*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.
Elmairy looked at the person beside him nervously. The person was dressed in all black; even though he wasn't wearing his usual black uniform but a casual black outfit, he still cut a rather imposing figure.
Leithe was indeed as stern as the rumours claimed him to be. They were both about the same age, about sixteen to seventeen years old, yet how come he looked so intimidating?
Elmairy just couldn't understand. And at the same time, he was a little afraid of him.
He and Leithe weren't from the same faction, so typically they wouldn't have been sent out on a mission together. In fact, this was his first time carrying out a mission with Leithe, so he was quite nervous.
This mission required someone with strong holy aura, but as those on his faction were either busy or just plain unwilling to come out themselves, he was the only one left.
Leithe's uniquely deep voice spoke up from beside him. "Elmairy, can you sense any dark aura ahead of us?"
Elmairy carefully stretched his senses out before shaking his head and replying, "No, but as it's quite some distance away, I wouldn't be able to tell if the amount of dark aura is very small. Creus is much better in this than I am."
As he looked on at the dark gloomy house ahead of them, Leithe nodded his head and said, "Creus is stronger at this, but it's a pity he had to go to the Royal Palace with the Sun Knight."
When he noticed that Elmairy was still staring at him, a jolt of alarm shot through Leithe, and he hurriedly added in a low voice, "But even if he hadn't left the Holy Temple, I wouldn't have agreed to carry out a mission with the little Sun Knight!"
Elmairy shrunk a little at that and protested in a small voice, "Creus is really nice and easy to get along with."
"It is not a matter of him being easy to get along with or not," Leithe replied coldly. "His sword skills are terrible, and he often pushes his work off onto others. If I were to be sent out with him I might as well carry out the mission on my own."
Even though he would have liked to defend his future superior, Elmairy was hard-pressed to come up with anything to refute Leithe's statement, for his words had really hit the nail on the head!
Leaf couldn't resist speaking his question, "You seem to understand Creus very well. Do you know him?"
Another jolt shot through Leithe, but he managed to maintain his calm demeanour, and even managed a displeased frown as he snorted, "How could I know the little Sun Knight well? The little Sun Knight is the representative of the Holy Temple; his every word and action is watched by everyone. It is not hard to learn about his conduct."
Elmairy realised then. Oh dear, this is bad! So word about Creus' poor sword skills and even poorer work ethics has spread to even the judgement areas?
Leithe turned back to survey the house before him. He then turned his attention to the five holy knights accompanying them and gave out his orders. "The two of you, go around to the back and stand guard at the back exit. You, go on ahead and call for the occupant. If you do not receive any response, you have permission to break down the door. Start searching the house once you've gained entrance."
Elmairy felt rather impressed as he watched Leithe calmly giving out orders. Even though everyone knew that they were the future Twelve Holy Knights, the key word was 'future'. And in addition, they were all still quite young, so the Twelve Little Holy Knights didn't really have much real authority. They would still feel a little awkward when giving out orders, especially when the holy knights receiving orders from them were much older, and yet, Leithe did not seem to be similarly afflicted.
The holy knights did not show any dissatisfaction with being ordered about by a child, showing only their respect for Leithe. Elmairy could tell it all from their expressions.
Leithe really was an impressive person. However, Elmairy still wouldn't have chosen to be partnered with Leithe if he could help it, for he felt quite pressured in his presence. Standing with Creus would have been so much easier.
Leithe then gave his last order. "Elmairy, you will stay behind and cover everyone else."
'But perhaps that was a misperception?' It was only after Elmairy heard Leithe's words that he realised something. It was true that Creus always pushed his work onto others. In this situation for example, Creus would definitely have ordered someone else to go ahead whilst he himself would provide cover. But Leithe's sense of responsibility was well-known – he would never push his share of work onto others.
Standing with Creus would have been no easier, he was beginning to realise!
