*Disclaimer note: This is merely a translation of the original Chinese version. I do not claim any part in the creation of the original story.
I was not kidding when I said that the execution grounds North West of the city was really, really far. To avoid me joining the rest of the corpses at the execution grounds when I finally reach the grounds, I decided to part with my hard-earned money and rent a carriage.
I could have gone back to the Holy Temple and asked for one of their carriages, but I would then have to put on my Sun Knight act-smiling, praising the God of Light, always elegant and perfect……
Seeing as I can't even bear to smile in my current condition, I'll just have to fork out the money for the carriage. Even though it pains me to do so, all my preciously hoarded savings would do me no good if I were to die now, would it?
At the carriage rentals, I chose the cheapest carriage-hopefully it'll last me to the execution grounds before falling apart; and hired the cheapest coachman-an indifferent old man who couldn't care less who his passengers were.
The carriage stunk like a whole basketful of rotten eggs, but I persevered. I sat in a corner and made myself comfortable. Soon, I began nodding off to the carriage's gentle swaying ……
I jerked awake with an expressionless look on my face; a large bump now graced my forehead.
The carriage had braked sharply, causing my head to knock into the walls so hard that the flimsy wall had snapped broken.
I sat there considering the idea of paying out a small sum of money to the keepers of the execution grounds, and adding the coachman to the ranks of corpses 'dead by means other than hanging'.
"I'm sorry, but a few knights suddenly appeared ahead of us; I had to brake sharply to avoid crashing into them," apologised the coachman, not sounding apologetic at all.
'Knights?' I thought as I cautiously rubbed the swelling on my forehead.
There are no real differences between holy knights and ordinary knights. Both carry weapons and ride horses; both wear armour; both are cannon fodder in battles; both are the first in a team to die…… cough! I mean, both use their bodies to shield their teammates from attacks, nobly sacrificing their selves to save others; sparing no effort to help out other innocents even at the threat of death.
The only distinction between the two is that the former pledge themselves to the Gods, while the latter pledge themselves to other humans. Because the holy knights serve the Gods, they have additional powers gifted to them by the Gods. For example, holy knights have the 'self-recovery' ability, which allows them to recover from their injuries much quicker than ordinary humans.
For instance, just yesterday I had bled out a lot of blood onto the streets, yet I am strong enough to get out of bed the next day! If I were an ordinary knight, I probably would have died on the streets there and then!
While the ordinary knights don't get any special powers from the gods, they do get much higher wages-at least two to three times more than holy knights!
As long as an ordinary knight is able to survive till his retirement age, he should be able to live off his savings comfortably for the rest of his old age.
Whereas for a holy knight…… if one does not privately find other means of supplementing one's income, as well as scrimping and saving wherever they can, even the Twelve Holy Knights would barely have any money at their retirement. We would have to continue working pitifully even well into our old age, for the other option would be to starve to death and join the God of Light.
(Quietly: For example, the strongest Sun Knight in history-my teacher, is now working as an adventurer, competing for quests with the younger generation and stealing from monsters and thieves……cough! I mean, he is setting an example for the younger generation and serving justice to the evil.)
Before leaving the Holy Temple, my teacher had solemnly left behind this advice, "Child, if you don't want to have to work as a priest after your retirement (too dangerous for you to work as a knight, your sword skills are too lousy), you better have a good retirement plan to avoid such a bleak future."
Thinking about his parting wisdom, I started feeling terribly guilty for the money I had just spent. I should have just walked. I believe that with my self-recovery abilities, I should have been able to at least make it to the execution grounds.
While in the midst of lamenting my unwisely-spent money, I heard noises coming from outside. The sound of trotting horses and the clanging of armour intermixed with shouts.
"What's happening?" I asked impatiently, as I looked out of the carriage.
I was just in time to catch sight of the fleeing coachman leaping from the carriage and swiftly running away, abandoning me behind.
'Right! Just you wait! I'll definitely drag you off to the Judge Knight and sue you for abandoning the Sun Knight!'
I 'prayed' for him to join the God of Light-sooner rather than later. But the moment I turned around, I could understand why he had ran off so quickly, for standing in front of the carriage were three tall knights, not looking the least friendly.
