*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.
An old and dilapidated wooden house stood at the end of a street, so shaky it looked ready to fall apart at the slightest gust of wind. A door slowly squeaked open, revealing a little girl's pink face. She held in her hand a humongous pink strawberry lollipop even larger than her head.
"Pink, I agree to become your apprentice and learn the arts of necromancy." I said seriously.
The little girl was stunned for a moment, before crooking her finger at me-indicating for me to bend down closer.
'Huh? Don't tell me that there's some kind of ceremony to undergo before becoming one's student?' I thought doubtfully as I bent down. Pink crooked her little finger again, and I moved my face closer.
She then placed her hand on my forehead and cried out, "Oh no! Sun, your forehead's so hot, you're burning up! No wonder you were saying such ridiculous things!"
"That's because you're a corpse-your hands are icy cold……"
Pink withdrew her hand and looked at it for a while before comprehending, "Oh, you're right. I had nearly forgotten that I'm already dead, but……"
Pink gave me an unconvinced look, "You sure you're not running a fever?"
I rolled my eyes and said exasperatedly, "Thanks to the divine blessings of the God of Light, I have not had a fever since I was ten."
"Oh." Pink nodded. "Then what is it that you need my help for? You must be really determined this time, to even sell off your 'alive self'."
I hurried to clarify the terms of our deal, "I'm only agreeing to learning necromancy from you, but I'm still going to continue on as the Sun Knight!"
"A Sun Knight studying part time as necromancy apprentice?" Pink shook her head sombrely and sighed, "Only you would dare to do something so heretical. Are you not afraid of your God of Light striking you down with lightning in punishment?"
"I believe that the God of Light will understand my difficult position." I replied solemnly, before adding, "Besides, Her Holiness has not made an appearance for the past few hundred years, I don't think Her Holiness will pop in for such a small thing."
Pink just licked her lollipop, neither agreeing nor refuting me.
I suddenly felt a chill go up my spine and seriously thought about the odds of the God of Light smiting me down …
'It shouldn't be that bad!'
I shook my head forcefully and asked Pink, "How 'bout it? Do you accept?"
"So, what is it that you want me to do?"
After putting forward my request to Pink, I walked back to the Holy Temple-of course, with my cloak and hood on. If one more person mistakes me for the Death Knight, I will turn them into a Death Knight!!
Next, I had a request for another person. Luckily, this person is much easier to settle than Pink, so I wasn't overly concerned.
I smiled at a holy knight I met along the hallways of the Holy Temple and asked, "My holy knight comrade, the God of Light watches over us high up in the sky, smiling down upon the people. It is such a bright and beautiful day, and I pray that you also bask in the warmth of the God of Light."
The holy knight I had stopped looked extremely thrilled, and replied in a respectful and worshipful tone. "And may you also feel the God of Light's warmth, Sun Knight. Today's weather really is quite good. I hope we can successfully catch the Death Knight."
I nodded my head and said, "My brother, would you know of where our brother, the Storm Knight, is basking in under the God of Light's blessings?"
The holy knight got a little nervous and asked uncertainly, "Err…… May I ask if you are asking where the Storm Knight is?"
The holy knight let out a breath of relief and answered, "The Storm Knight has been in his room for the past three days going over official documents."
"My brother, this Sun is grateful for this conversation filled with compassion and goodwill. May you always receive Her Holiness the God of Light's warm blessings."
"Sun Knight, you are too kind!" The holy knight gazed at me with worshipful eyes as I left.
I immediately walked up to Storm's room and knocked on his door.
After a while the door gradually opened at a snail's pace, and a pale gaunt face befitting a Death Knight revealed its self. If it weren't for the fact that Death Knights did not have dark eye bags, I would have believed that Storm had become Sprouting Leaf City's second Death Knight.
I was about to open my mouth to speak when Storm raised a hand to stop me and said faintly, "Sun, please use the simplest and most direct speech possibly, or else I guarantee you I'll fall asleep within three seconds."
I thought about it for a moment before saying two words. "Help me."
"Can I refuse?" Storm moved those pale and bloodless lips of his and asked.
I thought again for a moment and shortened it to one word, "Order."
"…… how direct."
After telling Storm what I needed of him, I left to carry out the next thing on my agenda, not feeling the least worried for Storm even though he looked like he could collapse at any moment.