"Elmairy!" After walking ahead a few steps, Leithe noticed that he wasn't followed and growled, "What are you dazing around for? Follow us! And get your weapons out and ready!"
"Ye-yes!" Elmairy had jumped at that and hurriedly notched his bow with an arrow at the ready.
The holy knight ahead of them had called out thrice so loudly that even the neighbours had heard and came out to investigate the noise, but there was no response from the house.
Elmairy felt rather nervous. From the reports he had read, the occupant of the house was armed with dark magic and had been reported using the magic to harm others.
The door was kicked down and they filed into the house, searching each room thoroughly as they went. One of the holy knights reported back to Leithe: "There's no one in the house."
Leithe frowned at that before asking, "Elmairy, do you sense any dark aura?"
Elmairy shook his head no.
Leithe's brows knotted in even deeper frowns at this answer.
"Perhaps the report was mistaken," Elmairy suggested. "The public don't know much about dark magic. They sometimes mistake some unusual activities as people using dark magic."
Leithe, too, felt that this very likely, but he'd rather be overly-cautious than to dismiss anything as of yet. "Search the whole house one more time, and if there still isn't anything unusual to be found we'll leave--"
"Kill you! I'll kill you, you unfaithful bastard!"
A gasp escaped Elmairy. "Leithe, that sound……"
Leithe called out, "Let's move," and hurriedly ran in the direction of the sound, Elmairy and the rest of the holy knights running after him.
They found themselves in a garden behind the house. The garden was not very big, and it was easy to spot the person standing amongst a few trees, a thick tree trunk hiding most of the person from view. However, they could hear the cries from the dishevelled person as they continued screaming and raging, a strange knocking sound accompanying every screamed curse of theirs.
As he listened on to the vile curses spilling from the person's lips, Elmairy felt a shiver run up his spine. Leithe, however, did not hesitate to step forward and call out, "Put down your weapons!"
The moment he had called out the order however, Leithe stopped short, stunned.
"Leithe?" Knowing that something was up, Elmairy hurriedly stepped forward, but he too stopped in surprise.
And a very shocked woman at that. Even though she looked rather dishevelled with her hair in disarray and her clothes all messed up, when she saw Leithe and the rest of them she was so shocked that she stumbled back in surprise, dropping the item she held in her hands…… a hammer.
The woman retreated a few steps, leaning against the tree weakly. Nailed to the tree trunk beside her was a little straw doll, a dozen nails sticking out of it haphazardly with no order.
"You-who are you? What are you doing here?" she screamed in fear.
Leithe replied her in a deep low voice, "We are holy knights from the Church of Light. We received a report saying that someone was using black magic to harm others."
"Black-black magic?" So shocked was the woman that she was stumbling over her words. "But-but I'm just……"
"Pull her aside, and remember not to let your guard down." Leithe ordered one of the holy knights.
Elmairy didn't really think that the woman knew black magic. Dark element wasn't an easy element to manipulate, and if she really knew how to use dark magic, she should have at the very least the abilities of a capable mage, and not look so flustered and vulnerable as she did right now.
"Take a look at this and see if it has any black magic on it," said Leithe as he bent to pick up the hammer and place it in Elmairy's hands. "Even though I have my doubts that it has anything to do with black magic, my holy aura isn't very strong. Look it over for me."
Elmairy took the hammer and looked it over carefully, before looking up and shaking his head. "This is just an ordinary hammer, nothing else. Its dark aura is not very high."
"Not very high? Then that means it there are traces of black magic?" asked Leithe.
Upon hearing that, Elmairy hurriedly explained. "You misunderstand me. Everything has a complicated combination of different elements, including dark elements, but they are not necessarily dark. Even though I've learnt how to detect dark elements, I cannot say for certain that this hammer has a dark aura. I can only say that the amount of dark elements in it is within normal levels."
"I see," nodded Leithe. After a moment, he then instructed, "Try doing what that woman was doing and hammer at the straw doll. See if you can sense any dark aura."
