*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.
Creus, if you aren't chosen to become the Sun Knight, becoming a priest is not bad either! That way you can help to heal my wounds in the future.
I abruptly jerked awake in bed. I had a dream. A dream of a memory long past, as well as a serious face I had not seen for a very long time.
Roland had always been a serious child, even when trying to comfort someone else. He had very seriously observed my abilities and then suggested a viable alternative for me. And I had genuinely considered taking his advice and becoming a priest in the Halls of Light, should I fail to get chosen to become the next Sun Knight.
I wouldn't have minded becoming a priest, for I could then continue to stay by his side as his priest. Especially if Roland were to be chosen as the next Sun Knight, that would be the best!
I had met Roland at the selection held by the Holy Temple for the next Sun Knight. When all but ten contenders had been eliminated, everyone had looked upon each other as deadly enemies.
But Roland and I had been very close instead.
Roland had been very strong, the most promising one among us, while I? I was well aware that my sword skill was the worst among them. The only way for me to win would have been to pray for a miracle to happen.
But it is only when one is the most likely one to win, and the other is the least likely, that a friendship could be formed in such hostile waters.
But that day, our friendship was ruined when teacher had announced me as his successor……
"Why did you pick me?" I had asked in timid confusion as I stumbled up to the current Sun Knight. Never in my wildest dreams had I thought that I would be chosen.
"Well, it might be because of your beautiful golden hair." My teacher had said in a lackadaisical tone.
My heart chilled at this irresponsible reply. Had I really gotten the position through such a dubious reason? But yet even if so, I just couldn't bring myself to bow out, to say that I handover the position to Roland, I just can't!
I, too, want to be the Sun Knight; I want it so much!
When I finally forced myself to turn around, Roland had already turned to leave. I could not see his expression, but he was walking away hurriedly, as if all this meant nothing to him; he hadn't come up to congratulate me either, but given the situation, I was lucky he hadn't taken a swing at me. Compared to the rest of the contenders who were eyeing me in hatred, I was grateful he hadn't beaten me up.
"Do you hate me, Roland?" I murmured as I buried my face into my hands. "You came back because you hate me, right?"
"But how did you die? You are Roland! The Roland who was capable of defeating grownups even at the young age of ten……"
I then remembered the Duke's third son, the implications with the Crown Prince, and understood. No matter how strong he is, Roland alone cannot win against someone with the might of a whole country behind them.
Even I, the Sun Knight, cannot directly confront the country's ruler; not unless said ruler had a confrontation with the whole Church of the God of Light, unless said ruler starts a conflict between a country and a Religion of a God.
But… hmmm…… it seems that someone had promised to exact revenge for Roland….
'… … … …'
'Let's put that aside for now! First, I should investigate the whole matter properly before I could even start thinking of revenge,' I thought. Like an ostrich trying to bury its head in the sand at danger, I tried to avoid having to think of such a difficult and unsettling problem.
Now, if one wants to investigate the royalty, they should go to the Storm Knight. He's always hanging around (winking) with the noble women 24/7, and can often be seen exchanging stories of romance and freedom with the playboy aristocrats, so he'll definitely know plenty of secrets and scandals about them.
Well as the saying goes: 'Make things happen, don't wait for things to happen.'
I got myself presentable in just a minute and rushed out of my room to begin my search for the Storm Knight. Searching everywhere-high and low-in the large Holy Temple, I finally found him in one of the corridors carrying a huge stack of office documents.
"Brother Storm, can you help this Sun?" I asked without hesitation.
"Can I refuse?"
Storm didn't look so hot right now, with a pair of deep black shadows under his eyes. I could tell from the imposing stack of documents he held that he'd probably been carrying out his duties as the Storm Knight. I.e. as the Storm Knight he has to skip meetings, and the rest of the Twelve Knights had-as usual-'volunteered' him to complete all the extra work that arose due to my absence these past few days.
