*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.
The next day after the King's coronation, a missive from the royal palace arrived, stating the date of the duel to be two weeks later. As it was impossible to make a fair fight for three, it had been decided that all three competitors would battle it out together, with the last person standing declared the winner.
This news wasn't new to me, as I had requested that the Princess try to make it a three person duel, as well as try to push the competition as far back as possible to give me at the very least two weeks to prepare. The King clearly loved his sister quite a lot, for even when he must have been furious, he had still listened to his sister's suggestions.
However, the King probably was furious with me, for along with the missive was a note I was required to sign, declaring the disclaimer of responsibility in the event of my death in the competition. 'He can't be thinking of using this opportunity to let the Son of War dispose of me, can he?'
I wryly signed the disclaimer note, quite aware that with my healing abilities and the Pope watching the battle, it's almost impossible for me to die on the stage…… It would probably be easier to just assassinate me.
After confirming the date and time of the duel, I immediately left to look for Judge. It was only after I stopped a passing holy knight and asked for the Judge Knight's whereabouts, that I realised that the Twelve Holy Knights were in a meeting. Now that I think about it, it seems like I haven't attended one in a very long time?
Oh whatever, it's not like attending meetings is one of the Sun Knight's main duties.
I opened the door to the meeting room and immediately became the focus of attention. I smiled and nodded at everyone before saying apologetically, "My apologies, my fellow brothers. This Sun has been busy with things recently and was unable to attend the meetings……"
"Oh, it's alright! I-it can't be helped that you're busy! Re-really, its fine, your presence here wouldn't make any difference!" said the Earth Knight 'sincerely'.
'Earth, you…' I grinded my teeth in annoyance and my gaze swept past him to look at the Judge Knight. "Captain Judge Knight, if you do not mind, this Sun wishes to appropriate some of your time to practice my sword skills with."
"I do not see anything wrong with that, as long as you do not mind accidentally getting hurt," said the Judge Knight coldly.
As we walked out the meeting room, I closed the door behind us, but not in time to catch Leaf's worried exclamation, "Oh dear! Sun's upset about not getting the Princess and is feeling suicidal!" followed by Metal's "Nonsense! Our Judge Knight has no interest in beating up a weak defenceless person." And lastly, all the Good Warm Faction knights agreeing with him, "Hmm, you're right, Judge wouldn't bully the weak and defenceless."……
I couldn't help turning to Judge and complaining, "Honestly, am I really that weak?! Whatever everyone might say, I did make it till now alive and kicking, and in fact I have even defeated numerous undead creatures, so you can't say that I am that weak, right?!"
Judge's lips twitched before he distracted me, saying "Where are we going?"
"The prayers room."
Judge nodded and before long, we had arrived at our destination. Hanging outside the door was a sign that said 'undergoing construction'. Ignoring the sign completely, I pushed open the door and entered. Inside the room was Elliot, his head raised as he stared at the murals decorating the walls.
I nodded my head in satisfaction. That Ed is pretty efficient, and quite smart too. I had told him to sneak Elliot in here without anyone noticing, and not only had he carried out my instructions perfectly, he even had the presence of mind to hang that 'undergoing construction' sign outside the door to stop people from entering.
And even better, he was smart enough to know not to stick around afterwards, thus avoiding me having to waste my saliva to order him out.
Looks like I can entrust some things to Ed in the future and thus lessen Adair's burden. I wouldn't want Adair to die from being overworked before my retirement, would I? If that were to really happen I would die without him here to help me.
"Judge Knight!" Elliot didn't look surprised to see me here, but he was stunned when he saw Judge following in behind me.
Judge frowned as he looked at me and Elliot before asking me, "What are you trying to pull here?"
I replied him frankly, "I want him to marry the Princess, so I need you to train him with the sword before he competes in the duel."
"If it were you, it's fine, but I have no obligation to help him," Came Judge's cold and detached reply.
"No! You do have an obligation to help him……"
Even so, Judge merely looked at me before turning to leave.
I hurriedly grabbed him and added, "No matter what, he is still one of the Cold Blood Faction; don't tell me that you-the Cold Blood Faction's leader, would be so heartless as to ignore him?"
"What?" Judge turned around, frowning as he took in Elliot in his royal knight uniform, before turning to look at me with doubt.