Even though he felt a little weird and was rather reluctant to follow Leithe's request, Elmairy just couldn't say no, especially when it was Leithe that he was rejecting! And it wasn't just him; there wasn't a single holy knight that would dare to refuse him!
Well, that's not right. At least, Creus would dare to do so.
Elmairy stepped up to the tree and stared at the straw doll, feeling all kinds of reluctance. He raised the hammer before pausing to look at Leithe. The latter merely gave a frown and said, "Proceed."
And so he raised the hammer and swung it onto one of the nails, again and again, harder and harder. As he continued hammering, he got quite engrossed in it till he nearly forgot what he was supposed to be doing……
Elmairy jerked awake and asked, "What's wrong?"
"That's enough." Leithe looked at Elmairy carefully and asked a little suspiciously, "Are you alright?"
Elmairy stared at him a little blankly, answering "Yeah, I'm fine."
After looking at him carefully and asserting to himself, Leithe inquired, "Was there any dark aura?"
"Not at all."
"Is that so?" Leithe hesitated, the image of Elmairy's absorbed expression flickering past in his mind. He then made his decision. "Just to be certain, I think it's best that we bring the hammer and the straw doll to the little Sun Knight for his opinion."
Elmairy knocked on Creus' door and waited patiently. Eight out of ten times when he knocked on Creus' door, Creus wouldn't immediately answer the door.
From behind the door came all sorts of sounds. The clinking of bottles falling, splashes of water…… and even something that sounded like 'shit, this must be a curse!' could be heard, but Elmairy ignored all of them and pushed them out of his head.
The last time he had enquired as to what Creus had been doing, Creus had stuffed an office document half a foot thick into his arms. He wondered idly how long those documents had been sitting in Sun's room……
The door finally opened and a young golden-haired boy walked out, his smile as brilliant as always, although his hair and clothes looked a little damp.
'Was he showering?' Elmairy felt a little apologetic for interrupting his shower.
Creus then began his usual long style of greeting, "My dear brother Leaf, could it be that the God of Light had whispered in your ears reminding you that one should share with one's brothers frequently, leading you to knock upon this Sun's door……"
To stop him from delving any further, Elmairy hurriedly took out the hammer and straw doll and showed them to him. "Leithe wanted me to bring these to you to look over."
Creus looked down at the hammer and doll, his smile freezing for just a moment as he asked in befuddlement, "What is it that Brother Leithe wishes me to look for?"
"See if there's any black magic on it," Elmairy told him. He then proceeded to tell him about the incident.
After hearing the full story from him, Creus looked back down at the items before waving Elmairy into his room.
Elmairy was a little surprised, but he took it in stride and followed him in.
"The heck there is any black magic on them!"
Who would have thought that the moment Creus shut the door closed his speech would become 'not very elegant'? However, Elmairy wasn't very surprised. The Twelve Holy Knights all knew by now that Creus' elegance was directly proportional to the number of people around him.
"Are you certain?" Elmairy asked for confirmation. He hurriedly described the situation in which they had found the woman. "But that woman who was nailing the straw doll was very terrifying-looking! She looked half-crazed!"
"She was only letting out her frustrations," said Creus with a shake of his head. "If nailing straw dolls is black magic, then black magic wouldn't have been so difficult to learn."
Elmairy thought so too, but he didn't understand Creus' first comment. "Why would nailing straw dolls let out her frustrations?"
Creus smiled and explained, "It's not the straw doll you're nailing, but the person who angered you so. Imagine the straw doll as that person, then hammer the nails into the doll with all your strength! And you can even add some of your enemy's hair or nails."
Elmairy reared back in shock and cried out, "That can't be good?"
"What's wrong with it?" Creus shrugged and said, "At least nailing straw dolls is better than her going after her enemy with a knife, right?"
