༺ The Lord Is With Us (1) ༻
It was a familiar dream, akin to a memory.
Flags of a legion fluttered above the tents. It was an army stationed on the plains. Exhausted and wounded soldiers were common, and their eyes were devoid of even a hint of hope.
Their eyes were like those of dead fish.
A man dismounted from his horse, and as soon as he landed, mocking voices entered his ears.
“Hah, look. The crows have arrived.”
“They’re masters of escaping, aren’t they?”
Though it would have been natural for the man to have been annoyed, his expression didn’t change. He pulled his jet-black cloak over his armor and strode on without hesitation.
No soldier tried to stop him even until he entered the red tents that the commander presided in.
Inside was a woman with a pale complexion. He was unable to make out her features, and only her bloodshot eyes made an impression.
“It’s been a long time.”
“……It is an honor to see you again.”
The man respectfully bowed his head, but the woman paid him no heed and continued reviewing a stack of papers.
She merely glanced upwards to acknowledge his presence.
It didn’t take long for her to finish going over the papers. It was only then that she turned her weary eyes to the man.
He opened his mouth to speak.
“They’re asking about the situation at the Eastern Front.”
She let out an incredulous laugh.
The woman slowly rose to her feet and walked out of the tent. The man quietly followed behind.
She showed him the battlefield beyond the tents.
The ground was stained with blood, littered with corpses, and crows cawed while feeding on the dead bodies. In the distance, an unrecognizable cluster of foreign trees continued to grow to create an eerie atmosphere.
“It’s always the same. We lack soldiers while the enemies are multiplying by the day. We’ve long since reached our limits. At least give us some supplies on time.”
“I’ll try to get it pushed when I return to the capital…….”
The woman only snorted in disbelief at the man’s words.
Silence hung in the air for a long while. The woman’s eyes, which had been staring blankly at the battlefield, were now filled with a grim light.
“Please, we can’t hold on anymore.”
“We’re doing our best, but as you know, the situation on the Western and Northern fronts are also…….”
The man couldn’t finish speaking. Before he could, the woman pointed her finger across the battlefield towards the trees.
Upon closer inspection, the trees didn’t belong to nature. They seemed to have been formed by flesh, and such trees were writhing around.
Within the man’s eyes, which had been devoid of emotions, was now a vague fear.
Her voice trembled with fear and hatred.
And her gaze was the last thing I saw.
I woke up gasping for breath.
It was that unknown dream again.
The dream felt so real as if the boundary between dreams and reality was becoming distorted.
As I got up, I noticed that my pillow had become drenched in cold sweat.
My head throbbed with a splitting headache and my throat burned with thirst. As I gulped down the water I always kept by my bed, I noticed something was off.
The calendar was flipped to the next month and there was an unknown envelope on the nightstand.
At first, I panicked, but I’d already experienced something like this before. After grabbing the envelope, I quickly tore it open.
My eyes quickly scanned through the words contained within.
To my beloved Ian Percus,
Have you ever thought about love?
I don’t know if it’s because I’m in a new relationship or because I parted with the love of my life a few months ago, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.
I think love is like a tree. It’s impossible to notice until it sprouts, and then it just keeps on growing until it fully encompasses your heart.
Of course, I’m talking about you.
I still get heated whenever I think back to how you acted oblivious as you flirted with my naive self.
Come clean. You did it on purpose, didn’t you?
Even your practicum at the orphanage is suspicious. Even if you were asked to scout and exterminate nearby demonic beasts, there were many other locations including the villages of the Percus estate.
You once said that a noble should strive to protect their family’s lands, so why did you choose the orphanage?
After much deliberation, I came to a conclusion.
‘This man has had his eyes on me for a long time!’
You played with my innocent heart that had never experienced a relationship before.
It was a terrible thing to do. I pray that God delivers divine punishment upon this player.
And also a blessing.
If you indeed had your eyes on me beforehand, I’m grateful for that too.
Love is such a terrifying emotion.
Just by becoming your lover, everything in the past seems like a blessing and fate working its strings.
I’m glad I fell for you, Ian.
Thank you for making me happy.
More than anything, I can’t forget your heroic struggle on that day even if your intentions weren’t the purest.
You willingly took up your sword for the weak and protected them while suffering grievous wounds even though it wouldn’t have impacted your grades.
