Wisdom III; Household of the Gods; One-Eyed Snake's Evil Eye; The King's Dance at the Edge of Death; Magic Manipulation; Soul of the Berserk King; Third Impact (The Third Chant); Instinct; Blessing of the Underworld Goddess
Divine Protection Goddess of the Underworld (Altesia)
Attributes Darkness; Death
Subordinate Beasts High Kobold Hasu (Lv77); Gastra (Lv20); Cynthia (Lv20); Orc King (Bui) (Lv82)
Abnormal Status Blessing of the One-Eyed Snake; Protection of the Twin-Headed Snake
The gray wolf, Cynthia, growled as she chased a rabbit. Hunting was well and good, but I pray she doesn't get lost. After successfully hunting the rabbit, she came running back to me with the rabbit in her mouth, gently placing it before my feet before grooming herself and then yawning.
It seems she intends to give me a share.
"You don't need to hold back. Have your fill." I patted Cynthia as I sat cross-legged next to a spear deer I'd hunted.
"Kuun," Cynthia said back.
Most of the tribes had already gone back to the fortress, so I took Cynthia with me to visit the orc village. The orcs helped out a lot in the previous battle. If it weren't for them, more blood would have been spilled, so I need to reward them. I'm going there to talk about that reward.
There's another reason why I'm taking Cynthia along, and that's because Gastra disappeared during the war. Hopefully this trip will cheer her up.
The orc village is situated north of the lake. It used to be Gi Za Zakuend's former village. Speaking of which, he's been really interested in learning the elf's knowledge, but it seems he just can't convince the elf to talk even after talking to Shumea.
It could be a problem if he becomes too obsessed with his pursuit of knowledge, but... he's definitely an odd one. The druids under him are all intelligent, so at one point, I was hoping they would become horde leaders, but... From the looks of things, they're more like scholars than generals.
As far as those who could lead a charge go, there's Rashka from the tribes. From the village theres' Gi Ga Rax, who also happens to be the only knight goblin so far, the sword god's adherent, Gi Go Amatsuki, and the mad shishi, Gi Zu Ruo.
As for those who could lead from the back, there's Ra Gilmi Fishiga from the tribes, and Gi Gu Verbena from the village, whose right-hand man would be the wide-eyed Gi Jii. Unfortunately, the latter has his hands full just assisting, so having him lead a horde himself will still take some time.
As for someone who could oversee the whole battlefield, unfortunately, there's none. I should actually take that seat for myself, but I find it difficult to just sit back and watch my subordinates die without doing anything. As soon as I see them in danger, an urge rushes through me, compelling me to go.
This body is actually really difficult to control.
As for who would take that seat, such a goblin might one day appear, or I might find one in the distant lands.
Hmm... Attacking other lands, huh...
"Shall we go, Cynthia?"
After seeing Cynthia finish up the rabbit she hunted just a while ago, I carried the spear deer over my shoulder, and we began walking for the orc village.
The capital was in high spirits because of the hero's return.
Crowds gathered at the sides of the road to see the heroic return of the holy knight adventurer. Castle guards stood watch to ensure no one got hurt, though many still did. Little girls threw flowers from the second floor of a building, while children ran after the carriage the hero and the saint rode, and lavish adventurers flicked chips in the various bars as they merrily drank and sang.
"Won't you answer the crowd?" Gulland asked.
An open carriage pulled by two white horses had been prepared specifically for the day's festivities. Gulland stood on the carriage with an air of composure, while Reshia hung her head down. Her appearance was a rare sight to begin with, but with the white kimono that the king had ordered to be made for her, she looked exactly like a noble saint who would offer prayers to the gods.
"..." Reshia did not respond, only quietly looking down as if the crowd did not exist.
Gulland smacked his lips, but he continued waving at the crowd.
Not long after the carriage passed by the castle gates, and as it closed, the saint and the hero exited the carriage. Soldiers packed the castle; they looked on with gazes of envy at the hero, while gazes of longing and pity fell upon Reshia.
"The king has been expecting you, great hero, Gulland. And you as well, Lady Reshia Fel Zeal. We are glad to see you safe and well."
It was a middle-aged knight who came out to greet them.
"Allow me to escort you."
The saint and the hero wordlessly followed, passing through stone-built halls and marble pillars to a giant door from which scarlet carpet had been rolled out, beside which imperial guards donned in full armor stood watch, each with a spear in hand.