'Hmmm? That actually makes sense!' Elmairy looked down at the doll in his hands, recalling the feeling as he nailed the straw doll as per Leithe's instructions…… No! That's not right, he should never let himself do such bizarre activities!
"Oh, that's right, elderberry," Creus suddenly spoke up.
"My name is Elmairy…… sigh, forget it. What is it?"
"Give me both your hands."
When Elmairy did as instructed, he found himself with an armful of office documents.
Creus was on his way to Elmairy's. Those documents had been way past the deadline, and his teacher had been on his back about them, so he had to go and check up on Elmairy to see if he was done with them…… Although the probability of him being done with them was very low. There were quite a number of documents in that stack.
And if worst comes to worst, he would have to step forward and help out himself. Creus felt a little depressed. He hated paperwork! For every document he had to go through, he would have to write the words 'God of Light' at least twenty times. It was like detention!
'I hope Elderberry's done with them,' prayed Creus as he pushed open Elmairy's door. He then stood there frozen as he looked in on an unbelievable scene.
Elmairy was hammering into a straw doll nailed to the wall with all his might, again and again, the words spilling from his mouth giving his unsuspecting audience goose bumps. "Damn you! Always throwing all your work to me! Making me unable to finish them and having to work overnight! Unable to refuse a single thing no matter what one asks! What kind of stupid condition is this…… err, Creus?!"
After some time, he finally noticed Creus standing at the door, and he immediately lost his wits.
"Y-You, what are you doing here?" Elmairy stammered, his face unbelievably pale. He, a holy knight, had actually cursed and shouted whilst hammering away at a straw doll. And what was worse, he had been caught in the act!
Would he be mistaken as someone casting black magic just like that woman? He would probably get kicked out of the Holy Temple…… and maybe not just so. He might even be tied to a stake and burned alive!
If he were to say something like 'I saw you hammering nails into a straw doll', would he find himself nailed just like the doll? Creus had a bad feeling about this. Even though Elmairy was usually very easy to bully, right at that moment, a very strong gut feeling told him that he should never speak of what he had seen today to anyone else, lest he find himself never seeing the day he takes on the mantle of the thirty-eighth Sun Knight.
"I-I saw…… I saw how neat and tidy Brother Elmairy's room is!"
Elmairy was surprised at that. Was Creus not going to expose him……? And what was that he just called him? How long has it been since he last heard his proper name from him?
Creus continued on hastily, "I'm just here to get the documents. I didn't see anything! And I swear that I won't remember a single thing after leaving this room!"
Seeing as Creus didn't seem to be going to expose him, Elmairy timidly explained, "I-I just wanted to test and see if it would really release my frustrations, and-and I found that it really works, so-so I……"
"Cough!" Creus gave a loud cough before saying, "I'm only here to get the documents and didn't see a single thing, so you don't have to explain anything, just please tell me if the documents are done."
Elmairy nodded and walked to his table to retrieve the thick stack of documents before walking back to Creus. Just as he was about to hand over the paperwork to him, he suddenly stopped.
Creus was debating the merits of snatching the documents and running away when Elmairy spoke up. "Creus, can I have a strand of your hair?"
He plucked a strand of hair and exchanged it for the stack of documents. As he closed the door behind him as he left, Creus could be heard mumbling to himself, "Oh man, I'm totally reaping the seeds I sow! Why the hell did I go and teach Elderberry how to use it? And I even told him to add a hair or nail…… No no no! I don't remember anything about Elderberry hammering straw dolls. I don't remember I don't remember I definitely don't remember…… I'll go and get drunk with teacher and pretend it's all just a dream! Yes, that's right! I'll go do that right now!"
When he heard Creus' mumblings, Elmairy let out a quiet chuckle. Even though he still held the hammer in his right hand, he didn't feel like hammering the straw doll in the least.
He took out the doll nailed to the wall and added the golden hair into it, saying with a smile, "I'll be using you from now onwards, my dear straw doll!...... and Creus too."