"This is an order from the leader of the Twelve Holy Knights."
"…… what is it?"
"Please help this Sun to investigate who among the nobles and royalty have the unsavoury hobby of torturing people, so that the God of Light may guide those lost sheep off the stray path and back onto the proper way."
"If that's your problem, then I can tell you without needing to investigate that eight out of ten of the nobility have such hobbies," said Storm as he rolled his eyes at me.
"That many……" I was a little surprised. Is the art of torturing some kind of basic skill that the nobility must learn?
"Of course. They're the nobility." He replied matter-of-factly.
"Then…… are there any in particular who are especially immersed in such activities, who have not only strayed off the right path, but even gone so far as to commit an act unforgivable in the God of Light's eyes, such as torturing their victims to death?"
At this, Storm gave me a strange look before answering my question seriously, "No one would actually admit to such an interest, but if you really want to know, there are quite a lot of unconfirmed rumours……"
"Do speak," I encouraged.
I had originally thought that there would only be a few people, but in one breath, Storm expelled a whole list of names-more than ten, so many that even I whose memory is quite good could not memorize all of them.
"… … … … The Duke of Ceylan, and I think there are also such rumours surrounding the King."
I hesitated for a moment before pushing forward. "What about the Crown Prince?"
"Nope. I've yet to hear any such rumours about the Crown Prince. His reputation is one of the better ones among the nobility."
Storm then shrugged before adding, "Of course, it could be because he hid his secrets very well. He might look like a weak and easy target, but he is the textbook example of a wolf in sheep's clothing. Otherwise, how could he have such power and leverage over the King?"
"Are you saying that you would not be surprised if he actually did tortured people to death?"
Storm gave me another strange look but nodded.
I felt a little disheartened, but I nodded at him and said, "That'll be all. May you feel the bright presence of the God of Light no matter where you are, my brother Storm."
Storm nodded and left, but I could hear him muttering, "How strange. Today, Sun's words are so simple and clear! I could understand him immediately without needing to discern his meaning. How inconceivable……"
I ambled around while considering the matters in my head. The suspects number at more than ten, but seeing as the Duke of Ceylan and his son who had pledged his alliance to the crown prince is involved, the list of suspects can be narrowed down to: the Duke of Ceylan, the Crown Prince and His Majesty.
Even though the Duke's third son's pledged lord is the Crown Prince, the King should also be able to order him around. And the reason why I do not suspect the third son himself is because he had brought along two other knights with him when disposing of the body. Typically, knights greatly value their honour and reputation. If he had really been the culprit, he would never have willingly let others know of his secret. He would have gone to the execution grounds alone rather than bring along the other two knights.
But on the other hand, maybe the three of them had been in on it together?
"No." I quickly refuted this theory. "Roland is too strong. He would never have fallen to those three."
"Looks like you've found something."
I jumped, startled, before I realised that it was the Judge Knight who had spoken.
"Roland, is that Death Knight's name?"
Judge looked at me piercingly, as if trying to read me for answers. I think I can now understand why the criminals would always spill out the truth to him.
As can be expected of Judge, he had pieced together the fact that Roland was the name of the Death Knight just from that one sentence.
"You know that Death Knight? But I've never heard you mention his name before. Was he an old friend?"
Erk! I have yet to say anything! Right? How come he seems to know everything already?! How scary!
"Blaze met the Death Knight yesterday, as well as a black clothed man……"
At this, Judge paused and looked at me. "You don't seem surprised? Did you already know about this? But the Twelve Knights had just finished the meeting, and Blaze had left after me, so you couldn't have met him."
"… …" I think Judge can deduce everything even without me speaking a word.
Judge probably understood that I was unwilling to answer any questions, for he did not question me any further, only explaining this, "According to Blaze, the Death Knight is close to becoming a Death Lord. I intend to dispatch half of our knights to search him out in the city. The Pope has also agreed to send out half of his priest to aid in the search. A Death Lord must not be allowed to be born."