But there's nothing to worry about, for even if he were to collapse and die from fatigue, he would rise again as a Death Knight and finish off all his work. That's just how he is; a complete workaholic, completely opposite from his image of the carefree Storm Knight.
I was about to sneak off to some hidden spot and change into my 'Slayer' identity when I heard the sounds of many footsteps marching perfectly in step, as well as the quiet exchange of words. Such neat and orderly marching could only come from the Judge Knight's Division.
As expected, the Judge Knight appeared around the corner leading twenty or so holy knights. He said to me as usual, "May you one day understand the God of Light's stern and merciless way, Sun Knight."
"Tonight, the Death Knight will go to the Royal Palace seeking revenge." I spoke in an undertone.
Upon hearing that, the Judge Knight halted in his footsteps. Even though he had stopped so suddenly, the twenty something holy knights behind him had also immediately stopped, not showing a single bit of disorder among their ranks.
Judge merely waved his hand, and his team quietly went around us and continued on without a single word.
When everyone had left, Judge asked me without delay, "You are sure?"
"Mm-hmm." I nodded. Roland is not one to dilly-dally about. If he said he's going to do it, then he's definitely going to do it straight away.
Judge looked at me a little suspiciously and asked, "You've decided to catch him?"
"I am the Sun Knight, Judge Knight." I said to him calmly. "The Sun Knight would never allow a dead person to interfere in matters of the living, even if that living person were to have committed an unforgivable sin."
The Judge Knight nodded and calmly answered, "Tonight, I'll send some of our knights to hide themselves within the Royal Palace and protect that person, as well as catch the Death Knight at the same time."
I glanced at him, "Not bad. You've already found out who had killed Roland?"
"Nng" Judge explained simply, "I arrested the execution site's groundskeeper and questioned him about the corpse's condition, and concluded that the Death Knight was indeed tortured to death. I then asked Storm to investigate the Duke of Ceylan and his third son, as well as to which of the nobility are fond of torturing. From there, I had three suspects-His Majesty the King, His Highness the Crown Prince, and his grace the Duke of Ceylan."
Poor Storm, not only was he grilled by me, he also had to undergo a second round from Judge. No wonder he looked so terrible.
"Then how did you determine which one of them was the guilty party?" I asked curiously.
"Actually, based on the current events, I could already deduce who it was, but to confirm it I had Frost-who had seen the Death Knight-pick out a holy knight who looked the most similar to the Death Knight, had his face look paler, before bringing him along to pay a visit to each of the three suspects. The one who acted suspiciously would be the guilty person."
Judge shook his said and sighed, "Although deceiving people in such a way is not the proper way to do things, it cannot be denied that it is a very effective method. It was quite easy to find out which one was the perpetrator. He was quivering in his shoes the moment he saw the dressed up knight."
"Not bad!" I admired. I had only realised who the real perpetrator was after speaking with Roland.
"Sun, seeing as you've made your decision, the Sun Knight Division and the Judge Knight Division will disguise themselves within the Royal Palace tonight," judge decided. "After all, even though his crime is unforgivable, he still cannot be harmed in the slightest, or there'll be a big uproar to deal with later."
"I agree, but I wish to bring along Blaze and Earth too."
Judge did not understand this. "I can understand the reason for bringing along Earth, as his defensive abilities would be helpful when protecting that person, but Blaze's specialty lies with the spirits, not the undead."
I shook my head in disagreement. "You may not be aware of this, but I've met Roland. He's very close to becoming a Death Lord. If he's unable to exact his revenge, he might become a Death Lord there and then, and be able to summon various dark creatures, malicious spirits being one of them. It would be troublesome for us then."
"Hmm. You are more familiar with the undead. You are very thorough." Judge nodded agreeing, before bidding me farewell, "May your friend find peace soon."
And with that, he was gone.
I watched as Judge left before looking out the window. It was still quite bright outside. Good. It's still early enough for me to finish my business before coming back to assemble my Sun Knight Division.
After settling things with Storm and Judge, I had only one thing left to do-infiltrate the Royal Palace and search out the location where Roland's torture had taken place.
Since Roland had said that that person was a frequent offender, he should have a place especially built for torturing people. If I can find this place and obtain evidence, I can then testify against him and his crimes.
Now, the Royal Palace may be heavily guarded, but I've actually already been to the place several times before.
Every so often that fat King would stir up some trouble, and every single time I would be ordered to visit the palace to nag at him. Of course, I would always drag along one of the Twelve Holy Knights with me to act the good cop, bad cop-obviously they're the bad cop, with the role of threatening the King, while I, the ever kind and forgiving Sun Knight, play the good cop.
