translated by iseuli
‘It’s not even locked. I have a bad feeling about this.’
Jade opened the giant iron gate of the stronghold to enter.
It was already deep into the night, but none of the torches or oil lanterns were lit. He had always been living in monasteries and prisons, and was well accustomed to the darkness so he walked forward without any hesitation to his steps.
Daniel was trailing behind him. There was no sound other than the pitter patters of the worn out shoes belonging to the two priests.
Jade had been walking for a long while, but there wasn’t even a single guard to stop him. He had to push using two hands to open a set of heavy wooden doors which led to the conference hall.
When Father Daniel had met the Lord of Balticon in this huge conference hall, it had been clean, however the place was now in ruins. The flag that was originally hung up on the wall was shredded to pieces, and the guards were sprawled lifeless on the ground. All that was left of the tables and furniture were pieces of wooden splinters that had exploded like glass.
Lord Balticon was on his knees being strangled by the old woman. The old woman’s arms were very thin and frail like it would have no strength to it at all, however Balticon couldn’t seem to even hold up a candle against her.
It seemed the Lord’s wife, Anna, was tied up by an invisible rope, as she was stuck to the wall with her hands spread out as if she was crucified. She opened her mouth to scream, but her voice would not come out.
Anna’s son, the Young Lord of Balticon, was seated on a chair, frozen like a statue. There was nothing tying the two down, but they couldn’t move. One would assume the two would have fainted with their eyes open, if not for their eye blinks.
Jade opened the door and entered, four people simultaneously turned their attention to him.
Jade didn’t waste his time and quickly checked the conditions of the guards sprawled on the floor. He placed his hands on their neck, and found he could still feel their pulses.
“Her purpose was not to kill.”
At Jade’s words, the old woman let go of Balticon’s throat.
Balticon felt the strength of his body leave him, and fell to the ground on all fours. The Lord usually carried a threatening aura to him, but in the face of the old woman, he was nothing but a small man.
The old woman spoke.
“I planned to throw away this uselessly weak old woman’s body and take Lord Balticon’s body as my own. I would become a strong Lord, thenforth I would be able to rule over Zerba for the next few decades. These soldiers would soon become my men, of course I can’t have them die on me. It’s very hard to find such hard working, but cheap soldiers like in Zerba.”
Balticon attempted to crawl away to his escape, but the old woman immediately kicked his bum, making him fall onto his face and break his nose.
Balticon’s nose bled, but still he continued to crawl toward Jade’s direction.
Jade looked to Ricardo who was speechlessly watching on with wide eyes.
“What did you do to Ricardo?”
“I was contemplating whether to steal Balticon’s body or Ricardo’s body. If Ricardo was at least fifteen years old, I wouldn’t have hesitated to choose his body over the Lord’s. However…, he is too young.”
“If you could steal the bodies of humans, why haven’t you done so sooner? Why did you wait until now?”
“If Balticon had listened to me, then things wouldn’t have escalated to this degree. However, he didn’t listen to me. He ignored the cries of his citizens, and would only bow his head to the Emperor’s commands! So I made a plan to kill you so that I could steal a strong body!”
Jade walked to the old woman and spoke.
“There have been many members when I am unable to understand the thought process of ‘your kind.’ If you wanted to kill me, you should have done so when I was trapped in prison. Why do you go out of your way annoyingly like this? The answer is probably because you want to see the sacrifice of innocent lives. When one person is killed, it does not become such a huge incident, however when the life of an entire family is lost, it becomes a huge tragedy.”
The old woman held up her thumb.
“I did attempt to take your life before. This old woman’s younger brother attempted to kill you, but he had failed. I had not noticed up until now, but now I could see. A special power is protecting you from ‘our kind,’ isn’t that right?”
Jade walked past Balticon. Balticon had not fainted yet, but he didn’t look to be in the right mind.
Anna had fainted due to fatigue and horror while hung up. Jade hoped Ricardo would also faint, but luck was not on his side.
“What is the holy power that protects you, Father?”
The old woman asked, sneering.
Jade took out a book in his chest pocket.
“A bible? Just that?”
The old woman spoke surprised.
“I had killed more than ten Catholic priests, and they all had bibles but it had been of no use. The Priest of Roticon used holy water, there had been a monk who claimed to be a saint, nobody could even put up a resistance against me.”
Jade did not listen to the old woman’s words as he walked to her. The old woman raised a finger. The claws of savage beasts had grown out of her fingers.
“The only thing I was trying to figure out was whether you were a high ranking devil with a name. You told me the answer to my question. Duorde confessed to be your younger brother. If you were a high ranking devil, he would have claimed to be your subordinate.”
“What of it?”
“It means you are nameless. To explain, it means I can stop thinking so hard and just kill you. I don’t need to make any more preparations.”
Jade opened his book with one hand. The book opened on its own and paused somewhere in the middle. That moment, Jade grasped onto the old woman’s face. As if a hot steel plate was placed on her face, a volatile sizzling resounded and white vapor smoked from the old woman’s face.
The old woman screamed, and stabbed into Jade’s arm with her claws. However, it was the old woman’s claws that broke.
Jade spoke to the old woman angrily.
“This is my answer to your previous confession. Be gone!”
White flames sparked, burning the old woman’s face first, then slowly burned her neck and arms. The flames seemed to consume and burn even the old woman’s bones.