Oh no, at this rate, Roland is going to be burned on a stake!
I pushed back my panic, drew myself up and putting on the rarely used Sun Knight's dignified mask, said sternly, "I believe that matters of the undead are under my jurisdiction. Judge Knight, you seem to have overstepped your boundaries."
"My apologies, Sun Knight. I had believed you to be on leave, and the matter regarding the Death Knight cannot drag on for long, so I had taken the liberty of settling the matter in your stead. If you wish to handle this matter personally, then please cancel your leave. And may I remind you that you have two more days to investigate the truth of this matter." Judge had replied calmly before leaving.
But as he passed by me, he quietly said, "Ever since we were kids, I've been forced to do many things that have crossed the boundaries; help me fight this, help me investigate that, help me beat up those guys who bullied me,… who do you think had requested all these things of me? Hmmm?"
Err…… It sounds like some of the things the 'young and immature me' had asked.
"No matter who Roland was, a Death Lord absolutely cannot be allowed to be born. Is this not the principle by which you stand firm with, Sun Knight?"
"Yes," I quietly nodded in agreement, "this is Sun's principle." 'But Creus has his own principles too.'
Judge nodded at my answer and left.
I am now quickly running out of time. The Holy Temple and the Hall of Light are highly efficient. With half of the people from both branches forming groups and combing the city for the Death Knight, it'll only take them half a day to find him. Within this half a day, I have to find Roland first and place him in hiding with Pink.
I'm confident that Pink would be able to hide Roland without leaving a trace.
With my high sensitivity to dark aura, it shouldn't be too hard for me to locate Roland within the deadline-provided that guy isn't hiding in some unusual place.
I went back to my room and strapped on my Holy Sun Blade, put on an inconspicuous cloak to avoid attention, and headed out to the city centre-the city's largest plaza. Pretending to be a weary traveller, I sat down beside one of the fountains.
Hidden under the cloak, I quietly clutched the Holy Sun Blade. The Holy Sun Blade is a precious artefact imbued with pure holy element, thus able to help increase my sensitivity towards any dark aura.
I closed my eyes and concentrated on the dark auras in Sprouting Leaf City. There is an element of darkness in every city, as well as within every person, but these dark elements are in rather small amounts. Both the city and the ordinary person alike are filled with an assortment of different elements. While some might have a stronger fire or water element, it is only those who specialise in certain skills who would have certain elements in greater abundance within them. For example, a sorcerer specialising in fire would have an unusually high amount of the fire element within him.
By studying the different elements within a person, I am able to identify with almost certain accuracy the jobs of strangers I'm meeting for the first time.
Fortunately, my ability in sensing and recognising the different elements (mage sight) is better than average. It can even be said to be an innate gift, for although one could try to learn this skill, their skill will never be as strong as a natural's.
My teacher is the only one who knows of this skill of mine. He had gravely warned me not to tell others of this ability, and had at the same time forbidden me from using it unless absolutely necessary.
This is because this ability is rather alarming, for you see, each person's combination of the different elements are unique, and unlikely to change in the short run; so once I've recognised someone's elements combination, I can then track their movements wherever they go.
And just as I can guess a certain person's strengths and abilities just from seeing their elements, similarly I can tell if a person is carrying any magical items, and if so I can roughly tell what its properties are.
It would not be a good thing for me if others were to be aware of this ability of mine.
And besides, ever since I took on the title of the Sun Knight, my mage sight had weakened due to the overpowering holy aura on my person. The holy aura hampers me from sensing other elements, all except one type of element, that is. My sensitivity towards any dark element-which is on the opposite side of the spectrum from holy element-had instead increased significantly.
I could certainly sense the various pockets of dark element within the city, but only in small amounts. In fact, Sprouting Leaf city is actually considerably cleaner than various other cities.