I quickly explained, "He is the Hell Knight Captain and one of the Twelve Holy Knights. Since young, he was sent away by the Pope to go undercover in the royal family. However, after so many years spent undercover amongst all the other royal knights, he no longer wishes to return to the Holy Temple……"
When I saw understanding flash in his eyes, I added, "Furthermore, he and the Princess really are in love with each other, so I've promised him that as long as he married the Princess and thus stop the Son of War from marrying her, I would release him from his Hell Knight position."
I then quietly added in a whisper, "Or else, the Pope is going to kill him now that he has not only become useless to him but also a threat to the Church."
Upon hearing my explanation, Judge's frowns deepened, and after some time he finally said, "The Son of War is extremely strong. I fear that even I would not be able to defeat him. Besides, knights are less suited to one-on-one battles than warriors. Knights ride horses to do battle and use shields to block the blows of the enemy. If it were us holy knights, we might be able to make up for some of it with our holy spells, but the Hell Knight cannot use any of the spells or moves of a holy knight to avoid his true identity from being exposed…… In short, he doesn't have any chance of winning."
I nodded my head, saying, "I know, but he does not need to win. I want you to train him with the goal of staying in the battle for as long as possible in mind."
Judge frowned at that and said with disagreement, "Captain Sun Knight, you should remember that your current duty is to……"
"Secure the faiths of the believers!" I said for him.
I then continued, as serious as can be. "Believe me, everything that I'm doing is for the sake of this duty…… but I might accomplish an additional mission while I'm at it."
Judge rolled his eyes at this. 'Yes!' Upon seeing him roll his eyes at me, I knew right away that the serious and responsible colleague Judge Knight had been switched for the friend who would agree to almost any request of mine, Leithe. He said exasperatedly, "Let me guess, if I don't agree to this request of yours I would never get any peace!"
I chuckled at that. It was true. I had the most perseverance when asking someone to do something for me. Back then, I had once asked Leithe to scale the walls of the Holy Temple to get me some blueberry pie. Every hour like clockwork I would approach him to remind him to get my pie. Do note that it is 24 hours a day, including a reminder every hour at night: "Leithe, buy some blueberry pies for me!"
Now that I think back about it only do I realise how close to danger I really was. Fortunately, Leithe had caved in to my demands and chose to scale the walls for my blueberry pies instead of enacting a chilling midnight murder and killing me once and for all……
"Then please start training him from today onwards. There's only two weeks left."
Upon hearing 'two weeks', Judge shook his head and said, "One of these days I'm going to just kill you once and for all instead of agreeing to your demands."
I hastily said, "No way! Judge, you're the world's nicest person, ever! Even nicer than Leaf! You would never kill your bestest best friend!"
"…… are you mocking me?" Judge shot me a glare.
"I'm praising you!" I quickly corrected, before giving a little cough and nudging Elliot, reminding him, "Hey! Are you done daydreaming? Judge has agreed to train you, so hurry up and thank him."
Elliot finally woke up from his daze and stammered, "A-aren't you supposed to hate each other……?"
I nodded and said, "Yup! Let me introduce you to him. This is my most hated best friend, Leithe Judge."
"Most hated…… best friend?!" Elliot was stunned once again, his brain seeming to have grinded to a halt.
"Stop bullying him."
Judge shook his head at my cheeky actions before suggesting to me, "If your aim is for him to stay in the fight for as long as possible, you should get Cloud Knight to help in his training. That would go a long way to helping his stay in the fight."
I thought about it before realising his meaning. "No problem! I'll go and look for him right this instance. Cloud is one of the Good Warm Faction and very obedient. I'll just order him to help with the training."
Judge nodded and started to consider Elliot, probably thinking of the best way to start his training…… I spared a moment to offer a prayer for Elliot. Even though Judge is a fair and righteous man and would never purposely try to make things difficult for Elliot, I have seen the training schedule that Judge sets for himself…… and I can only say that with that kind of training anyone would become a skilled swordsman!
'Who was it?! Who was it who said excluding me? I heard you!'
"Cloud! Cloud Knight! Where are you?" I called out as I walked along the corridors of the Holy Temple.
Although such an action is rather inelegant and contrary to my Sun Knight's elegant and graceful image, there's nothing that can be done about it! This is the quickest way to finding the Cloud Knight. And besides, when everyone realized that it was Cloud that I was looking for they all looked at me understandingly, disregarding my inelegant behaviour.
As the whole continent knows, the Cloud Knight is a drifter who leads a wandering existence and who has a flighty and capricious disposition. It is said that he is most commonly found on window sills, atop the roofs and under large shady trees, where he would usually be reading books or getting lost in his thoughts.