"The hero has returned," the old knight declared.
The soldiers opened the giant door from outside, revealing the figure of King Ashtal on his glorious throne and the countless people of influence standing beside the scarlet carpet.
"Please," the middle-aged knight prompted.
Gulland and Reshia proceeded toward the throne, stopping mid-way to solemnly kneel before the king.
"I am pleased to see your safe return, Knight of Storms," the king said as he leaned onto the armrest of his throne.
"It is only by the grace of the king that I am here today," Gulland said.
"...Lady Reshia, the Saint, it is a pleasure to meet you. I am Ashtal, the king of this country," the king said.
"...My deepest thanks for rescuing me, Your Highness," Reshia said.
When Reshia brought up her face to speak to the king, several onlookers heaved out sighs upon seeing how beautiful she was.
"You seem to be deeply connected to the Ivory Tower, enough to make one feel envious..."
"Not at all..."
Scorn and suspicion reflected on the king's eyes as he spoke, but almost as if he were wearing a mask, the light of those emotions never affected the gentle smile on his face. When Reshia inadvertently looked back down, the king spoke again from high up in his throne.
"I would wish you a quick return to the tower, but after being caught by monsters, I'm sure you're exhausted. Please feel free to rest in my castle in the meantime."
"Much thanks for the king's consideration."
Reshia spoke curtly, this time without even looking up from the carpet.
"Now then, Knight of Storms."
"Yes, Your Majesty."
"The saint would surely be troubled to spend her time idly in the castle with no one to talk to. Hence, I order you to accompany her."
Voices of admiration rose from the onlookers upon seeing how considerate the king was.
"As the king commands."
"That'll be all."
The first to leave was the king himself, followed by Reshia and Gulland, and then the rest of the onlookers. If one listened closely, most of those present spoke of Reshia's beauty or Gulland's heroism, while extolling the king's thoughtfulness.
"This way," the middle-aged knight said as he brought Reshia and Gulland to a room not too far from the throne. It was gorgeously decorated, having been built for guests. When the middle-aged knight opened the door, a familiar girl dressed in armor saw them and went wide-eyed. It was Lili.
When the middle-aged knight saw Reshia and Lili run up to each other, he quietly excused himself.
Gulland snorted. "If you need anything, just ask the servants, o Holy Saint."
There was a vulgar smile upon his lips as he turned his back.
"Until then, pitiful princess, who fell in love with a goblin."
It wasn't until when Gulland finally closed the door that Reshia finally showed her grief.
"Lady Reshia... I'm sure it'll be alright, I- Uwah!"
Lili tried to console Reshia when Gastra suddenly stuck his head out of her chestpiece. The gray wolf looked around him to check if the coast was clear, then it freed itself from the tight and narrow space, shaking its head as it barked.
"...You're doing well." Reshia pulled Gastra out, and the gray wolf licked her cheeks, unabashedly sticking its nose onto Reshia.
Lili happily smiled as she watched the short exchange between the gray wolf and the saint. Just a little bit, a smile had returned to her face.
"What will you be doing now?" Lili asked.
"I'll have to stay in the capital for some time, though I plan to return to the Ivory Tower soon."
"The Ivory Tower..."
Home to the sages in a certain country to the snowy north. It sounded like something straight out of a fairytale, but it truly did exist, and many bureaucrats have come from it.
"Umm... You know, Lady Reshia, if you wish it, I wouldn't mind sneaking out of the castle with you to go back to the forest. I'm sure Gastra would prefer to go back too."
"No, if I do that the forest will be invaded again. I can't have that."
Reshia knew from her audience with the king just now that the humans attacked because someone from the Ivory Tower had sent out a request. A person who could move even the kings of other nations was rare even within the tower. She could think of several such people who could, but which one exactly was a mystery. Regardless, not one of those people was someone who could easily be dealt with.
"There's something I want to do in the capital. I'll be relying on you to get us permission to go out, alright, my dear knight?"
Reshia sweetly smiled and Lili nodded.
The king's office. If the throne was responsible for dealing with foreign entities, then the king's office could be said to be the main pillar of the government. Documents would be sent to it every day, and important people would use it for secret conferences, making it an indispensable room for the country's wellbeing.
It wasn't as gaudily decorated as the throne, but the furniture used were still of the highest class, making anyone who saw them go wide-eyed at the staggering value of the furnishing.
