*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 waited till night had fallen before knocking on each of the Twelve Holy Knights' doors, greeting them with the same "I need a favour" when they opened their door.
And so I went, knocking on each of their doors until I reached Judge's door. When he opened his door, just like all the others, I said, "I need a favour."
"What favour?" He asked, and then adopting an innocent manner he said, "Buy blueberry pies? Asking Frost to make strawberry snow cones?"
"Lend me ten of your Judge Division knights," I asked, directly to the point.
Upon hearing my request Judge sighed and asked, "Is this for your mission? Or is it for revenge?"
"It's for the mission……" Upon seeing his disbelieving expression I hastily amended, "But I admit to planning to exact a little revenge along the way."
Judge looked as if he didn't whether to laugh or cry at my answer. "Will you stop before going too far?"
I gave a shrug and said, "Of course. I only wish to strengthen the faith of the believers, not go to war with the Church of War."
Even though I had already assured him so, Judge took another minute to consider my request before reluctantly saying, "I can only lend you five; this is to avoid you from going overboard. You've always spoiled the Sun Knight Division; now that they've been humiliated in front of so many, and were even so heavily injured, I doubt you would be able to control yourself from ruthlessly exacting revenge from the Church of War's warriors."
"Fine, five then," I agreed instantly.
Upon seeing me agree to his condition so readily, Judge started frowning once more. To avoid giving him time to regret his decision I quickly diverted his attention. "How is Elliot's training coming?"
"Pretty good. He has a pretty high learning curve, and now that Cloud has modified a few of the Cloud Flight Steps to suit his style, his skill in avoiding hits has become even better. He should be able to reach your target of 'staying in battle' in two weeks time."
I nodded my head. "That's good to hear. There shouldn't be any problems then."
"May I ask how you plan to strengthen the believers' faith?"
"No!" I refused right away. If I were to let Judge know of my plans, I cannot guarantee that he won't just kill me with a slash of his sword, and thus stop me from harming myself when young, harming the Church of Light now, and possibly harming the world in the future.
"I knew it! You are going to cause trouble… sigh… Alright, I guess its better that you don't tell me. Plausible deniability and all that."
Judge shook his head at me and gave up finding out about my plans to save him the moral dilemma of whether to kill me or not. As he closed his door I could hear him muttering, "I better go to sleep early tonight. I don't want to find out about exactly what my five knights have been forced to do and regret agreeing to your request. But then again, I've always regretted agreeing to your requests…… sigh!"
"Sighing once will shorten one's life by three seconds," I told him.
From behind the door came his voice, "Agreeing to one of your requests will shorten one's life by three years……"
I disagreed with this. "If it really shortens your life by three years you would have died a month after meeting me!"
"I see you're aware of your own behaviours…."
After successfully requesting a few knights from Judge, I glanced at the moon outside the window, determining from its position that it was roughly ten o'clock and just about time. I quickly headed in the direction of the Holy Temple's kitchens. At this late hour there wasn't a single soul in the kitchens, but already prepared on the kitchen table were several baskets of bread and milk.
I carried the baskets and secretly made my way to the holding cells. However, instead of approaching the only door to the holding cell I approached the cells from the 'outer walls'.
I knelt down beside the wall and was about to open the secret door to send in the baskets of food when I heard voices coming from within.
"This time captain is just too much! Locking us up and even forbidding us from being healed. Several of us were pretty heavily injured!"
"And no food too…… Does the captain really not care about us anymore?"
An agitated voice suddenly cut through the rings of complaints. "As a member of the Sun Knight Division, do you all really believe like everyone else that the captain doesn't care about us? Who did you think sent us the food whenever we were locked up previously? Who was it who sent us the blankets? And who was it who secretly opened the secret door to the holding cells and let us out?"
I recognised the voice as the one belonging to Adair. 'You really are my vice-captain who knows me well!'
Another voice hurriedly explained, "Adair, don't get so upset! Of course I know that the captain hasn't stopped caring about us; it's just that, he would often ask us to do some impossible tasks……"
"But he's always given us help with them!" Adair defended adamantly.
"Yes, of course, but sometimes… the captain is-is pretty off his rockers. Like the last time he had asked us to hide our identities and beat up the Earth Knight. He gave us 25 sets of outfits but had forgotten about the weapons. And in the end we were beaten up by the Earth Knight instead……"
Adair's voice did not make an appearance again; looks like even he couldn't say anything in reply to that.
What complete hogwash! How could I have forgotten something as important as beating up Earth?! It was just that after purchasing the 25 sets of clothes, I was caught by the Pope. He had then taken back the rest of the money, leaving me with no money to buy the weapons. I then thought that with 25 against one they should be able to get in at least a hit or two, right?