That’s when I realized that while you may look scary and have many things to hide, there is much kindness and innocence underneath.
It was then that I became interested in you.
Up until that point, I had only felt threatened, but then, I figured you had a good reason to act the way you did.
If you hadn’t threatened me, we wouldn’t have been able to repel the sudden ambush and destroy the Nest.
Once again, I am deeply grateful.
Grateful that you played my innocent heart, that you made me suffer from the fever of love for so long, and that in the end, I was able to stand by your side.
It is all through God’s grace. Emmanuel.
I miss you, Ian. I am always praying for you.
P.S. I heard that the scum of the Empire was recently transferred to Arancote on the western edge of the continent. Serves them right.
P.P.S. Don’t get careless just because you’re far away. God is always watching over the world. If you cheat, you’ll be punished accordingly.
From Lucia, with love from afar.
2nd day of the Month of the Wheel.
Year 571 of the Imperial Calendar
Once again, the letter was filled with cryptic words. I held my head as I tried to make sense of it all.
The last letter was about the ‘Hunting Festival’, and now it was about the ‘practicum’. Judging by the letter, it seemed to be referring to the upcoming practical assignment.
Trouble would arise there too? Why?
Just the mention of an “ambush” gave me an ominous premonition that I might have to prepare for a deadly battle like the one during the Hunting Festival. My head was already aching from imagining the future.
Why was God giving me such trials? If I could, I wanted to immediately storm into the temple and complain, but before I could, my eyes froze upon a line.
It was the sender’s name. Their name was ‘Lucia’.
I couldn’t help but laugh in dismay.
“I’m complete garbage…….”
It seemed that the future me had numerous fiancées.
I heaved a deep sigh, too dumbfounded for words. Then, I noticed a handwriting on the back of the letter as I moved to tuck the letter away.
It was written in a different handwriting.
I silently stared at the word for a moment before putting it away.
Strangely, that word became deeply engraved in my mind.
Even with the arrival of the second letter, the things I had to do didn’t change.
First, I had to go to my lectures. I also had to train and take the elixir.
‘Dragon’s Blood’ was a high-grade elixir. If taken improperly, it was possible to suffer from fatal side effects.
It was best to take it under the guidance of an experienced professional like Professor Derek.
But as I reached for the elixir, my hand came to a stop.
The box of ‘Dragon’s Blood’ was empty. I channeled my mana just in case.
Then, like a waterfall, a torrent of mana poured out.
Shocked, I immediately calmed the rampaging mana. The amount of mana in my body had more than doubled, and there was only one possible reason for it.
I had already consumed the ‘Dragon’s Blood’. Except, I had no memory of doing so.
I was terrified, coming to the realization I had lost my memory again. I shuddered at the thought of what I had done in the meantime.
Last time, I had beaten Seria to a pulp. I somehow managed to smooth it over, but I still felt angsty just thinking about it.
Although everything worked out in the end, it was a difficult situation. It was a tumultuous month that didn’t suit my stability-oriented personality.
But, I also wondered if I’d done something I wouldn’t be able to handle.
My skills had grown immeasurably compared to a month ago. I also had reliable friends like Celine and Senior Elsie, and teachers like Professor Derek whom I could trust with any matter.
Feeling that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle, I forced down the rising anxiety and lifted my head.
Luckily, there wasn’t any concerning gossip when I stepped outside.
There were a few whispers, but considering all the widespread rumors about me, it was to be expected.
A sigh escaped my lips. I thought that even if I’d caused another incident, it wasn’t really me. It was an enemy wearing my face.
As I continued walking, something or someone suddenly pulled my arm and dragged me into a dark alleyway.
I didn’t have time to resist the sudden force, and with a thud, my body was pushed against the wall.
Startled, I scanned the assailant in front of me. A familiar face greeted me – Hair the color of molten silver, light pink eyes capable of making any man’s heart flutter, and a sinful body that tempted indecent thoughts.
I became more confused.
The Saintess? Why was she…
Her eyes were brimming with unconstrained hatred and glaring hostility.
“……You. What are you planning?”
Before I could ask what she meant, she gripped my collar and shouted–Her voice, filled with resentment and anger.
“I’m asking what you’re planning!”
It was like she was speaking to her worst enemy.
All I could do was stand there anxiously.
‘What have I done?’
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