I continually widened the range of my mage sight, from the plaza outwards in all directions; through dark alleys and corners, over old broken houses and bypassing straw-filled stables, yet I could not find a trace of Roland. Where could he have hidden himself?
His dark aura is too strong; there shouldn't be any reason why I can't sense him.
What if…… tentatively, I turned to look behind me. Not far away, rising over the city are the towers of the Royal Palace-the seat of the country's King.
The Royal Palace could be considered one of the darkest places. While there may be many loyal and trustworthy knights there, the darkness of the nobility is overpowering. One can tell just from Storm's tales of the nobility's distasteful torturing hobby, that the Royal Palace is the dirtiest and darkest place.
Even from where I'm sitting, I could feel the whole Royal Palace smothered in a cloud of dark aura. I would never be interested in the place, if not for the possibility that Roland might be hiding in there.
'I really don't wan'na extend my senses into that cloud of oppressive dark aura…….' I wailed inside, but seeing as I cannot find Roland anywhere else, the Royal Palace is the last place left.
Closing my eyes once more, I reluctantly extended my mage sight into the palace……
After awhile, I opened my eyes. Strange? He's not in there either?
'Could he have left the city?' I thought bewilderedly. 'Well, that's a good thing, 'cause that way Judge won't be able to find him.'
"Tell me, is it the Sun Knight's duty to daydream in the city square?"
"Of course not! I'm always very busy!" I disagree on an automatically reflex, but when I raised my head, I was stunned, for here was the very person I've been looking for, standing right in front of me!
Standing before me, Roland looked exactly the same as he did when we were small, only taller.
He had a slender build and a handsome face; his expression was as serious as ever. Even just standing there, he gave off an air that screamed, 'don't mess around with me'. I bet even if he were to smile he would still feel a little oppressive, but most people would not mind said feeling, for Roland is just that kind of natural-born leader, where people would willingly place themselves under his command.
But the most astonishing thing was the fact that Roland looked…… human!
He looked completely different from his previously faded appearance. If Roland were to appear in front of me for the first time in this form, I would definitely have recognised him the moment I clapped eyes on him.
I asked him bewilderedly, "You… you've been resurrected?"
But the moment the words were out of my mouth I felt like hitting myself. He's already dead and had become a Death Knight, there's no way he could have been resurrected!
"No, of course I haven't been resurrected." Roland still answered me seriously, despite my idiotic question. He then asked politely, "May I sit down?"
"Oh, sure." My thoughts were in a mess. 'If Roland had not been resurrected, how is it that he looks so human?' The suspicion that he was actually a figment of my imagination crept into my mind.
Roland sat down beside me and smiled, "Creus, you're still the same as ever. Whenever you come across a difficult problem, you would sit in public places like this and get lost in your thoughts."
'That's because I was using my mage sight, I wasn't daydreaming!'
"Why do you look like this now?" I just couldn't resist asking.
Roland merely held up his left hand. My attention was instantly drawn to a ring on his middle finger. Roland never wore jewellery of any kind, especially one like this pink heart-shaped ring. Anyone could tell that this ring is just a cheap fake. So right away I knew that this ring must have some powerful ability, for him to willingly put it on.
Roland gave a small cough and explained, "Pink gave me this Life Ring. It gives the illusion that I'm a human; but this illusion can be easily broken by Holy Light."
"Yeah, I can tell that this belonged to Pink…… Did she give you the sword too?"
I never would have guess that a silly ring like this would possess such an impressive ability. The next time I visit Pink I'll have to take a closer look at that panda bear doll sitting in the corner. Who knows if that panda bear is capable of summoning the Demon King, or something like that?
"No. The sword is a family heirloom. Although, I had never thought I would one day use this wicked sword," said Roland with a depreciating smile. "Who would have thought that I would become a Death Knight and use this sword. I really have become one of the wicked……"
I held out a hand to stop him, as I had seen a group of five holy knights and two priest entering the city square. Although they might not believe that the Death Knight would appear in such a crowded place, Judge has always been a cautious person who would leave nothing to chance, so it would be just like him to insist on checking public places like this.