But no, they never even made it past his shield, and instead came back to me, covered in wounds for me to heal. How annoyed I was then!
I roughly jerked open the secret door and threw in the baskets of food angrily. I could hear the baskets hitting against the walls from the force of my anger.
The holding cell went quiet for some time before Adair opened his mouth and tried to explain to me. "Captain, everyone's just venting out their frustration. They don't really mean any of it."
I ignored his explanation and merely threw in a number of rose beads, saying, "Only those heavily wounded can use one of the beads, and you're not allowed to completely heal all of your wounds. Everyone must have a wound remaining on them. This is an order!"
In a voice close to crying Ed pleaded, "Captain…… those guys today from the Church of War were just too much. We were just too angry at them and said some nonsense, please don't be angry!"
"We're sorry, captain!"
"Captaaaiiiin, we were wrong!"
Hearing all the cries of 'captain', I started to soften towards them. 'Damn them, they must be aware of this weak point of mine. Every time they do something wrong they would keep calling me 'captain, captain'.'
"Alright, alright! Just shut up already! Those heavily injured quickly heal yourselves, and those less severely injured quickly eat your fill. I have a task for you to do later."
When the calls of captain from behind the wall disappeared, I called out, "Adair."
"Bring everyone to the usual meeting area later. I'll send some people to back you all up; and there're some tools that you'll need waiting there too."
"Captain, will you be going with us?" Ed suddenly asked.
"'This Sun' will not be going."
At around twelve midnight, Adair led the other Sun Division knights out of their holding cells through the secret door. I was watching them from behind a tree and followed behind them as they headed towards the meeting area. Although Adair was no doubt extremely competent, I was still worried that he might not fully understand what it was that I wanted them to do. So, just in case, I decided to follow behind them to make sure that they got it.
"Adair, do you think that that dark shadow behind us was the captain?" asked Ed as he craned his head around to look behind him.
"No, the captain said that he won't be coming," said Adair without even bothering to look behind.
Hearing this reply, Ed said a little embarrassedly, "No wonder the captain likes you so much, Adair."
Just then, Adair jerked to a halt. Following directly behind him, Ed wasn't able to stop in time and had collided painfully with his head.
Ed felt about his nose painfully and quickly cast an elementary level healing spell on him, before turning to complain loudly, "Adair! Why'd you stop so suddenly?"
Adair merely gestured in front of him dazedly, and as one the entire Sun Knight Division leaned around him and saw…… a black-clothed Judge Division knight stepped forward and reported to Adair:
"Ten Storm Division knights, ten Blaze Division knights, ten Leaf Division knights, ten Earth Division knights, ten Frost Division knights, ten Moon Division knights, ten Cloud Division knights, and five Judge Division knights, all present and accounted for. We have orders from the Sun Knight Captain to follow the orders of the Sun Knight Division's vice-captain, Adair."
Ed dazedly pulled on a corner of Adair's shirt and asked softly, "Adair…… do you think the captain wants us to teach those warriors from the Church of War a lesson, or to completely destroy them?"
"Er… I'm not entirely sure," replied Adair, a little perplexed. He then caught sight of the two chests in the middle of the clearing and 'muttered' loudly, "Looks like these are the tools the captain mentioned earlier."
Hiding in the dark, I nodded my head, even though I knew Adair wouldn't be able to see it.
Ed walked up to them and started to curiously take out the items inside the chests. He then exclaimed in surprise, "Aren't these the royal knights' uniforms? And their standard issued weapons too…… and over here are the Church of War's warriors' uniforms? What are all these for?"
The Sun Knight Division all turned to Adair, accustomed to getting their answers from him. The latter puzzled about it for some time before 'muttering' loudly in realisation, "Oh, I see! Looks like we'll be separating into two groups. No wonder so many people are needed!"
Hearing Adair's report, I nodded my head in satisfaction. Looks like he knows what to do now. I have to say it again: I really had excellent judgement when I had chosen Adair as my vice-captain!
The Judge Knight was busy training Elliot, and Elliot was busy being trained by the Judge Knight.
Adair and the Sun Division knights have been busy carrying out the tasks I had given them all night, coming back to the holding cells at the break of dawn and sleeping the day away like the dead. Even if one were to make their way over those 'dead bodies', stepping on them all the way, you wouldn't hear even a peep from them, only the rhythmic ringing sounds of snores reverberating around the cell.
Even Pink and Roland were busy preparing for the request that I had asked from them. This time, I was pretty successful with my request from Pink, for when I mentioned my request to her, her eyes had immediately lit up and she had not mentioned anything about payment. And I had, of course, decidedly not brought up the subject of payment either.