I don't know how the previous Cloud Knight drifted or floated around, but I do know that our Cloud Knight would really float around. And furthermore, his 'drifting ability' is extremely good, for he would often 'drift' past me without me even noticing his presence…… and the best places when looking for him would be dark gloomy corners, dusty attics and unused cupboards that are rarely opened even once a year. So in short, it's best to go looking in all the dark and musty corners of the Holy Temple when looking for the Cloud Knight!
Typically, he would light a small light in those dark places and read books like, How to Excel in Divination, The Top Ten in Fortune Witchcraft, and Avoiding Bad Luck and Beckoning Good Fortune. And beside him, would be a bottle of some suspicious pitch black or murky green or blood red liquid, of which I've never quite dared to inquire about.
However, as the Holy Temple is quite extensive and holds a rather large number of dark musty places, it would be almost impossible to ferret him out from his newest hiding place.
Therefore, everyone has settled for the next best method—calling out his name while walking about the Holy Temple.
After looking for Cloud for what seems like half a day, I saw Storm walking in my direction with an unusually small stack of official documents-only ten or so of them. Even though I knew that the chances of Storm knowing Cloud's location were extremely slim, I was so frustrated by my lack of success that I couldn't stifle the desperate hope within me that led me to asking, "My brother Storm, may I ask if you noticed the direction in which our brother Cloud headed in after the meeting was over?"
Storm raised an eyebrow at me and replied with a question of his own, "Have you ever seen him other than when he is standing right in front of you?"
"Never…" I sighed. This Cloud really is like a ghost. Not only is he fond of dark gloomy corners, he walks using the Cloud Knight's specialty-the Cloud Flight Steps. Using the Cloud Flight Steps-originally designed to evade the attacks of one's opponents- he's improved it to the point where he could even evade everyone's sight…… If he did not wish for you to see him, short of growing a third eye, it would be impossible for you to spot him!
Storm nodded at my reply, but before I could leave him dejectedly, he spoke up. "And where do you most often see Cloud?"
'Where I most often see him?' I thought about it. 'The meeting room? No, I hadn't actually 'seen' him then either.
'Along the hallways? No, I've never ever 'seen' him walking in the hallways.
'Inside cupboards? Not there either! Even if I were to come across the correct cupboard, I wouldn't see him either as he would have 'blended' in with the cupboard perfectly.
'Hold on! Now that I think about it, the place I see him most often is……' A chill crept up my spine as I said tremblingly, "Behind my back……"
Storm nodded his head and pointed to behind me before continuing on his way.
I was silent for a moment before calling out experimentally, "Cloud?"
'It really is true……' I whipped around and sure enough, I saw the figure of the Cloud Knight standing before me, his skin even paler than mine due to lack of sun exposure. I asked exasperatedly, "At what point in time did you start following behind me?"
Cloud answered respectfully in his wispy voice, "Since you came out of the prayers room that was undergoing construction and started calling out for me. I was, coincidentally, inside the book cupboard just outside the room."
"…… And you've been following me ever since? Why didn't you call out to me?"
Cloud answered weakly, "I called out to you several times, but my voice was drowned out by yours when you called my name at the same time, so you probably didn't hear me."
I was speechless.
"Just pat my shoulder next time then."
"Alright," Cloud nodded.
"You were hiding in the cupboards again?" I then asked, disapproving of his unusual habits. "Haven't I told you that that is not a place suitable for people? If you want to read your books you could go to the reading rooms. Or if you dislike others around you when reading you could go to one of the prayers rooms too. You are one of the Twelve Holy Knights; even if you were to ask for your own personal prayers room no one would object."
Cloud shook his head and said, "I wasn't hiding in the cupboards. You had forbidden me from them, so I wasn't hiding there."
"Didn't you just say that you were hiding in the cupboards?"
Cloud shook his head again. "I was hiding in the 'book cupboards'."
"…… is there a difference?"
Cloud tilted his head to one side and answered, "The cupboards have a damp mouldy smell, while the book cupboards smell of termites. Termites smell better than mould."
'Oi, oi. Wouldn't a normal person dislike both smells? And if the smell of termites is better, then why did you previously hide in the cupboards which smell mouldy anyway?'
I totally couldn't figure out Cloud's way of thinking…… 'Oh whatever! Whatever floats his boat, I guess.'
"Cloud, I want you to look for the Judge Knight in that prayers room that is undergoing construction and listen to the orders he gives you."