This is bad! The Death Knight himself is sitting right beside me!
Roland might currently look like a human, but I could still faintly sense the dark aura he emitted. The priests might be able to sense it too…… Uh oh! One of the priests had looked in our direction before turning to point us out to the holy knights beside him. Looks like he's asking them to inspect us.
"Roland, leave now, quickly!" I hissed at him.
Roland merely looked at the holy knights, but made no move to get up and leave, continuing to sit there calmly.
Oh dear, not only are the holy knights heading in our direction, all seven of them had varying degrees of stern looks on their face. Could they have already discovered Roland?
My heart was beating frantically, as my mind scrambled as to how I would explain this to my own holy knights, when all seven of them had reached Roland…… and proceeded to ignore him, coming to a halt in front of me.
The leader of the holy knights looked at me warily and said, "Please lower you hood."
My face was expressionless as I lowered my hood. Beside me, Roland had turned his head away, but I could tell from his shaking shoulders that he was laughing.
"Ah! Sun Knight?!" All seven of them cried out, startled. I bet even if they had discovered the Death Knight, they would not have been as shocked as they were by me.
I asked morosely, "Could it be that this Sun is no longer blessed by the God of Light? That her holy aura no longer wraps surround this Sun, causing my fellow brother holy knights to mistake this Sun for the dark filled Death Knight?"
"N-no! It's not that at all!" The seven seemed to move in perfect harmony, heads shaking left and right together.
"Then could it be that this Sun's activities or behaviour were too sneaky, that my brothers would mistake this Sun for the hiding Death Knight?"
Once again, all seven holy knights shook their heads at 180 degrees, in unison.
"Then, could it be that this was all just one of the God of Light's lovely misunderstandings?"
All seven of them shook their head again…… before realising what I said, their faces showed various expressions of horrified looks, and then hurriedly nodded their heads forcefully.
"If this really was one of Her beautiful misunderstandings, then this Sun will not keep you here. My brothers, please continue as before to carry out Her divine biddings."
The seven holy knights hurriedly saluted me and after I had calmly saluted them back, they immediately turned and fled as if I, the Sun Knight, was even more frightening than the Death Knight himself.
It was probably my expressionless face that had scared them so. The ever-smiling Sun Knight suddenly stopped smiling? Even if my face had not been expressionless, the lack of a smile would probably still be very frightening!
Looks like I'll have to watch myself carefully from now on, and make sure I keep my smile on in front of others, or else rumours of this generation's Sun Knight and his bipolar attitude might spread around.
I raised back my hood and turned to Roland, only to see his surprised expression. "Creus, since when do you speak in such a cultured manner?" he asked.
"… … Don't ask."
"Roland, it's best if you go back to Pink's place and lay low for a while. That priest earlier must have sensed some of your dark aura, but it's just that you were sitting here so openly that they mistook me to be the Death Knight."
Roland kept quiet for a moment before saying, "I only came here to say goodbye to you, Creus. After this, we'll be enemies."
"Enemies…… I see. You do hate me then."
I looked down sadly.
Roland had never been one to hold grudges for long. I had hoped that Roland would have forgiven me for stealing his position as the next Sun Knight. But……
Roland asked me curiously, "Why would I hate you?"
"You don't hate me?!" I looked up at him and exclaimed. "Then why did you slash at me the moment you appeared?!"
Roland suddenly looked apologetic, and said, "Back then, Pink had told me to send the undead to you. I'd merely wanted to greet you, but as I was still new to my state and unused to my increased strength and speed, I couldn't control myself and accidently hit you. I'm really sorry about that."
"… …" I then asked exhaustedly, "Then why did you say that you'll come back for me?"
"I had always intended to come back and say goodbye to you," said Roland matter-of-factly.