On the other hand when I had made the request, Roland had turned a shocked ashy white…… although there wasn't really much difference, seeing as his face was already an ashy white colour.
I cracked a huge yawn, picked a blueberry biscuit from the plate beside me and stuffed it into my mouth, before continuing to read the book Cloud had lent to me—How To Pick A Suitable Lucky Charm Before Going to Battle.
This feels quite good-everyone busy with their own tasks while I sit here all relaxed and everything.
The door suddenly swished open, letting in the sun's rays and lighting up the entire area. However, this did not pose a problem for me, for I had already been reading from the light emitted from the holy light I had gathered.
"If it weren't for Cloud who had told me, I would never have believed that you were really hiding here…… Isn't hiding in book cupboards more of Cloud's thing? Moreover, are you really depending on that book to prepare you for the upcoming duel?"
I lifted my head and saw the Judge Knight looking in from outside the book cupboard, his lips twitching at the sight of the book in my hands. I raised an eyebrow at him and said mocked indignantly, "Hey, don't underestimate this little book, it really is quite useful! Besides, I can now understand why Cloud likes to hide in these book cupboards. With the glow from the holy light, it is actually a perfect little slice of heaven right in here."
Moreover, it is a perfect little slice of heaven where I won't be bothered! In the past even when I was in the prayers room, people would often come in looking for the Sun Knight; however, no one would think to look for the Sun Knight in a book cupboard!
Judge chose not to comment to that and merely said, "Well, when you're finished with that book and have lost interest in book cupboards, why don't you go pay the Hell Knight Captain a visit?"
"Why? What's wrong with him? Could it be that he can't master the modified Cloud Flight Steps?" I frowned at that. That would be bad, for according to my plan he had to be able to stay in the fight with the Son of War for at least ten minutes, or more.
Judge shook his head and said, "He is coming along pretty well with the training, but he looks like he's upset and depressed about something. After inquiring about it, it seems that he is under a lot of pressure from his colleagues. Because of his secret affair with the Princess and him going against the King in his plans, the other royal knights are looking down at him and giving him the cold shoulder."
I nodded in understanding. "Oh, that! Don't worry, it'll be settled within a few days."
Judge thought about it, then shook his head and said, "Well, I've already informed you of the Hell Knight's situation. Since you don't think it's a cause for concern I won't bother with it then."
Now, this made me curious, for usually Judge would have easily deduced that the Hell Knight's problems would soon become a moot point in a few days. So why would he purposely seek me out to inform me of Hell's situation?
'Could it be……' I suddenly asked him, "Didn't the five Judge Division knights tell you what I had asked them to do?"
"I told them not to tell me," said Judge as he slid the book cupboard door close. "I do not want to know a single thing."
Looks like Judge can tell that this time I've been causing a lot of trouble, thus deciding to avoid finding out about what I've done. But this is good for me, so I don't have to apologise to him for all the troubles I've raised even as he is giving me the fatal blow with his sword!
As I looked down at the book in my hands, I thought about looking into Elliot's situation. I then stuffed the last piece of blueberry biscuit into my mouth and randomly flipped a page.
Keep your beloved's handkerchief in your left breast pocket, and love will protect your heart from any fatal wounds.
'Hmmm… this is pretty useless for me, but it would be helpful for Elliot. Perhaps I should tell him about it and remind him to ask for a handkerchief from the Princess to keep in his left breast pocket?
'Besides, I've already finished the blueberry biscuits anyway.'
I wiped my mouth and straightened my clothes before stepping out of the book cupboard.
"How do you do, Cloud Kni—Su-Sun Knight!"
I turned back and saw a few holy knights standing there with a dazed expression. Upon seeing me turn around and confirming that it really was I, the Sun Knight, they all froze in shock as if turned to stone.
"The God of Light shines upon the land, showering it with Her benevolence and love; and even a simple book cupboard is filled with the air of friendship, this Sun couldn't resist going in to revel in Her love……"
After stringing together some bullshit, I quickly left the scene. Looks like I'm not suited to hiding in book cupboards. If I were to hide there several more times the number of frozen statues blocking the hallways could become problematic.
To avoid unnecessary distractions, I put on my cloak and hood and left the Holy Temple in search of Elliot.
Seeing as Elliot's probably just finished with Judge's torturous training session, he should be exhausted and would use the most direct route to return to the royal palace. Hmm… or maybe he would stop en route for a meal. I feel that based on Judge's less familiar relationship with Elliot, he wouldn't prepare any blueberry biscuits for him.
