“Riley. Hey Riley… The match is starting. How about you wake up?”
It was at Solia Castle where the swordsmanship tournament was taking place.
Riley was sleeping using his palm as the pillow and the shouting of the crowds as the lullaby, but with Iris’s hand shaking his shoulder, Riley struggled and opened his eyes.
“You don’t get to see something like this very often. Let’s watch.”
As if he hadn’t gotten enough sleep, her son was complaining and murmuring, but she lulled him and pointed toward the arena.
Still, she was being very considerate for Riley’s lack of sleep. The tournament had progressed a lot, and now the final match was about to commence.
“Is it Erengium?”
“Yes. The Erengium House is going last.”
Hearing a discussion about Erengium, Ian, who was watching the game with everyone, directed his eyes towards Riley.
Ian still had vivid memories about what transpired in the corridor in front of the restroom.
‘Our young master was incredible…but now that I think about it, Erengium’s young master was also highly skilled.’
The one who was highly skilled…
Ian was thinking about the eldest son of Erengium, the one who had avoided Ian’s grasp and charged towards Riley.
It was certainly an incredible move.
However, looking back now, there was something odd about it.
‘The movement was somehow…unfitting of his body type?’
For a swordsman, there are movements and mana utilization techniques that best fit one’s body.
The movements demonstrated by the Erengium’s eldest son were definitely fearsome, but they could not hide the fact that there was some awkwardness about them.
Ian thought that, if he was Erengium’s eldest son, he would have done things a little differently when he turned his upper body or moved his feet.
“I heard the second son of the Erengium House had a match yesterday.”
“Ah, right. Ian, you weren’t here yesterday…”
Iris responded to Ian’s murmur, and Sera added,
“Yes. That’s right. The dual-sword-wielding contestant that I was rooting for lost to that second son. I’m still really disappointed. I never thought that the match would end so fast.”
“Dual-sword-wielding? You mean Jenier?”
All contestants participating in the tournament were under 20.
Ian fiddled with his beard for a moment and then glanced towards the arena where the match was about to begin.
“By chance, during yesterday’s match, was there anything odd about the second son of the Erengium House?”
“Anything…odd? I’m not sure?”
Sera tilted her head to the side.
“Other than that he sent both of Young Master Jenier’s swords flying with just one blow, which I thought was pretty incredible, other than that… I don’t know much.”
Although the contestant that she was cheering for lost, Sera was not doubting Erengium out of anguish over it.
It was because there could be a difference in physical strength.
Also this was the most common scenario whenever a dual-wielding swordsman was defeated.
“What about the smells?”
When Ian and Sera were talking to each other, Riley, who was rubbing his sleepy eyes, asked casually.
“His smell. That guy over there.”
Riley made a gesture with his chin toward Erengium’s second son.
Erengium’s second son, Apolion, was drawing his sword following the instruction from the judge who was standing in the middle of the arena.
He was shaking uncontrollably unlike yesterday.
“Smell…is there anything about him…”
Sera, who had superb sense of smell, checked the smell and tilted her head.
As Riley said, a smell slightly different from yesterday was coming from Apolion.
It was a small difference that would have gone unnoticed if she was not directed to examine it so carefully.
“What is it?”
Iris and Ian looked at Sera, wondering about what was going on.
It was because they didn’t have special sense of smell like she did.
“Certainly, the smell is different.”
“Unlike yesterday, something is missing…”
Around the time Sera narrowed her eyes and puzzled over this finding in her head, the countdown announcing the beginning of the match started to roll.
“Mother, did you say this is the last match for the day?”
“In that case, why don’t we get going? It is a bit awkward to say this, but the result is already out.”
Riley stretched widely and stood up from his seat.
In his head, he was agonizing over what he should eat for dinner.
“But young master, still, shouldn’t you at least watch and then go?”
“Yes. This is the last match for the day.”
“Look at that guy’s hands. They are shaking uncontrollably. Do you think he can fight properly like that to begin with?”
Ian and Sera raised question marks on their faces and looked at the arena.
With three seconds remaining, Apolion, who was standing in the arena, did indeed have trembling hands. It was different from yesterday in the arena. During yesterday’s match, although he looked nervous, at least his hands were not shaking.
It was odd.
The countdown ended, and the match began…
But the result was, as Riley had predicted, Apolion’s defeat.
It was a humiliating defeat that didn’t take even 3 seconds.
“…Damn it. How come?!”
Erengium’s eldest son, Aploc, smashed the desk in the contestant preparation room.
His fist became red, but that was not the problem here.
“It…it was supposed to be given to us yesterday! So why all of a sudden?”
“Young master… Please, calm down.”
“You think anyone could calm down now?! My little brother lost!”
The desk shook once again.
“What the hell were they doing yesterday?!”
The plan was to get the stuff by going to Lower Solia, but they didn’t get to have the stuff.
This was the reason why Aploc was so angry.
To calm him down, the butler responded as he broke into a cold sweat,
“We rushed to Lower Solia this morning, but they said they couldn’t hand over the stuff to Erengium anymore, so…”
The look on Aploc’s face, with his shaky eyes, was definitely not alright.
The man was no longer in his right mind.
“The bastards from Lower Solia betrayed us?”
“That is… It appears to be the case. I tried to threaten them, but they called my bluff and were acting like they were telling me to go ahead and gut them if I would dare.”
“Lowly trash bastards dare to…dare to-!”
Aploc stood up abruptly. The chair he was sitting on fell over to the back. He started to roughly scratch his head.
Not just because of the deadly aura he felt from Iphelleta’s young master, but also because of the withdrawal symptoms, his entire body was shaking uncontrollably.
It felt like there was a bug crawling around inside his body.