Usually, Storm's the one whom I would drag along, but on particularly serious matters, Judge may put in an appearance.
Besides coming here to 'advice' that fat pig, I also often visit the palace as the Holy Temple's representative to attend social events, such as, the Queen's birthday celebration, the coming-of-age dance ball of some Duke's daughter, the Prince's first hunting trip,… etc. etc.
In short, the Sun Knight is the Church of Light's walking billboard.
And not to mention, the Queen is my teacher's foster mother; my teacher had even grown up with the Crown Prince as brothers. That was why my teacher had often brought me along to the palace when he visited. A nice way of putting it would be that he was there to build up good relationships between the Church of Light and the court; in actuality, my teacher was having tea with the Queen, the Princesses and the women in court while exchanging gossip……
Ahem! So, in the twenty-three years that I've lived so far, the place that I'm most familiar with after the Holy Temple would be the Royal Palace.
Therefore, the Royal Palace's security is nothing to me, for I could simply walk through the front gates without needing to come up with any excuses. Why, the royal guards would even salute me respectfully without questioning my appearance!
"Dragon's Holy Robe, in the name of the dragon's successor, I order you to activate!"
After finding a hidden spot and putting on my black and silver 'bloodthirsty clothes', I prepared to sneak into the palace and locate that torture chamber……
'Master, this lowly one is the Dragon's Holy Robe, not the bloodthirsty clothes.'
"Argh! You scared me." I patted my chest, 'don't worry, don't worry it's just the clothes'. "Don't suddenly speak out like that; you nearly had me discovered by someone."
You might think that it is an unwise decision to wear a black outfit in bright daylight, but at least it's better this way than to wear my Sun Knight uniform and be discovered sneaking around the palace grounds, up to no good.
Besides, even though it's still bright daylight, there're all kinds of ridiculously huge decorations placed all over the hallways that can provide cover for me to duck into. For example, this flower vase even taller than a man (can one even put flowers in it?); or that super-heavy armour that no knight would be able to move in (what's the point of forging it if no one's going to wear it?); and many others.
And if I really can't hide from them, well that's alright too.
My teacher had often said to me, "My child, do not labour under the misconception that the Royal Palace's walls are thick and solid. It might have been so at the beginning of its construction, but know that every king wishes to have a secret escape route that only he knows about, as well as a secret room where he can carry out some unspeakable deed…… Now, after several generations, there'll be as many secret hallways and as many secret rooms. These secret pathways and secret rooms may all be called 'secret', but don't actually believe that they're really such a big secret. Believe me, even the current king may not know all the secret hallways and secret rooms as well as his queen and the princesses do."
"Then how is it that you know of them?" I asked.
"The princess told me."
"But why would the princess want to tell you?"
"How am I supposed to secretly meet with her if she doesn't tell me……? Ahem! You're too young to need to know about these things. Just memorize all these secret entrances and hallways properly."
Now that I think back on it, my teacher was one slick guy. Why?
Well, back then, there were only two princesses. One was almost fifty years old-the King's unmarried sister, while the other was only fifteen years old-the King's daughter; my teacher had been in his thirties at that time.
I wonder if he had seduced the young princess, or been the one seduced instead…… Cough! I digress. The point is, I'm guessing that the torture chamber should be one not too far away from that person's bedchambers.
I'm hoping that he had used one of the pre-existing secret rooms instead of tunnelling a new one. After all according to the number of secret rooms and escape routes my teacher had told me about, the whole palace should be just about hollow already. Even the Royal Architectures would think twice before digging a new one in fear of the Royal Palace collapsing.
So, I sneaked along the hallways, slipping into a secret hallway for a while before exiting, only to enter another. On the way, I had nearly bumped into a couple lost in each other's arms and lips. Fortunately, they were too engrossed and had not noticed me, so I quickly turned to enter another secret hallway ……
Hold on! I frowned as I thought back to the kissing couple. One of them…… had looked rather like the princess?
You know, the fifteen year old princess I had mentioned earlier…? She's about twenty-five now, and is still dragging on with her marriage. I can see why now-she's already got a lover…… That guy must not have a very high status, or else they wouldn't have had to sneak around to meet each other in fear of the king's disapproval.
Looks like my teacher was right. These secret hallways and rooms aren't really a secret, and are instead more often used by lovers for clandestine meetings.