Although they, too, were stunned at the sight of the fleeing coachman, their leader had managed to quickly regain his wits and shout at me.
I frowned at that. As the leader of the Twelve Holy Knights, hardly anyone would dare to yell at me. With the exception of my teacher, the Pope and that ignorant fat king, I had never been yelled at by anyone else before.
'The fallen tiger is harassed by a mere dog.' To think that I, the fallen Sun Knight am now harassed by three lowly knights! 'You three better watch your mouths, or I'll……get Judge to beat you up!'
Hey, don't give me that look! Try nearly bleeding to death and see how strong you are the next day!
My sword skills might not be very good……OK, they're terrible-but remember that this is in comparison with the rest of the Twelve Knights and my dear teacher! If you were to compare me with the average knight, my sword skills are actually pretty…… average.
And don't forget, my sacrifice of higher wages entitles me to a bunch of blessings and abilities. With all of that taken into account, I should be about the equivalent of a strong knight!
And when you add my superb self-recovery abilities, I should be even stronger!
But frankly, after bleeding so much blood, I have hardly enough strength to draw my sword, much less take on three powerful-looking knights.
So, I could do nothing but get out of the carriage, jump into the driver's seat and meekly turn the carriage around.
"At least you've still got that much sense!" Upon seeing me turn around and leave, the three knights did not hassle me any further and merely turned to leave in the opposite direction.
I quietly noted that they, too, were going in the direction of the execution grounds.
When they were finally some distance away, I quickly jumped down from the carriage and hid in the bushes while the horse continued pulling the carriage onwards. As long as I walk within the bushes, those knights shouldn't notice me there.
I was very curious as to why these knights would want to visit the execution grounds. Something smelled fishy. If this mystery happened to be linked to the murder case I'm investigating, then all the better for me. Even if they were unrelated, I could still report their suspicious activities to Judge and let him investigate further.
So, I quickened my pace to catch up with the knights, going at a full sprint. I have a feeling that my wounds are going to get worse from this. But it's OK, my self-recovery abilities are second to none in the Holy Temple; I should be fine.
No matter how grievous the injury, I've still always been able to get out of bed the next day. Even if my internal organs had spilled out, my heart had been injured and my lungs had difficulty drawing in air; within three days I'll be able to get out of bed for breakfast and ready to apply my whitening mask once more.
But there is a downside to recovering quickly-ever since the Pope found out about my exceptional recovery abilities, my sick leave has become shorter than anyone else's……
After cursing that old Pope in my mind for a while, I finally reached the execution site. The grounds were a simple earthen ground with a small wooden building off to one side. In the middle of the execution grounds stood one lonely gallows. The noose hanging from it was merely a piece of rope tied into a loop at its end; but it was still effectively deadly.
This execution site is one of the oldest and most run down there is. No criminal accused of the more serious crimes or criminals of importance would have been executed here. Only some unimportant thief that no one cares about would be hanged here.
But this is Sprouting Leaf, the capital city of Forgotten Echo, as well as the centre of the faith of the God of Light. If you were to talk a stroll in the city, you'd see royal knights making their rounds on one street, pass by several holy knights on their patrol in the next street, and on the next one, you'd see a group of priests spreading the teachings of the God of Light to the people. Moreover, the terrifying Judge Knight would patrol the streets daily at random times! A staggering total of 1056 criminals of various crimes have been caught in the past ten years!
Do you think any thieve would dare to rob and steal in this city?
So because thieves are a dying breed within the city, this execution site has not seen much business for quite some time.
But it is precisely because this place is so deserted that a lot of suspicious dealings have been going on around here. To think that the bodies of non-criminals would be dumped here! A dead body means that a crime has been committed. Looks like the capital city isn't as safe and crime-free as the Holy Temple believed.
I chuckled darkly. Wait until I tell Judge about this. That cold face of his would become even colder as he sweeps the whole city for hidden transgressions and crimes.
The site was empty but for the three horses secured at one end. 'Looks like the three knights had made it here before me.'
The old and decrepit building was lighted however, and several figures could be seen through the windows.
I blessed upon myself two abilities-Holy Blessings-which increases my defence, and Divine Wings-which increases my speed-and approached the building, taking great pains to avoid being seen from one of the windows.