Only her clothes remained, landing onto the ground.
Jade closed the book. Nothing was left of the old woman, he quietly opened and closed his hands. The end of his fingers trembled.
Father Daniel was on the side, quietly laying Anna down onto the floor.
“I’ll take care of her.”
Jade nodded, and approached Ricardo.
“Our Young Lord, how are you?”
Ricardo had been sitting in silence, watching it all through to the end.
Jade kneeled down on one knee, and helped to wipe some cold sweat from the young boy’s forehead. Ricardo moved his lips to speak, but could only manage to stand up and hug Jade tight.
“I’m sorry, Father. I tried to stop them. I did my best to prove them wrong. I said that Father Jade isn’t a bad person over and over. But they just kept adding things to your criminal charges. They even said that I was a child that had fallen to heretic teachings. I was so scared, and I couldn’t defend you.
“I am a bad child. Please punish me. I’m still scared of that grandmother, so I could not move from that chair. I couldn’t block her attack when she attacked my mother, I couldn’t do anything. I’m just a scaredy cat. I must be punished.”
Jade patted the child’s back, and pushed him away. The child had been so scared to the point he couldn’t even cry, when relief overwhelmed the child the tears flooded nonstop.
Jade wiped the child’s tears.
“This is not something to be punished over. Anyone would be scared like you. Bravery comes only after you experience something scary. From now on, you can become stronger.”
“You should go take care of your mother. You’re so scared, but you’re still worried for your mother, that is bravery.”
Ricardo sternly nodded, and ran to Anna.
Jade went to take care of Lord Balticon who had fainted on the ground. He was breathing erratically from fear.
Ricardo sat next to Anna. Daniel led the child’s hand into the mother’s hands.
“Your mother will be fine. She will wake up in about an hour, you should stay with her until she wakes up.”
Daniel patted the child’s head, and nodded shortly to Jade.
Jade nodded, and slowly exited the room. Balticon asked questions while facing Jade’s back.
Jade paused and spoke.
“You didn’t see anything.”
He continued walking out the stronghold without pause.
Jade exited the stronghold, and repeatedly opened and closed his hands into fists. His hands were still numb and trembling after burning the old woman.
“It seems you are still suffering from aftereffects. Are you still not used to it?”
Daniel who had followed him out asked.
“I think it got worse from the time before. It hurt to the point that I wanted to scream in pain just like that old thing.”
“That’s very bad to hear. If you suffer so much against weak devils, how do you plan to fight against stronger devils? No actually, why did you confront it from such a close distance? I could feel the heat though I was further back in the room.
“I only know how to attack in this way. And…”
Jade shrugged and continued.
“Anyway, I’m not someone who can handle this power. To me, it didn’t feel like I was killing a devil, but I felt like I was murdering a common old woman.”
“That is not a human.”
“I know. Still, I can’t help but view them so.”
Jade set out of the guardless stronghold gates.
Jade took out the book for Daniel.
“This book, I will return it to you now.”
“It’s up to you if you want to give up being a priest, but I cannot accept the book from you. You must keep it with you.”
“You still have many things to do with this book.”
Jade shut his mouth. Daniel continued to walk without words.
The two were not walking to the village, but toward the river. An old boatman should be waiting for them there.
“There should be nothing good about showing your face to the boatman.”
Daniel said, and Jade flopped over his hood to cover his face completely.
The boatman saw Daniel and stood up from his seat.
“You waited for me.”
Daniel said happily.
“I was contemplating just now.”
The boatman looked suspiciously to Daniel and Jade, then over his own shoulder before he spoke.
“I wondered whether this was all a trick and scam, much like the common occurrences these days. I was sure I was scammed, and worried. So I wondered if I should just run away.”
“But you didn’t?”
“I received five Haas from you, if I escape then I won’t be able to run my business tomorrow. Also, I will charge an additional 2 haas.”
The boatman added additional fees.
“Thank you for keeping your promise, I will also keep my promise.”
Daniel paid the fees and hopped onto the boat. Jade followed onto the boat from behind.
The boatman didn’t pay Jade any mind since his face was covered. It seemed like he was forcing himself not to pay him any mind.
The boat floated across the dark river. While the boat traveled, nobody spoke. Jade only spoke after sending the boatman onto his way.
“You even prepared a boatman this late into the night, did you worry about something?”
“I thought we would have people pursuing us. They could have been waiting for us by the main water way, or main road. There might also have been a chance that we accidentally passed them. So, I made sure to choose this path.”
“You must have brought bad news.”
“Bad news? That depends on the person listening.”
“In what way?”
“To some it could be a meeting of fate, to some it could be a business opportunity for big profit, and to another it could be just another annoying errand.”
“You didn’t come to rescue me, but you came to dump your annoying errands onto me.”
“That’s not so. By chance I’ve rescued you, so I am hoping you can take care of it in my ‘stead. Fortuitously the Emperor had just requested something.”
“Father Daniel,’fortuitously’ or ‘by chance’? I don’t believe in anything you’re saying.”
Jade wondered whether throwing this book into the river would be a better idea. He pondered if he should look for the boatman again, or return to Antone’s Monastery… maybe the prison? But too bad the boat had already long gone, and Jade couldn’t endure his curiosity.
“What errand is this?”
“He asked for us to search for the Holy Grail.”
Jade let out a deep sigh.
“I shouldn’t have asked.”