As I crept along the secret hallways, I considered the secret rooms and hallways around that person's bedchambers. There are quite a number of them, but only three had entrances hidden in his bedchambers. Two of them could be entered by another entrance somewhere else, but one of them was a closed one, with the exit hidden in the bedchambers being the only one.
I decided to look around at the other two secret hallways first.
I'd been walking around in the maze of secret pathways for some time, but thankfully I have an excellent memory and was able to easily find my way out. Before long, I had stepped into an empty secret room. According to my memory, this would be one of the places I was aiming at.
But from the thick cobwebs covering the whole room (even thicker than my cloak!), this wasn't it.
Next, I had originally decided to exit into the bedchambers from here and enter the second secret room from there, but as I looked at these layers upon layers of cobwebs, I shudder to think of having to go through all of them, wishing I could just burn them away with a fire spell.
But there are plenty of sorcerers in the Royal Palace. If I were to let loose with a magic spell they would immediately sense it. So with no choice left to me, I pushed on ahead through the cobwebs, trying my best to keep myself from touching them. Despite my best efforts, I was covered with cobwebs by the time I finally made my way to the exit. I bent down for the hidden door……
"It's sealed shut."
I felt like crying at this frustration. I should have anticipated this. How could pathways leading to the royal bedchambers have been left unguarded or unsealed?
"I hope the other entrance hasn't been sealed off as well."
I hoped, as I made my way once more through the winding hallways. To my surprise, this secret pathway was much smaller at only half my height, forcing me to crawl through on my hands and knees. At the end of the tunnel, I entered a small room only two meters high and two meters across. There's no way any torturing could have been done here. It would have been a difficult task to even try to squeeze in two people into this room!
I raised my head to look at the ceiling, for the exit leading to the person's bedchambers was a trapdoor in the ceiling. Thankfully this one hadn't been sealed. I guess this room was a better-kept secret, that even the bedchambers' owner was unaware of its existence. I gently lifted the trapdoor (how heavy!) and peeked around the room. Good! No one's around.
I tried to further lift open the trapdoor but it wouldn't budge further. I pushed with all my strength, lifting it up and pushing it to the side, before I was finally able to climb out. By then, my clothes were drenched in my sweat from all my effort.
I stood there panting, trying to catch my breath. I doubt that I would have been able to lift the trapdoor were it not for the boosted strength the Dragon's Holy Robe had given me.
After getting back my breath, I looked around the room before realising that there was a huge marble cabinet placed atop the trapdoor. It was even taller than me by ten or so centimetres-no wonder it was so heavy!
But now is not the time to complain. The bedchambers' owner might come in at any time, I'll have to hurry.
I quickly found the hidden entrance to the third room behind a wardrobe and entered, hoping I had not wasted a whole afternoon for naught……
Immediately upon opening the concealed door, the smell of blood greeted me, accompanied by the wafting smell of rotting flesh.
A thick piece of cloth was blocking the entrance, but it could not block the smell from coming through. I knew immediately that I had found the place.
I stepped forward and pushed aside the cloth……
I was stunned.
I had already found the proof, so I should leave immediately, but I couldn't do anything except stare in shock around the whole room.
There wasn't a single body lying within, and neither was there any blood or flesh splattered around the room. Instead, the room was quite clean; the shackles on the wall and the torture equipments were even freshly oiled, shining in the dark.
And in the middle of the room laid a shiny wooden bed.
It was probably impossible to wash out all the blood; layers upon layers of blood had splattered and spilled onto the bed until there was a solidified layer of black blood shining there.
At first glance, the surrounding four walls and floor looked spotless, but the horrible screams of the tortured dead bled out from the walls, lending a chilling glimpse of hell; the smell of blood and rotting flesh coming from all around.
This seemingly clean room was overfilled with the dirtiest and darkest thoughts of depravity; the air filled with the sorrowful and hateful cries of the many victims.
I couldn't help myself from trailing a finger in the black shiny layer on the bed. The shiny black layer was even harder than I had thought, only a little reddish-black had came off on my finger.
Roland's blood… must be intermixed among them.
"Roland, I can understand now why you had become a Death Knight, why you are so determined to kill him; if you had died in such a place, it's understandable."
I could feel my eyes get misting, but I did not wish to hold back my tears. Roland and I were both orphans. Now that he had died in such a horrible way, I'm probably the only person who would mourn for his death.
Only I would shed tears for him.