Roland, you dimwit! Are you really, truly aware of your new status as a Death Knight?! I was nearly killed by your 'hello'. And your 'goodbye' had incriminated me as a person who likes torturing people to death!
"Roland…… if not for the fact that a person cannot die twice, I would have killed you again!"
I gritted my teeth in annoyance. He'd sliced at me, well ok, fine. But he just
had to say such a misleading sentence, 'Sun Knight, I'll come back for you'. That sentence had led to such a misunderstanding that I could have bashed my head in on the Holy Temple's cross, and still no one would have believed my innocence.
"You can burn me," said Roland calmly. "After I've killed my enemy, I will let you burn me."
"I was only joking," I said with a frown. I had forgotten how seriously Roland took everything. You couldn't even joke around with him.
"But I am serious. If not because I have to kill that person first, I would never have allowed an evil being such as myself to continue existing in this world."
"Was it the Crown Prince who had killed you?"
Upon hearing this, Roland looked stunned for a moment, before he slowly nodded.
It was really the Crown Prince?
My mood abruptly turned for the worse. "You won't succeed. The Judge Knight is not as lax—ahem! Not as 'kind' as I am. He will definitely guard the Crown Prince well, covering all possible areas. You won't be able to succeed."
As Roland slowly turned around to look at me, I could see his eyes changing as he got more and more worked up over it, slowly changing back into that of a Death Knight's flame-eyes. He said coldly, "No matter how slim the chances are, I will kill him."
"Roland, it is against a knight's principles to hold grudges."
"No, Creus. I'm not going to kill him because of a grudge," said Roland icily. "I'm going to kill him because he is a habitual offender. It was precisely because I could not stand it any longer and tried to expose him, that I became another of his many victims. Leaving that kind of person in this world would only cause many more to suffer my same fate."
I was speechless. The Crown Prince, who always had a gentle smile for anyone, was actually such a monster?
Roland abruptly stood up, the dark aura seeping profusely through his disguise. "I must kill him. I can't let him harm anyone else!"
"You're obsession is to kill him?" I asked. It'll be difficult, if that really was the case. There is no way to reach a compromise with obsessions.
"Obsession?" asked Roland.
"That's right. Last time, you had nearly turned into a Death Lord. For you to reach this stage so quickly in such a short time, your obsession must have been something near impossible to achieve. If it is to kill the Crown Prince, then that really is a near impossible thing."
I shook my head sadly, but caught Roland eying me strangely. "What is it?"
"Nothing. I should go now. I had lost control of my dark aura just now, and others must have noticed it. Creus, the next time we meet, I hope you will come as the Sun Knight."
With that, Roland left without looking back once.
I continued to sit there in a daze, feeling torn over Roland and this whole matter. I cannot stop Roland from killing him now, so what should I do?
Should I reveal his plans? If I do that, no matter how strong Roland is he won't be able to succeed, with all of the Holy Knights and the Royal Guards stopping him. He won't even be able to escape. When that happens, as the Sun Knight I will have to personally drag him to the stake and burn him to ashes.
Or, I could not reveal his plans and let him kill the ruler. With his own impressive abilities and the Life Ring disguising him, he'd probably succeed……
Idiot Roland! Why didn't you just keep quiet about your plans and come meet me after you've killed him?! Why did you have to specially come and tell me of your intentions, leaving me with such a hard choice to make?! I should just tie you up and burn you to ashes right now for throwing such a dilemma at me.
At that moment, the sounds of many hurried footsteps interrupted my thoughts. I looked up to see a group of holy knights approaching, too late to do anything anymore. I shook my head disapprovingly. Only arriving just now, you guys won't even be able to pick up his trail anymore!
"There he is!"
Huh? Did Roland turn back? I looked around the plaza searching for his figure, but I couldn't see him……
"You! Pull down that hood!" The holy knights marched over to me and shouted at me fiercely.
How many times are you idiots going to mistake me for the Death Knight?!!