It was in that very room that a certain knight was kneeling on the blue carpet as King Ashtal rested his chin on his hands atop the desk.
"Gowen... You really lost 250 elite soldiers?" The king asked.
"My deepest apologies," Gowen said.
Gowen ran to report to the king as soon as he could that he did not even have time to change out of his battle-worn clothes. The speed at which he returned overtook even Reshia and Gulland causing much surprise to the king.
'The expedition has failed.'
Gowen ran back as fast as he could despite his creaking old bones just to report that message. Upon hearing it, the king immediately decided to hold a grand ceremony to receive the saint and the hero.
A hero was necessary to hide defeat.
"Gene Marlon has also been killed in action... He was a bit of an eccentric, but his skills were the real thing."
The king became thoughtful for a moment before continuing.
"How long will recovery take?"
"2 years, Your Highness."
"2 years... Do you think the monsters will stay put until then?"
"They can't win a battle on the plains."
"So, we need time then... In that case, I'll have to appoint a new holy knight."
He would have preferred to send his army to the forest at once, but there was much unrest to the south and north. Gene Marlon was in charge of the south. Once the various cities catches wind of his death, who knows how the enemy would move? The bandits of the snow god'sYggdrasill mountains have also recovered during Gulland's absence, and have recently started to become active.
The kingdom could be here today because of its strong army. If that military prowess were to weaken, the surrounding enemies would surely bare their fangs and attack. What they needed to prioritize now was not the battle with the monsters but with the other humans.
"Destruction Knight, Zelkov, Iron-Armed Knight, Gowen, Storm Knight, Gulland," King Ashtal looked at Gowen, "Twin-Swords Knight, Vald, Decapitation Knight, Sivara, Sharp-Eyed Knight, Jize, and the late lightning-fast knight, Gene Marlon. Do you know anyone with skills equal these people?"
Gowen couldn't answer. The holy knight system was an important cornerstone in protecting the country. Each and every one of its members held power comparable to that of an entire army. Its members were both renowned and powerful, but one of those members was missing now.
Gene was in charge of the south. His absence would surely mean the worsening of the war among the various cities.
Gulland was another big name, but he was in charge of the snow god's mountains to the north, which bandits frequented. He could not leave his post unattended. And of course, neither could Gowen, as he needed to keep watch over the Forest of Darkness. The rest of the knights also had their respective missions.
"Speaking of which, that girl had a knight with her, didn't she?"
"Yes... Lili Aureya. A commoner's daughter, and an adventurer."
"Hmm... Aureya... Aureya... huh."
Ashtal muttered the name to himself several times before suddenly turning to look up toward the ceiling as if recalling the past.
"The saint... What do you think of that girl?"
"A wise young girl, Your Highness. Though there must be something else to her for the Ivory Tower to be so attached to her."
The power to heal was one thing, but even that could be found after looking through a hundred people or so.
"Something else to her... I have an idea as to what that might be, so I want to do a little something as insurance."
"Insurance, you say..."
Ashtal smiled. "I will appoint Lili Aureya as a holy knight."
Her name held no power, Gowen thought. And even her strength wasn't sufficient.
"Give her Sky SplitterVashinant, that should bring her name up to par."
The cursed sword of the royal family, Vashinant. It was difficult to control, but whoever wielded it would surely become famous.
Gowen couldn't help but ask upon seeing how partial the king was being. If it was only as insurance, it would be enough to just capture her.
"The Aureya... I was wondering where I'd heard it before, and I remembered just now. The old blood of Aureya. A long time ago before the royal household of Germion ruled these lands, the ruler was Guansham Aureya. He wielded Vashinant in one hand and fought the forest. Theirs was a clan of swords that caused blood to rain."
And now, 100 years later that same cursed sword would return to its rightful owner.
"Their clan collapsed 80 years ago due to problems concerning the throne's successor, but with a crisis at hand, the cursed sword shall return to their hands. Don't you find such a story romantic? Have her work hard. In the worst case, just 2 years will do."
Gowen could not say anything to retort the king's confidence.
"As the king commands..."
A few days later, Lili Aureya would be summoned by the king.
Tl Note: Made a mistake in the last chapter. It wasn't Gi Jii who became a noble, but Gi Ji. Gi Jii has the wide-eyed skill, while Gi Ji has the stealth skills.