"Alright." Cloud nodded, turned, and then disappeared into thin air like a ghost.
I nodded my head at Cloud's obedience. He might be a bit peculiar, and hard to find, and his voice is very soft, and he may think in rather weird ways, but the best thing about him is his obedience. He would always listen to my instructions and carry them out without any questioning.
"Sun!" Someone called out at me.
Without even waiting for the person to reach me, I asked with a frown, "Something happened again?"
"How did you know?" Blaze executed a sharp brake as he stared at me in surprise, as if suspecting that I had suddenly gained the ability to see the future.
"Whenever I see you running towards me panicked, it is never a good thing." I explained, a dark look passing over my face as I recalled the last incident where Adair had nearly lost his life.
"Oh, I see……" realised Blaze, hitting his fist in his other hand, before suddenly regaining his earlier panicked state and shouted, "Wait! Why are we even discussing this?! Your Sun Knight Division has just gotten into a fight with those people from the Church of War. They've all suffered some injuries, although nothing life threatening, thankfully. They're in the great hall at the moment.
"However, those guys from the Church of War are there, too, calling out some bullshit about demanding justice. What utter bullshit! Both parties were involved in the fight; and further more, their injuries are in no way as bad as the Sun Knight Division's! It should be us who should be demanding justice from them!"
After hearing the account from Blaze, I was furious. My Sun Knight Division actually went and got involved in a group fight? And they had picked a fight with such a strong enemy, completely disregarding my warnings!
Are they trying to anger me on purpose?!
I rushed after Blaze in the direction of the great hall, and sure enough I saw my Sun Division knights, all of them covered in blood. I was so angry I nearly started shouting at them in front of everyone. Thankfully though, Blaze had jerked on my shirt and gestured silently at the group of warriors from the Church of War standing in the middle of the hall, thus forcing me to swallow my angry words.
Standing among the group of fifty or so warriors was the Son of War himself.
I put on a faint smile and walked towards him, passing the injured Sun Division knights without a second glance, and greeted him politely, "This Sun was not aware of the Son of War's visit, or else this Sun would have came earlier to welcome you, to show the God of Light's welcome and love of guests. Since you are now here, are you wishing of a tour of the Church of Light……"
The Son of War listened to my spiel with a steadily increasing tick in his jaw, until he impatiently interrupted me and shouted, "Cut the crap, Sun Knight! Your men have beaten up mine, and as for you-you… Well, you better give me a good explanation."
'My men beat up yours?' I gave a cold laugh inside. 'My Sun Division knights are much more heavily injured than your warriors! Furthermore, they've been strictly schooled by me and would never go against those whom they have no guarantee of winning against, so it still remains to be seen who had actually started the fight!'
The more likely event would be that after Elliot and I had stepped out to compete for the Princess' hand in marriage, he couldn't find either of us to vent out his frustration on us. As he wouldn't dare to touch the royal knights as they belonged to the King and not Elliot, he settled for the next best thing and picked a fight with my knights…… Those idiots! Hadn't I warned them not to leave the Holy Temple? See how they've ignored my warnings?!
Upon hearing his words, I had immediately arranged my face into a stern expression and said, "Indeed. As the benevolent God of Light preaches to us, we should treat all guests, especially those who have come from afar, with the utmost hospitality and respect, and not with such horrifying violence. The benevolence the God of Light bestows upon all her people and all creatures is an example that we should all follow. For it is only kindness and love that will generate kindness and love in return; violence will only invite further violence and hate. As no one would wish to be treated with violence, we should of course show our love in hopes of the others returning in kind……"
As I continued on, the Son of War's forehead knotted itself in deep frowns until at last he grabbed his head with his hands in seeming agony and roared, "Shut up!"
Following his wishes, I closed my mouth and kept quiet, all the while smiling at him warmly.
Behind me I could hear Blaze muttering, "Amazing! I had fought with him earlier but couldn't touch even a single hair on his head; yet Sun managed to give him a massive headache by just using his mouth."
"Just tell me how you intend to punish them!" The Son of War growled whilst panting heavily. 'Looks like listening to me speaking is more tiring than a fight with Blaze.'
Upon hearing him, I turned to my Sun Division knights and berated them harshly, "You all actually used violence on our guests? Have you forgotten that you are holy knights pledged to the God of Light? Do you think yourselves barbarians? Since you do not wish to act as honourable and well-behaved knights, you are all forbidden from receiving any healing from the priests. You are to go to the infirmary and bandage yourselves up before reporting yourselves to the holding cells, for you are all grounded for a month!"
