Side Story Chapter 143
Crowes the Lightning Speed Demon hit the ground to the plaintive cries of his crows as they mourned the loss of their master.
Lilith’s mind finally caught up to what had just happened; she realized that it had literally happened in the blink of an eye.
A shiver of excitement ran down her back. Her sword had moved very simply—a clean, straight line traced between two points. It was an unremarkable, horizontal swing, but the reason why Crowes couldn’t respond was simple: it was too fast.
-Don’t forget this feeling.
‘Do... you seriously think this is something I can imitate whether I remember the feeling or not?’ Lilith asked in disbelief.
-We were lucky. Things worked out easier than I thought because he let his guard down.
‘I guarantee you that you’ll be able to conquer the continent as a swordsman with that speed alone.’
-No, that might work on Masters from kingdoms, but not Masters of empires.
‘It’s unusual for you to be that humble.’
-It’s the truth. It worked for me because that demon chose to fight us using raw speed, but any knight with half a brain would have known it’d be better to fight me head-on, as crazy as it seems.
Lilith was speechless. Was Joshua humble or was he boasting about himself?
‘So where are we going to go now?’
Time began to flow once again, and Lilith was quickly falling to the ground. She didn’t have to worry about Crowes chasing her since Joshua had cut off the demon’s head.
‘Wait, that demon’s head isn’t going to suddenly attach itself back onto its body just because he’s a demon, is it?’ Lilith wondered.
-Some demons do have supernatural healing abilities that are better than even a troll’s.
‘W-Why do you say such scary things like you’re talking about lunch?’
-It’s fine. Even if that demon has that ability, it’ll take days for him to recover.
Fortunately, no more demons stood in Lilith’s way because they were all busy charging across the plains toward Arcadia’s east gate. The undead were also coming within range of archers on the ramparts; once they got a little closer to the gates, a rain of arrows would come down on their heads.
-Run and don’t stop.
‘I was already planning on it.’
Lilith took off as quickly as her legs would carry her.
* * *
After Duke Tremblin joined the fight, it didn’t take long for Squalo to be defeated—he had already used most of his power in creating the doll.
Before long, metal slid through flesh. Squalo looked down at the spear piercing his own heart, disbelievingly, but his neck quickly lost strength, allowing his head to droop.
“Excellent work, Your Highness,” Tremblin said.
Instead of answering, Selim turned to look where he had come from.
“His Majesty will be okay, right?” he abruptly asked.
“It’s His Majesty,” Tremblin responded.
“Why do you think Lilith Aphrodite came back to Avalon?” Selim tilted his head. “She seemed completely free of the Evil Sin’s influence, so it would have been better for her to return to her own country first.”
“His Majesty is with her.”
Every answer to Selim’s questions was “the Emperor”. Calling Tremblin a fanatic for the Emperor of Avalon might be an understatement, if anything. However, it did seem to make sense in this context.
“Lilith Aphrodite, as I know her, would never let a debt go unpaid. She actually prioritized helping us over free her father from incarceration or helping her own country,” Tremblin said.
“...Well, I can’t say that she’s totally free from responsibility,” Selim bitterly muttered. He still remembered Avalon’s knights suffering from the Aura of Lust. Still, his eyes sparkled. “Then we must return the favor too. As soon as we’re done sorting out this matter, I’ll propose to everyone that we mobilize our remaining troops to march on Hubalt.”
“I’ll support your proposal, Your Highness.”
Selim nodded in acknowledgement. “Thank you, Duke Tremblin.”
* * *
A torrent of cold water splashed onto the man’s face.
He blinked blearily, trying to figure out what situation he was in. He was in a dark and humid dungeon.
“Wake up, Babel von Agnus.”
Babel von Agnus, the aforementioned man, was the lord of one of Avalon’s five duchies. He looked up. A middle-aged priest was looking down at him with paladins in white armor at his back.
“...Who are you?” Babel asked.
“My name is Kurz. I’m a Cardinal of this country.”
“A Cardinal...?” Babel finally realized what happened. After being kidnapped by that monster of a man, he had been dragged to Hubalt and was now a prisoner.
“No, should I call myself the Pope of the Hubalt Empire?”
“All the other cardinals are dead, so it’s not too outlandish an idea,” Kurz chuckled.
Babel quietly observed the paladins. Judging from their lack of reaction, it seemed that Kurz was speaking the truth.
“It really is the end of Hubalt, huh,” Babel mumbled.
“Priesthood obviously doesn’t suit you, but you’re the next pope...? I can tell you where this is going.”