I very quickly found Elliot in a restaurant halfway in between the Holy Temple and the royal palace. His face looked pale and exhausted, a complete 180° from his previously handsome and dashing royal knight image. He looked as if he had aged 20 years; even the waitress had handed him his food brusquely, not even giving him a spare glance.
The poor thing…… no wonder Judge had asked me to have a look at him.
I walked over to him and sat down in a chair beside him, at the same time stealing the piece of beef he had picked and placed it into my mouth.
He looked at his empty chopsticks blankly before turning slowly to look at me, suspicion in his voice as he asked, "May I ask who are you?"
I nudged my hood away slightly whilst smiling at him, allowing him a glimpse of my face.
"Ah! Su-…… it's you," he said in surprise, before falling silent. He looked as if he were worrying about something, for he didn't even move his cutlery, and it was after I had eaten more than half of the beef when he finally asked resignedly, "Should I even remain in the competition?"
'Oh dear! Looks like he's thinking of throwing in the towel…' I hurriedly swallowed the piece of beef in my mouth and asked, "Why would you say that? Don't you love Her Highness?"
"It's not that!" His reaction was rather extreme as he leapt up and declared, "It's impossible for me to not love her, impossible!"
I nodded my head in acceptance. "If that is so, why do you not want to compete in the duel? Are you really willing to give Her Highness up to the Son of War?"
Elliot sat back down in his seat depressed, saying quietly, "I-I do not wish to give her up…… but with my low status I cannot hope to match her."
"Is that what your fellow royal knights are saying?"
"And His Majesty the King, and my teachers too. They're all furious with me," he said, rather disheartened.
I picked another piece of meat and chewed it carefully before swallowing and said, "How about this? You can continue with Judge's training while you think about it for another two days, alright? And if you haven't changed your mind by then, you can give up then."
This time, Elliot nodded quickly, and then said a little more enthusiastically, "Actually, I wouldn't mind continuing the training sessions with the Judge Knight. The Judge Knight is really skilled with the sword! I've only received a week's worth of training and I can already see the marked improvement in my skills. How unbelievable."
"But of course. Judge had already become near invincible at the age of thirteen. I think that other than Roland, no one else would be able to match him in terms of sword skills."
"And which holy knight is Roland?" asked Elliot, his eyes gleaming at the thought of another strong opponent.
"Er… he isn't a holy knight," I said hesitatingly.
"Oh? Then is he just an ordinary knight? Or a royal knight?" Elliot asked relentlessly. 'Looks like he's really persistent in meeting this Roland who is capable of going toe to toe with the Judge Knight.'
Now it was my turn to be curious. They were both royal knights, so shouldn't he have known, or at the very least, heard of Roland?
"He's a royal knight, but he's dead now. Have you really never heard of Roland?" I asked.
"Ah…… Is it Captain Roland?"
Elliot said in realisation, "I'd seen him a few times, but it was only in passing. I never really got to know him as he's a little distant and doesn't socialise with others easily. And as he rarely gets into fights I never had an opportunity to judge how strong his skills were; but I never thought he was that strong!"
He then said a little upset, "If I had known earlier I would have made an effort to get to know him better. Perhaps I would even have been able to advise him against going head to head with the previous King, and maybe he wouldn't have been killed then."
"You knew that Roland was killed by the King?" I asked a little surprised. Wasn't the whole incident sealed by the Crown Prince?
Elliot nodded and said softly, "Most of the royal knights are aware of it, but as with respect to the Crown Prince's wishes, we do not mention it."
I nodded in understanding. After all, there were close to fifty royal knights at the scene when Roland had came looking for the King for revenge. It would have been impossible to stop everyone from speaking of the incident. And the Crown Prince probably didn't really try all that hard from stopping them. After all, his father's reputation was already so poor; what is torturing a royal knight to death in comparison with all his other horrible activities?
Seeing Elliot's dejected figure, I was about to tell him of 'someone else' that I knew who was equally as strong, and offer to introduce him to 'him', when I saw a large group of people approaching from behind him. I quickly grabbed the plate of meat and switched to another table, pretending not to know Elliot.
"Captain Sun Knight……" Elliot could not understand the reason for my actions.
"Elliot! There you are!"
Elliot was surprised and turned around, only to see a large group of royal knights bearing down on him like a herd of stampeding buffalos. He immediately paled at the sight while mumbling, "They can't be here to beat me up, can they?" glancing at me with a pleading look from the corner of his eyes.
The first knight to reach him immediately clapped his hand on Elliot's shoulder while growling out, "Elliot, you better win!"
"That's right! Marry the Princess!"
"Don't you dare lose to that Son of War!"