"……the corpse?" A voice demanded fiercely from within.
"Sir…… there are many……erm…… which…… do you mean?" This voice sounded weak and frail, likely belonging to an old man. Even with me focussing all my attention on their conversation, I still missed out a few bits of it.
However, I dared not step any closer and instead hid behind several tall trees. Even with the weak blessings my condition was still very poor. I might be discovered if I got any closer.
"……blue eyes," said one of the knights impatiently.
The frail elderly voice floated over, sounding to be on the verge of tears. "Sir, I would never be so disrespectful as to look at a dead person's eyes!"
"Gold hair-no-more like brown, about 23 years old, rather handsome face."
I frowned upon hearing this, a feeling of dread welling up inside me.
Blue eyes, brown hair, 23 years old…… the same age as me. Sigh, to have died at such a young age, it wouldn't be surprising if the Death Knight felt some resentment about this.
"It's already been buried……"
"You dare lie to me!"
That shout was followed by a string of punching and crying sounds, until the old voice said even more weakly, "……sold two days ago."
"Sold to whom?"
"A man with a little girl."
My eyes gleamed at this. Praise the God of Light! These three knights are connected to the Death Knight.
'A man with a little girl?' I scoffed. It should be, 'a little corpse with a big corpse'! It must have been Pink and her 'cleaner', the undead she specially summoned to clean her house.
"What did the man look like?" the knight asked furiously……
'Wrong! You should have asked: 'what did the little girl look like?''
"Hood was pulled down……I couldn't see……"
"You damn idiot……!"
"Kill him. He's a liability to us." A new voice said.
"Please have mercy!" Pleaded the frail voice.
My expression immediately darkened. As the Sun Knight, I can't just stand by while someone is being killed right in front of me…… can I?
But with my current condition, I can't do anything to help. I'd only get myself killed too!
'To rescue or not to rescue…… hmm……'
"Please…… please stop-" the pitiful sobs were heartlessly ignored as kicks and punches rained down upon the weak and frail body.
'You idiots! I've been contemplating for such a long time, yet you haven't killed off the guy, what's wrong with you? Why are you using your fists when you can just slice off his head with one blow?!
'Don't you know that procrastinating with these things only invite heroes of justice to interfere? Especially this Sun Knight who has to uphold justice!'
Glancing down to make sure that I still had the blessings, I crept towards the window and peeked in. Inside, two of the knights were beating up an old man while the third stood by, unaffected by the scene playing out in front of him. 'The boss gives the orders, and the grunts do the work.' So logically, this guy should be the leader.
Softly, I muttered a spell. I may be a holy knight, but I am really more suited to becoming a priest, or even a sorcerer. Actually, anything would have suited me better than being a knight! 'Sob, sob…'
My teacher would often sigh exasperatedly, "Why is it that you can learn a magic spell after seeing it just once; yet no matter how hard I try to teach you, no matter how many times I show it you, you can never get a sword move correct?!"
To avoid unnecessary gossip-like saying that I'm not in the right career or something, I rarely use magic in front of others. But these are extreme circumstances; moreover, I don't intend to reveal my true self, so it should be fine……
I cast a paralysis spell on the leader before bursting through the window and kicking him in the back. Straight away, he slumped down without a sound.
'Hey, looks like I can become a pretty good assassin too!'
After kicking him down, I drew his sword and turned to face the remaining two knights. I can't draw my Holy Sun Blade and reveal myself, now can I? Only a blind idiot wouldn't be able to guess at who I am if I were to swing around my Holy Sun Blade.
I dodged their attacks, muttered another spell, and flung out my arm at them. The grease spell caused the floor to turn slick and smooth, thus tripping one of the knights. I immediately stomped on his leg, breaking his calf.
Ha! A knight with a broken leg is no match for even a helpless priest. With such heavy armour on, they cannot hope to stand up again on a broken leg.
"A mage swordsman!" The other knight cried out, alarmed.
'A mage swordsman? Puh-leze.' I rolled my eyes at him. 'I'm merely a Sun Knight who had accidently learned elementary spells.'
But having defeated two of them so easily boosted my confidence. I guess these three aren't high levelled knights. Good news for me.
The last knight looked at me in fear, not daring to get too close.
