༺ The Lord Is With Us (2) ༻
The Academy strived for equality, valuing skills over social status. However, that also meant whoever lacked the ability would not be able to escape failure.
Even the most prestigious nobles were not immune from the Academy’s standards. This was evidenced by the number of high-rank nobles expelled from the Academy since its establishment.
There had been hundreds, if not thousands of expulsions.
Even the Empire’s top five most powerful nobles were reduced to ordinary students upon entering the Academy. In fact, the noble families rarely exerted their influence on the Academy and only felt ashamed when their children were expelled.
The Academy earned trust as an educational institution, and its strict standards were recognized by everyone, including the enrolled students.
But if you were to ask whether the academy was truly “equal”, some would deny it. Even an institution like the Academy couldn’t completely disregard the influence of noble families.
The scions of the Empire’s five families aside, the Academy was forced to grant some special privileges to members of the royal family and the highest-ranking representatives of foreign countries. It was a precautionary measure to relieve the academy of responsibility in case problems arose.
Such was the case with the royal princess, who entered the Magic Department as a first-year student this year. Despite being far down in the line of succession to the throne, she still possessed the blood of a dragon. As a result, the academy had to provide a separate annex specifically for her.
Another such case was the woman sitting across from me.
The warm sunlight reflected off her silver hair and cascaded down her back. Her smooth, flawless skin, finely sculpted features, and captivating pink eyes came together to create a unique presence.
Although she was dressed in a priestly robe that symbolized the Church, it was impossible to conceal the alluring figure of her feminine body. Her physical appearance embodied both divine holiness and sinful temptations.
She was the Saintess, an illustrious title bestowed upon the one maiden who had received the favor of God Arus in each generation.
A new Saintess would emerge around every 30 years, but until then, the current “Saintess” held great influence within the religious institution. Being the “Saintess” meant she personified the existence of God Arus.
According to the scripture, God had created humans from his flesh and taught them civility and faith. The first disciple of Arus inherited the title of “Pope” and passed it down from generation to generation while guiding the faithful.
However, in reality, this tradition was based on human laws. The selection of the next pope was designated not by God, but by the cardinals of the Holy Kingdom.
On the other hand, the “Saintess” could not be arbitrarily chosen by humans as they were girls born with extraordinary divine power. Thus, the “Saintess” possessed the symbolism of being chosen by God, and their existence was highly valued by the Holy Land.
In terms of hierarchy, she ranked above Archbishops but below Cardinals. Still, as one of the highest-ranking figures in the Holy Church, the Academy had no choice but to grant her special privileges.
One such privilege was the small building I was sitting in that was located right next to the temple, fittingly named the “Sun’s Shelter”.
Although it retained a modest appearance without any lavish decorations, it still exuded an elegant atmosphere. This was where the Saintess, along with her knights and attendants from the Holy Land, resided.
It was rumored that the Saintess disliked special treatment. She kept the number of her escorts to a minimum. Even then, she only had them guard her during the night while only her trusted bodyguard, Yuren, accompanied her during the day.
Those rumors seemed to be true.
From the time I entered the Sun’s Shelter and headed to the reception room on the second floor, I didn’t see a single other person.
It was a chance to be alone with a woman as beautiful and noble as the Saintess, in a place other than the temple’s treatment center.
I would have normally rejoiced at my luck…
If it weren’t for her current demeanor.
“……So, you don’t remember anything?”
Her voice had a chilling undertone, and her irritation was palpable.
Her pink eyes were brimming with discontent as she played with her hair, twisting it around her index finger.
The stark contrast to her normally kind and gentle disposition made me feel even more uneasy.
Was this really the Saintess? This woman?
It had been a long time since her once warm gaze had turned sharp. A sigh escaped her lips.
Her palm slammed down on the table as she rose to her feet. She leaned forward and brought her face closer to mine. Then, she growled, almost shouting in frustration.
“Does that make any sense?! I don’t know what you’re really up to, but…..”
Intimidated by her anger, I immediately drew a cross on my chest and firmly declared my innocence.
“I swear on the name of Arus.”
“It’s a grave sin to deceitfully swear upon the Lord, Brother Ian. You will receive divine retribution.”
“But it’s the truth.”
The Saintess clenched her mouth, causing the sound of her teeth grinding against each other to fill the silence. Despite my look of indignation, she continued to fiercely glare at me with no signs of trusting me.
Then, she heaved a sigh in resignation and slumped back down into her chair.
She seemed to be suffering from a headache as she firmly pressed her fingers against her temples.
“So, that’s how you’re going to act …… I understand, Brother Ian.”
I was telling the truth.
Despite my indignant glare, she simply avoided my gaze with a snort. If anything, her eyes had somewhat softened after the ferocity behind them substantially subsided.
She had an impressive change in demeanor. Just a moment ago, she had been overcome with rage while spitting words dripping with resentment. Now, she seemed somewhat deflated, and a faint trace of fear settled within her eyes.
The Saintess wordlessly looked at me for a short moment before shaking her head and abruptly snapping her fingers.
A piece of paper suddenly flew towards her. It was a skill impossible to achieve with divine power, and I wondered if she had used an artifact.
She looked at me hesitantly, then having seemingly made up her mind, pushed the document toward me.
The document slid towards me and stopped exactly in front of me in an impressive display of control.
Faced with my surprised expression, the Saintess glared at me irritably.
“If it’s confidential, so be it. You’re just going to pretend nothing happened and take the information you asked for, right? Ha… How great of an organization could it be…”
“Confidential” and “organization” didn’t ring any bells. To me, they were unfamiliar words with no relation to me.
I had some fleeting doubts regarding what she said, but my curiosity about the document exceeded that.