The Sun Division knights hung their heads in shame as they stood up slowly and made their way out. The more severely wounded had to be held up by the others as they all limped their way out, dripping blood all over the previously spotless floor, a trail of blood marking their journey as they headed in the direction of the infirmary.
Seeing this, Blaze said quietly to me worriedly, "Sun, shouldn't you at least allow them to heal their wounds before locking them up? They are really wounded quite heavily!"
"That is their punishment," I said lightly, not budging on my decision.
The surrounding holy knights all looked on with pity and commiseration for the Sun Knight Division's plight, before turning to glare angrily at the group from the Church of War.
I, too, turned my head around and saw the satisfied smile on the Son of War's face, as well as the group of warriors behind him who were laughing at the Sun Knight Division's as their battered figures left the hall.
"I look forward to the duel two weeks from now, and in respect to the God of Light's benevolence I promise to show you some mercy. Hahaha…" laughed the Son of War mockingly.
I smiled at him and merely replied, "I thank you for your kindness."
"Hahaha……" The entire group from the Church of War laughed uproariously as they left smugly, not even bothering to take their leave with us.
It was only after the last of the group had left the Holy Temple that Blaze looked at me carefully and asked quietly, "S-Sun? Now that they're gone should I ask the priests to heal the Sun Knight Division?"
I gave him a look and he immediately shut up.
I left in search of my division knights, and after a moment's consideration Blaze, too, left after me.
Although there is more than one infirmary in whole of the Holy Temple and I never specified which infirmary they were to go to, I continued on my way without hesitation. After all, I only had to follow the trail of blood before me.
Along the way, all priests, holy knights and even the Twelve Holy Knights went white when they caught sight of my expression, before hurriedly turning back and taking a detour.
Upon reaching the infirmary, I closed the door quietly before turning around and shouted furiously at the Sun Division knights inside, "You bloody idiots! What did I always tell you?"
The knights all lowered their heads, keeping quiet.
I continued on my tirade, "Have I not told you before?! If you are going to fight someone make sure they're at least twice as weak as you are. If the opponent's quite strong, and you cannot guarantee a 200 percent chance of defeating them, then endure it and come back to tell me about it first!"
"Captain, it was they who refused to let us leave!" said Ed in a miserable tone as he bandaged his bleeding left hand.
I immediately rebutted him, "Nonsense! How can they stop you from leaving if you really wanted to? And in broad daylight too! If they were really blocking you all from leaving, the patrolling royal knights have an obligation to interfere and stop them."
"B-but, we can't leave! They were insulting your honour, captain! If we were to leave with our tails in between our legs wouldn't that just prove them right?!" shouted Ed.
Everyone started speaking up all at once, complaining, "That's right! They actually dared to say that our captain is a person who depended only on his looks, but whom lacks substance underneath!"
'That just means that I'm very good looking! What's there to be angry about?'
"And they said that holy knights know only how to take a beating and nothing else! That's just too much!"
'This… well it is true in a way… the greatest characteristics of holy knights are their defence and recovery abilities, and these two abilities do increase our ability to take beatings. When you take into account our sturdy physiques, holy knights are definitely number one in taking beatings!'
"And they also said that our captain couldn't care less what happened to us. Even if they were to kill us they said that you wouldn't dare to do anything to them anyway……"
'What?! Bullshit! If they really dared to kill you guys I would make sure that they become paralysed and can never move again! '
The third accusation finally angered me and my face darkened as I continued listening to their complaints as they bandaged themselves up. After a while and seeing that all their wounds had been seen to, I ordered them, "Report yourselves to the holding cells."
When they heard that they were still going to be locked up, they lowered their heads in dismay and were about to walk out the infirmary when there came a knock on the door.
"Who is it?" I called out, frowning. 'Which idiot would dare to interrupt me whilst I am telling off my knights?'
"Captain, it's me, Adair."
"Seeing as you've disobeyed my orders to stay in bed, your injuries must be all healed up already?"
The moment he came in, Adair knelt down and said remorsefully, "Captain, if you are going to lock up the Sun Knight Division, please lock me up with them too, as all this happened because I, the vice-captain, was negligent in disciplining them."
I looked at him, and seeing his fluid motions, I could tell that his wounds were indeed all healed up. I said to him coldly, "Very well! You can all report yourselves to the holding cells."
Adair lowered his head so that I couldn't see his expression. He only said with his usual reply, "Yes, sir."