I could understand his situation. Mage swordsmen are either very strong or very weak. Since I had quickly felled their strongest member and another in such a short time, he probably thinks that I'm one of the strong ones.
All of a sudden, I felt a very strong aura from behind me. Whipping around, I saw the leader that I had kicked down earlier slowly getting up, his expression stormy. Even more alarming is the aura drifting off of him- Frenzy. Only knights of the highest level have Frenzy.
"You sneaky, disgraceful scumbag!" He roared. He reached to draw his sword only to find it empty as the sword had been stolen by me. He grew even angrier at this.
This guy's a high levelled knight! No wonder he was only wearing light armour, unlike the other two who were arrayed in full armour.
'Frenzy' is something that envelopes one's body and it is better than armour. Not only can it block an enemy's blows, it doesn't hinder one's movements, and doesn't weigh a thing, thus allowing for greater speed and agility. It's great both for defence and offence!
However, not everyone can attain 'Frenzy', as only a high levelled knight can achieve that state.
Back then, my teacher had attempted to teach me to attain 'Frenzy'. He had tried every method in the book-and many ways not in it- demonstrating it to me at least 20 times a day…… in the end, I still couldn't get it. Instead, I had accidently learned Holy Blessing while recording beautiful female priests.
It was only until after the title of Sun Knight was passed on to me that I had finally learned how to release Frenzy, but it was a very close call. I had nearly died in that mission and only the accidental triggering of my Frenzy had managed to save me.
But still, I prefer using Holy Blessing over Frenzy. It is easy for me to gather holy light and summon the Holy Blessing to wrap around me; but when trying to summon my Frenzy, one time out of three times I will fail to successfully summon it. Furthermore, my Frenzy is so weak that I dare not entrust my life to it. It's just easier to use Holy Blessing and forget about Frenzy.
Sneaking a peek at the high levelled knight's Frenzy, it doesn't seem that that his Frenzy is at all weak.
"Grease!" I flung out once more.
Unfortunately, my technique was not as successful this time. It failed to fell the high levelled knight, as he and his light armour did not weigh enough to make him slip, although he did stagger for a moment. Instead, this use of magic merely seemed to incite greater fury. "You despicable scum!" He roared once more, as he grabbed a table and threw it at me.
He probably expected me to stand my ground and slice the table in half, before battling it out with him in a fierce battle of The Knight vs. The Mage Swordsman!
However…… I dodged it while throwing out a smoke spell, creating a smokescreen to hide me from their sight.
Using this opportunity while they are momentarily blinded, I grabbed the wounded old man, vaulted out the window and rushed to the tied horses. With a swing of my sword, I cut loose the horses and slapped two of them on the rump, startling them into dashing away. I then hurriedly swung up onto the last remaining horse while pulling the old man up in front of me, and hurriedly rode away.
Suddenly, a sword was thrown out of the broken window towards us.
If I tried to dodge this sword I would definitely fall of the horse; if I fall off, the knights would catch up to me in no time and there's no way I can get away easily!
Even right now, my Holy Blessing is growing thinner and weaker. I have no hope of winning against them, much less when one of them is a high levelled knight.
Right, no dodging then!
'I should be alright with the Holy Blessing and my Holy Healing……'
The sword had managed to cut through my Holy Blessing shield! I paled and tilted to one side, letting the sword slice through my right upper shoulder and just barely missing my heart. My shoulder immediately started spurting out blood.
Fortunately, the sword had not harmed the horse and soon, the horse's long strides had taken us away from the execution grounds and put some distance between the knights and us.
I used a healing spell to stop the bleeding from my wound while thinking about the knight I had fought earlier…… I believe I would have a hard time with him even if I were fully recovered. I had only managed to kick him down that first time because of the element of surprise, and had gotten away from him only with the help of magic.
Such a strong knight; and from his shouts of 'despicable!' and 'disgraceful!' I could tell that he is no ordinary knight. For him to care so much about honour, he is probably in the service of a noble.
'But for such an honourable knight to secretly dispose of bodies at execution grounds…… It just doesn't seem to fit!
'Unless he was carrying out orders from his lord……'
I suddenly experienced a dizzy spell. Looking down, I noticed that my wound had reopened and was bleeding once more. Well, that's normal. Riding a horse would jar open any wound.