Picking up the document, I slowly scrutinized it.
It was a map with several locations marked along with the names of facilities present there. From the looks of the map, it seemed to be the eastern part of the continent, and based on the names, they were likely to be orphanages.
This information was completely useless to me. However, at that moment, the contents of the second letter flashed through my mind.
‘Orphanage’. Right. It said that the place I went to for my practicum was an orphanage.
“As requested, here’s a list of the orphanages that are receiving support but are still struggling to stay afloat due to the overwhelming number of orphans they care for.”
My eyes widened as I carefully read through the document. Although I couldn’t be certain of the exact circumstances, it was clear that this was a clue to understanding the second letter.
Since that was the case, I decided to first keep it before deciding on a course of action. I folded the paper neatly in half and slipped them into my pockets.
“Thank you, Saintess.”
I thanked her as usual, but the response I received was cold. Her incredulous eyes bore into me. Then, unable to hold back her curiosity any longer, she shot a question.
“…So how are you planning on using that information?”
“I don’t know.”
As if she had expected it, the Saintess shook her head. It was the truth, and I didn’t bother to say more, knowing it would be futile.
She seemed to have given up as she waved her hand dismissively. It was a rather rude gesture, but my mind was too muddled to protest.
My head throbbed as I wondered what had happened during the time I lost my memory. The Saintess’ unbridled hostility, the contents of the second letter—everything was shrouded in mystery.
However, before I turned away, there was a question that had been plaguing my mind all this time.
Her pink eyes glanced towards me, prompting me to get to the point. So I decided to be blunt.
“…Is this who you really are?”
Silence filled the air. She sighed as she briefly avoided my gaze.
Then, she turned to look at me pathetically.
“Brother Ian, there are many sides to everyone… How can an orphan girl like me possibly survive the Holy Land’s ruthless political scene with only a kind and gentle heart?”
“Then, is your usual demeanor just a charade?”
“No, that’s also me; it just changes depending on who I talk to. However, Brother Ian…”
The corners of the Saintess’ mouth curved into a gentle, compassionate smile. It was the same smile she often showed me. However, her pale pink eyes that chillingly stared at me remained frigid.
“It seems I’ve been too kind to you all this time for no reason.”
I felt bitter as I left the room.
I needed to find out what had happened, but seeing how she didn’t seem inclined to tell me, there was only one person I could ask.
The loyal knight who was always protecting her by her side.
A silver light flashed towards me the moment I stepped out of the Sun’s Shelter.
The attack aimed at my throat, and I instinctively raised my sword to block it. However, the assailant’s sword carried a heavy force, and I was unable to completely parry the attack as I had been caught off guard.
Sparks flew and a grating noise filled the air as two blades scraped against each other. Despite my best attempt, the attack had managed to graze my cheek.
It was a shallow cut.
As blood trickled down from the wound, I realized that it could have been fatal if I had reacted any slower. I managed to survive thanks to the ‘Dragon’s Blood’ enhancing my mana and physical capabilities, but if it was a month ago, I would have died helplessly.
I bewilderedly turned to face the man holding the sword. The man who had slashed at me had an androgynous face and jade-colored hair tied up in a ponytail.
It was Yuren. He studied me with piercing eyes, then relaxed his grip on his sword.
“…Huh, you’re weak again”
He muttered to himself while taking a step back while I stifled a bitter laugh.
I glared at him, but Yuren simply smiled brazenly as he held out his hand.
“Welcome back, Ian. I heard about your situation. You lost your memory, huh?”
“…You were guarding the door?”
“I’m her knight, after all. I overheard everything you two were discussing.”
Yuren extended his hand while congratulating me on my return to my body, but when I didn’t take his hand, he did the next best thing.
“You should be proud. There are only a few people on the entire continent who have seen that ‘face’ of the Saintess.”
“I’m not too happy about that…”
I didn’t know if I should be angry at his sudden ambush or if I should relax at his friendly attitude.
I contemplated how I should react.
However, my hesitation didn’t last long. It was unbecoming for a swordsman to make a fuss over a slight cut.
I had to be rational.
Grumbling, I slid my sword back into its sheath.
“So, you believe that I’ve lost my memory?”
“Of course I do, I just checked your skills.”
He shrugged and folded his arms while nodding his head as if he had come to some understanding.
It wasn’t long before Yuren began to reason.
“Your eyes felt so different. But it makes sense if you lost your memories. You were probably temporarily possessed by someone or something. Thing is, it’s difficult to replicate their skills even if you possess someone’s body…..”
He stroked his chin, lost in thought. He seemed to be considering various theories. However, what was important to me was not his theory of my possession.
I felt the need to interrupt him to instead focus on a key detail.
“Yeah, that’s right. Your gaze seemed so weary and jaded that I couldn’t help but remember them.”
‘A weary gaze’. I recalled getting that same testimony back then.
It was the week before I received the first letter.
It meant that the phenomenon was greatly related to the letters from the future.
There was no way Yuren could have made up such a detail.
The very fact that letters from the future were being sent to me was already abnormal. There was now one less reason to sit there and listen to Yuren’s various theories.
I decided to steer the conversation again.
“Yuren, do me a favor.”
He tilted his head and stared at me, silently urging me to go on.
“Do you happen to know what I did while I lost my memory? “
Yuren deeply pondered while avoiding my gaze but soon relaxed his arms before facing me with a serious expression.
“…Do you remember stabbing me through the shoulder?”
Uh, I didn’t remember such a thing.
Cold sweat began trickling down my back. Simultaneously, I had to resist the urge to wipe the sweat that was pouring down my face.
It seemed that I had once again done some crazy shit during the time I lost my memory.
You can rate this series here.