Babel was on the border of being outright insulting, but Kurz looked a little intrigued. The clergyman took a step forward, his foot gently clinking against the metal chain that was connected to the shackles that were locked around Babel’s limbs. Babel didn’t have the strength to lift a finger in response.
“I’m curious as to why you think I don’t look fit for a priest,” Kurz said.
“I’m sure that I’m not the first one to tell you that.”
“I want to hear an outsider’s opinion.”
Babel silently eyed him for a moment and then smirked. “I’m thirsty. I can feel my throat rasping. Looks like I can’t give you the answer you’re looking for.”
Kurz finally realized what Babel meant and chuckled. “Give him buckets.”
“Yes, sir.” A hefty paladin stepped forward. There were five more buckets of water left after using one to wake up Babel, and the paladin poured three of them in a row on Babel’s head.
“The almighty duke looks like a rat caught in the rain!”
“Wasn’t his father the famous Dark God? Hahaha, he’s fallen just as bad as his father did.”
“What are you talking about? His father is the previous emperor of Avalon, and the Dark God just used him for his own revenge.”
“Then that means he’s a member of the previous Imperial Family, so how did he keep his title of duke? Hasn’t it always been the way of the world to exterminate the rest of the Imperial Family when a new emperor ascends?”
“Who knows? Maybe he has no pride and kissed the floor before the new emperor. He’s the current emperor’s half-brother and grew up with him, so it would have been easy to appeal to the emperor’s emotions.”
“He did that despite the fact that the emperor killed his father?”
Babel bit his lip in frustration as the mockery continued. Their insults touched the Agnus family’s taboos.
“Is that enough?” Kurz waved off the paladins, smirking. “Why don’t you answer my question now? Why am I unfit to be the Pope?”
“The reason is simple: you look awfully greedy for a priest.”
“After all I’ve seen in my life, I’ve gained enough experience to tell what kind of a person someone is in our first encounter.” Babel chuckled quietly.
“Your name is Cardinal Kurz, right? You’re the kind of person who would drive not only your colleagues but also your subordinates to death without batting an eye for the sake of your ambition.”
The nearby paladins immediately stiffened. They knew that the first thing that Kurz had done after being put into power by Bel was purging the other cardinals.
“...Hehehehe.” Kurz seemed to notice the change in the air and laughed wickedly for a long time. “You’re certainly a smooth talker. It seems the Agnus family focuses on training their mouths, not their swords.”
“Hahahahaha!” The paladins unfroze and awkwardly laughed along.
“Joshua Sanders is exactly the same. The stories about his skills are so exaggerated because he overcame most of his crises through talking, not his so-called legendary spear skills.”
“...You talk as if you know him very well,” Babel commented.
Kurz nodded. “Yes, I know him very well. In fact, I met him a long time ago.”
Although he didn’t let it show, Babel was actually curious. From what he knew, Joshua had never visited Hubalt after becoming emperor. Hubalt had sent a delegation for Joshua’s coronation, but he never sent one in return, even though it was customary to reciprocate. The two empires had officially been enemies at the time since Joshua was the one who had slain the Martial Emperor, the strongest warrior of Hubalt.
“Let me make you a proposal,” Kurz said.
“I’ll make you the next emperor of the Avalon Empire.”
Babel jolted. That meant only one thing.
“...Are you telling me to become Hubalt’s dog?”
“It’s not a bad offer. Don’t you want to get revenge against Joshua Sanders?”
“Revenge...” Babel’s face darkened. When was the last time he had such a desire?
“I’ll give you plenty of time to think about it. If you had been more compliant, you wouldn’t have been treated like you were today.”
Kurz was clearly taking a carrot-and-stick approach. He glanced at one of the paladins, prompting him to kindly feed Babel more water. Even while getting hydrated, Babel continued to think.
“This is just my advice, but it would be wise not to turn down the offer,” Kurz added.
“...So it’s a notice, not a proposal.”
“No, the best-case scenario is you taking our offer, but we have a Plan B if that doesn’t work. We have to eliminate our troubles at their source.”
It seemed the Hubalt Empire was committed to their path.
“Of course, I won’t kill you, but...” Kurz trailed off and glanced at the other side of the chamber.
Babel turned to look and immediately froze, his eyes slowly widening. The presence had been so faint that Babel hadn’t sensed it, but there was someone else being kept in the cell with him. The silhouette gave away that it was a woman stripped bare. Judging from the state she was in, it was obvious what the woman had gone through. But more importantly, Babel knew the woman very well.
“I assume you’ve met each other before since you two are from the same family,” Kurz continued.
“Carmen von Agnus...”
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