'I better hurry back to the Holy Temple and get healed up properly.' Tearing a strip of cloth from my cloak, I simply wrapped it around my wound, before focussing on getting back to the city.
Upon reaching the city gates, I let the old man off after healing his wounds, advising him, "If you value your life, you'll leave this place and get as far away from here as possible, do you hear me?"
The old man looked much better after receiving my healing. He hurriedly nodded with terror before limping away.
I left the horse behind and slowly made my way into the city. That horse belonged to those knights. If I were to bring it back to the Holy Temple, someone might find out about today's events. Furthermore, I'm currently bleeding from my shoulder. It would attract too much attention if I were to ride the horse in the city. I don't want to have to deal with questions from the patrolling guards.
With a hand pressing against my wound, trying to staunch the bleeding, I slowly entered the city. The guards at the city gates frowned at me but did not stop and question me. They've probably seen too many wounded adventurers before. And anyways, there are plenty of watchful guards and knights within the city; who would dare to stir up trouble here?
'I really have lost too much blood in two days,' I thought ruefully as I resumed my 'tortoise crawl' and crawled through the city.
Even though I hadn't done anything, a troop of patrolling guards kept eyeing me suspiciously. I guess a bleeding person in a cloak and hood is rather suspicious. They probably think that I might stir up trouble; or collapse onto the ground and die.
Keeping a wary look on the approaching guards, I swiftly entered a side alley where I could see three holy knights chatting with one another.
As I neared the trio, I reached out an arm towards the nearest one who had his back turned towards me. This action alarmed the troop of guards as well as the other two holy knights who were facing me, and they quickly pulled back the third holy knight who was still unaware of what was happening.
…… I had only wanted to pat his shoulder to catch his attention……
"May the God of Light bless you, my brothers," I said loudly, only now realising how weak I actually sound.
"Who are you?" The holy knights looked at me baffled, frowning at all the blood covering my figure.
Raising my hood slightly and letting them catch a glimpse of my face, I asked, "Do you recognise me?"
The three holy knights stared at me with wide eyes. "You-you're the Sun-" stammered the youngest one.
"Shhh!" I pressed a finger to my lips and winked at them mischievously with a relaxed smile…… Although I really wish to collapse there and then, I forced myself to maintain my Sun Knight image.
The three of them just stood there staring at me with mixed emotions. They were about to salute me before remembering that I didn't want to reveal my identity. When their eyes flickered down to my blood soaked figure, they widened in consternation and looked at me worriedly.
"I need someone to escort me back to the Holy Temple. Would you be willing to spare some of your time to do so?" I asked. This time, my speech was much simpler and easier to understand, without any of the usual praises for the God of Light peppered in. I just want to get back to my room and sleep!
"And another thing, those guards seem to have some misunderstanding towards me. Could one of you help to explain it to them? But please remember not to reveal my identity."
The holy knights nodded cautiously, and one of them immediately went over to the guards. I have no idea what he told them, but the guards accepted it and nodded to him before leaving.
The youngest holy knight in front of me nervously asked, "D-do you want to heal your wounds first? I know some healing spells…… Ah!" He suddenly seemed to realise something and stopped.
"Please. And thank you," I smiled.
Upon hearing my acceptance, the three knights looked at me in disbelief. I could guess at the reason for their surprise. I'm quite famous for my mastery of holy spells; so it is quite hard to believe that I would need someone's help in healing……
The holy knights kept their questions to themselves and quietly escorted me to the Holy Temple, but only after the youngest had healed me a little with what limited spells he knew.
With the escort of the three holy knights I reached the Holy Temple in no time at all. After thanking them, I turned and started climbing up the steps to the Holy Temple.
"Sun- Are you sure you'll be alright?" The youngest knight called out worriedly.
I took a deep breath before turning to them with my most radiant smile. "Please to do not worry, this Sun will be fine."
But despite my reassurances, the three holy knights had let out a startled gasp and continued looking after me even more anxiously. I couldn't understand why.