The crowd of royal knights were shouting all at once, but it was all mainly about how the Church of War could go drown themselves, and that Elliot was to make sure he won the competition. Elliot was bewildered by all the commotion, and when he lifted his head and saw the older of the King's trusted knights standing in the doorway, he called out a little confusedly, "Teacher…… what is going on?'
But contrary to his mature years, the old knight was as hot-tempered as a young man. He ran over to Elliot, grabbed him by the collar and growled, "Boy! If you don't marry the Princess I will never see you again, you understand?"
"Teacher?" Elliot stared at the elderly knight with wide eyes as he stammered, "Wh-what is going on?"
A royal knight standing beside him said irately, "Those damn Church of War warriors actually came and sneaked an attack on us last night!"
"They were also yelling about how we only knew how to fight in groups, and that we were cheating to ride horses, insisting that we get off our horses and fight with them one-on-one."
The group of royal knights were further incensed by this as they began clamouring, "We are knights! Knights! Knights have always specialised in horse riding and fighting in groups. Who would want to fight with those who specialise with one-on-one battles?! We haven't gone completely mental!"
"This won't do," frowned the elderly knight, Elliot's half teacher. He said frankly, "Your skills are way below his. You don't have a hope of winning against the Son of War at your current skill level. And it is even more impossible for that Sun Knight who can't even hold his sword properly to defeat him…… Let's go, let's go! I'm going to give you some special training!"
'Hmph! If you want to give your own student extra training that's fine by me! But why do you have to drag me into it?!' I rolled my eyes at the elderly knight.
"Wait a minute, I've just……" Elliot was going to say that he had just finished a gruelling training session with the Judge Knight, but halfway through he realised that he couldn't reveal that to them and so had to keep quiet.
With no reason to refuse him, Elliot had no other option but to let himself be dragged off to another training session, throwing me puzzled look after puzzled look all along the way.
Just then, one of the royal knights growled out, "It's the Church of War!"
The Son of War was indeed leading a group of angry warriors in their direction, his eyes glaring at the group of royal knights as a whole instead of focusing only on Elliot; his target quite obviously the entire group of royal knights.
The Son of War reached the group of royal knights and immediately launched into a tirade, "What do you royal knights mean, trying to pick a fight with us in a group and on horses?! We are warriors! Who wants to fight against a mounted group, it's not like we're completely stupid!"
Hearing this, the already dark expressions on the royal knights' faces grew steadily worse as they all clamoured up. "It is your request to fight one-on-one that is unreasonable! We are knights! We refuse to fight with you one-on-one!"
Upon hearing this reply, the Son of War started to laugh in fury, saying "Alright. Alright. Alright! I'll fight against all of you singlehandedly; you can all fight against me riding horses or donkeys; a few together or even all at once! I don't give a damn!"
The royal knights were furious at his condescending tone, when at that moment the elderly knight pushed his way through them and walked up to face the Son of War. He said to him coldly, "Interesting! Very well, you can have the experience of fighting against a mounted opponent, but it will only be me against you."
It was only then that the Son of War noticed the older knight, and upon recognising him he started frowning.
I said seemingly to myself in a low voice, "That is one of the King's most trusted knights. Even if it were you, you shouldn't want to go against him for now! After all, the King has only two knights whom he trusts the most, and of the two he is the senior knight; the King would probably listen to his advice more often than the other."
The Son of War looked extremely frustrated, wishing to vent out his anger and frustrations, yet not quite daring to go against the elderly knight standing before him. In the end he growled out, "We're leaving."
The King's trusted knight, too, did not seem to really wish to go against the Son of War, for he merely turned around with a dark look on his face and clapped Elliot's shoulder heavily while warning him, "Boy, you better battle it out with him properly. If you lose, you'll be in for it!"
"That's right! If you lose you'll be in for it!" shouted the rest of the royal knights.
Elliot immediately turned even whiter than Roland and desperately tried to signal SOS at me with his eyes.
I really pitied him, for truthfully, his chances of defeating the Son of War were only a tiny bit higher than my chances of defeating the Son of War.
However, no matter how much I may pity him, I still avoided his gaze and lowered my head, swallowing the last piece of meat and wiping my mouth delicately with a napkin.
The Church of War and the royal knights are now in a feud with each other, and even if he wanted to quit the royal knights would never allow him to do so…… 'Hmmm, looks like I can tell Adair to stop their midnight missions.'
I stood up and headed back to the Holy Temple in a good mood, planning to get Frost to bake me another batch of biscuits and maybe ask Cloud to give me a book cupboard where no one would pass by, as well as lend me another book that I can read myself to sleep……