“How dare… Do they not realize who we are?!”
Aploc stopped scratching his head. Now his eyes were being filled with a deadly light.
‘Even though I didn’t get to take the drug I need, would I be so weak that I would not be able to handle even a few homeless bastards?’
As Aploc thought about this, he quickly turned his body and started to walk.
“Y-Young master! Where are you going?”
Aploc didn’t answer his servant. He only marched towards Lower Solia.
His eyes had lost their original colors and turned red.
“You should console Young Master Apolion! Young master? Young master!”
The swordsmanship tournament’s events for the day came to a conclusion.
With the applause for the victor as the backdrop, Aploc left Solia Castle.
It was an uncertain hour. It could have been early morning or late evening.
Five people, whose horrible stench made anyone cringe just from briefly passing by them, walked into the Solia Holy Temple.
The five people included Nainiae who was doing a few things with Riley during early morning today.
Because she was barefoot, Nainiae was leaving black footprints on the Holy Temple’s white floor. She was thinking about what Riley said this morning.
‘When the swordsmanship tournament ends, wait about 10… no… 20 minutes? And then stop by at the Holy Temple.’
‘But…they won’t accept us.’
‘No. They will accept you all.’
‘How? I’m…although I have been living there for only a while now, I am from Lower Solia. Also, I look like this too…’
‘You need to throw a bait.’
‘That’s right. A bait that they could not possibly just pass without biting.’
Nainiae put her hand into her pocket.
There was a small stash of grass inside, which was the grass taken from the Magic Tower’s basement.
“Over there, stop! All of you… What is this?”
Before they could enter all the way in, they were stopped by a priest who was walking around the area.
Perhaps it was due to the stench, but before long, even the holy knights who were guarding the temple approached where she stood, and the holy knights stared at her with eyes full of suspicion.
‘Going to Solia Castle would make it more certain, but if you guys went there, there is a good chance that you will be all cut down on the spot, so going to the Holy Temple would be better. They will at least listen to what you have to say before doing anything.’
Nainiae went over Riley’s advice and looked at the people behind her who were shaking out of fear.
Due to withdrawal symptoms from the drugs used during the Magic Tower’s experiments, there was one bubbling up and drooling from the mouth.
They were all people who were suffering in the hands of Astroa at the Magic Tower’s laboratory. According to Riley’s advice, based on what she say here, these people’s future could be decided.
“All of you… Based on your appearances, all of you seem to be from Lower Solia. Is that right? People from Lower Solia can’t just enter the Holy Temple without permission. Please leave.”
When the priest shook his head and gestured them to leave, Nainiae took one step forward. At the same time, the holy knights drew their swords.
Nainiae shriveled for a moment in the light of golden swords drawn by the holy knights, but she knew she was going to die soon anyway. These people, although they were in the experiments, still had hope for survival unlike her. To save those she could…Nainiae decided to be brave once more.
“Please wait a moment…”
Nainiae asked politely with the word ‘please.’
It was awkward because she was very used to the crass language used in Lower Solia. However, this was no time for such a crude mannerism.
“Of us all, I am the only one that came from Lower Solia. These people… these people are not like that. They all used to live in either Left or Right Solia.”
Priest felt her story was suspicious and cringed.
Although her voice sounded desperate and sincere, even so, the holy knights around them did not put away their swords.
It was because their appearances were that suspicious.
“There is something I want to say… I mean, there is something I would like to tell to Solia Temple. It is very important.”
Nainiae slowly brought out the grass that she prepared.
Because her pocket was dirty, there were black stains on the grass now, but its shape was still intact.
Its distinct addictive scent, although it was mixed in with her stench, was also still intact.
The priest’s eyebrows bent.
“About this forbidden plant, about the Magic Tower’s basement… I have something I would like to tell you.”
The priest looked around at others. As the priest panicked without knowing what to do, Nainiae tightly closed her hand holding the grass and continued,
“I know that priests in the Holy Temple despise the people from Lower Solia. However, these people behind me are not from Lower Solia. Instead of thinking of it as my story, please think of it as their story and listen.”
Perhaps due to the experiments done to them in the basement, people standing behind Nainiae were not able to talk properly.
They only scratched themselves on the arms or their faces occasionally displayed that they were in pain.
Nainiae knew well of that horrifying pain, and that was the reason why she wanted to help them.
“Because of the experiments, they are not well. This is why they are not able to speak properly at the moment. So I…I will speak in their…”
Nainiae didn’t finish her words. On the other side, there was someone wearing a dress that was significantly whiter than what the priests were wearing. She was walking towards the core of the temple, but now she had stopped and was looking this way.
Unlike Nainiae, who had covered half of her face with her hair because of disfigurement, there was someone who had her face covered with a clean veil. Nainiae figured out that she must be someone important in the temple.
“Please, to make sure that there will not be any more like me or these people here!”
The veiled figure, who was keeping its silence, walked toward where Nainiae was.
The priests around the scene raised their hands to stop her, telling her it is dangerous, but the one under the veil ordered them to put away their hands.
Despite the horrible stench, she approached Nainiae as if it didn’t bother her at all and asked,
“…Would you please tell me your name?”
She asked Nainiae’s name.
The veiled one raised her hand and slowly revealed her face behind the veil. She stared at Nainiae as if she was about to pierce through Nainiae.
Nainiae’s shoulders shriveled on their own in light of her beautiful face that was completely unlike her own. Nainiae couldn’t even dare to look at the priestess.
The priestess steadily looked at the girl’s eye, and soon, with a refreshing smile, Priesia said,
It must have been the priest standing next to her. An answer could be heard right away.
As soon as she heard the response, Priesia asked the priest,
“How many of the Holy Temple’s people can be mobilized right now?”