I pulled down my hood as I neared the entrance to the Holy Temple. The knight standing guard immediately saluted me and I successfully entered the Holy Temple. Swiftly, I walked towards my room, calling out internally, 'I'm coming, my bed……'
I stopped at this call, but before I could turn around, I was dragged off by the arm. I could do nothing to stop it as I was already very weak.
"What happened to you? You're covered in blood, is it the enemy's? Haha, you must have really beaten them to the ground!" said the person bluntly. He was very strong, as he was all but dragging my entire weight with him. He had red hair, a loud voice and a tall figure.
This is one of the Twelve Holy Knights-the Blaze Knight. He is a straightforward and reckless person, with a fiery temper to match his flame-red hair. Like me, Storm and Leaf, he is also part the Good Warm Faction.
'Blaze…… please let me go and let me walk on my own! I'm very close to fainting!'
"Oh, I nearly forgot to tell you why I was looking for you." said Blaze as he dragged me forward, not even once looking back at me. On both sides, passing holy knights were dropping documents, cups and even valuable swords onto the ground. I must look extremely weak and pale.
If this continues on, my Sun Knight reputation will be in tatters! So, gathering up every last ounce of strength I had, I weakly reached up and pulled down my hood, covering my face.
"Frost is lying in bed. That Death Knight's sword seems to have some strange aura surrounding it. They're saying that it is a 'Death Sword' or something like that. Even the Pope isn't able to suppress the dead aura. They say that only you can get rid of it."
A dead aura? No wonder! No wonder I'm still so weak. With my excellent recovery abilities I should be doing much better than I am by now. That sword is no ordinary sword. How unfortunate that it had fallen into the hands of a Death Knight.
Blaze dragged me all the way to the Cold Blood Faction's living quarters, and proceeded to kick open Frost's door. "I've found Sun! So now what do we have to do to save this icy guy?"
The scene within didn't look as serious as I'd expected. The Frost Knight was lying calmly in bed reading a book, while several high levelled priests stood around discussing about the best way to heal him.
Judge was looking over several official documents from beside Frost's bed; even while taking care of someone, he'd never waste a second to deal with official matters.
The priests looked up happily at Blaze's announcement and said, "We only need to drip some of the Sun Knight's blood on his wound," they explained. "With his blessed holy blood and some of our purification spells, we should be able to expel the dead aura. The Frost Knight would need to rest for a few days after that, but he should be fine."
'Is that so? Then could I have a few days to recover first? Between the two of us, I seem to be the one worse off……'
Ouch! My arm suddenly hurt, and blood started spurting out from the newest wound on my arm.
"That sounds pretty simple. After all, Sun is as hard to kill as a cockroach! Bleeding out a bucket or two of blood should be fine for him." Said Blaze as he grabbed my shoulder and held my arm above Frost, shaking and sprinkling my blood all over him. Covered with my blood, Frost's already cold face turn freezing.
The priests hurriedly came forward and started chanting the spells for purification, pouring all their energy into healing Frost…… 'Hey, hey! Has everyone forgotten that I, too, was slashed at yesterday? And my wound was much deeper than Frost's! Leave some purification for me too!'
I felt like weeping as I watched them cast purification spell after purification spell. I opened my mouth to protest but no sound came out.
"Sun Knight, you……" Judge appeared to have notice that something was off about me. He looked at me with some hesitation but did not continue.
His hesitation was understandable-after all, we are the Sun Knight and the Judge Knight who are opposing rivals-even though we are secretly friends. It would be inappropriate to openly show concern for me in front of Blaze and all these priests. And anyway, with my recovery skills, I don't think anyone would believe that I am on the verge of dying……
As the priests cast the purification spells, I could feel my consciousness fading rapidly. 'Please, anyone! Please catch on to the fact that I might be going to join the God of Light sooner than I expected……'
The last thing I saw before my vision went black was Judge tearing me from Blaze's grasp and ripping off my hood. He gasped at my face before turning to shout at the priests, but I couldn't make out what he was shouting.
Oh, Frost had leapt out from his bed! How unusual to see such a panicked expression on his typically expressionless face. Completely opposite to Frost, Blaze had a looked of dazed disbelief on his face.
Oh, I don't care about that anymore!
It doesn't really matter if I die or not, right now the only thing I want to do is sleep…… I closed my eyes……
'Ah, how comfortable. Goodnight, everyone.'