༺ At One Point In Time (1) ༻
There wasn’t a small amount of chaos.
The aftermath of Alaysia’s invasion had caused problems.
A long procession of residents and priests who had evacuated to the Holy Land were now returning. At the same time, the task of cleaning up the mess at Elia’s gates was also underway.
With the series of events finally over and the Grand Temple of Elia returning to normalcy, Vera and Renee were in the flower garden together.
“It’s been a while,” Renee said, taking a deep breath.
A smile appeared on her lips.
Vera reminisced through the corridor of memories. Though the journey had spanned what seemed to be an eternity, the emotions he felt seemed but a fleeting moment in time. Thinking about how truly comfortable the air of their hometown was, Vera replied.
“…Are you feeling well?”
From the moment he had left to stop Alaysia to the time until his return, Renee had been maintaining the Evil-Sealing Circle alone through her power.
While she appeared unchanged from the outside, Vera still had concerns.
Renee giggled and answered.
“Why are you so worried? I told you I’m fine.”
Vera’s gaze turned to Renee.
Right after, a deflated voice came out of his mouth.
Suddenly, Vera felt a sense of sentimentality arise within him.
They sat in the same flower garden where they had once spent time together.
Though he and Renee continued doing the same things as before, wasn’t it odd that the atmosphere became awkward despite only one change in their relationship?
All that had changed was the addition of whispers of love to each other, yet his heart remained uneasy.
As Vera gazed out into the garden while seated beside Renee, his hand fidgeted nervously due to the rising emotions and made a hesitant movement to the left.
At the other end was Renee’s pure, white hand.
Their index fingers collided.
A blush painted Renee’s face.
The next motions were Renee’s. With her fingertip, she traced the sly Vera’s skin and slid up until she finally placed her hand on his.
Vera responded by taking Renee’s fingers and curling them within his palm.
It wasn’t just the mood; their intertwined hands gradually grew hotter.
Suddenly, the atmosphere intensified, the distance between them drawing even closer.
Like those planning to commit an immoral deed, they carefully narrowed the gap between their heads.
Then, their heads turned to face each other.
The sound of their beating hearts resonated in the surrounding air as their breaths caressed each other’s cheeks.
Just then, a nuisance arrived.
Renee’s body jumped.
Vera froze stiff.
The gap between them suddenly widened.
As though nothing had happened, the two turned their heads in different directions. Meanwhile, the mood killer, Trevor, approached them.
For Vera, it was a disastrous situation.
Of all people, it just so happened to be Trevor, whose presence he couldn’t detect immediately.
Vera’s eyes glared sharply at Trevor.
Then, Vera’s expression contorted strangely.
It was because Trevor’s current appearance was freakish beyond imagination.
Scratching the back of his head awkwardly, Trevor’s current form could only be described as a ‘child.’
He had become a young boy, even younger than Aisha or Jenny, looking around 7 to 8 years old.
With a look of disbelief, Vera asked.
“…Just what is that appearance?”
“Ah? This? My previous artificial body was damaged, so I made a new one with Master’s help. She said that using a child’s body is better since a large body consumes more energy, and it is indeed much more comfortable.”
Was that really why? Or was it simply a reflection of Annalise’s preferences?
Doubts arose due to the various rumors regarding her.
However, with no immediate way to confirm, Vera could only swallow his doubts.
Renee listened with a puzzled face, then made a surprised expression after she realized the implication behind their conversation.
“Oh! Your voice sounds much younger too!” She said with a delighted voice.
Renee stretched her hand out and waved it around as she called for Trevor.
As Trevor drew closer, he found his head beneath Renee’s hand. She playfully squished his cheeks, her own cheeks flushed red.
“Wow, so soft! Did you consider this level of detail yourself?”
“Usually, but… this time, Master helped me. I don’t know much about a child’s body, after all.”
Suddenly, Renee began copying Vera’s exact thought process.
There were so many things she wanted to say.
However, realizing that it would be pointless to say them now, Renee hesitantly nodded and asked.
“…Oh yes, why did you call for me?”
Recalling that his initial purpose for coming here was to summon her, Trevor uttered ‘Ah!’ and answered.
“The Archduke of Oben said it is about time to return soon.”
“…Oh right, he was here too.”
She had been so preoccupied that she forgot.
Seeing Renee’s embarrassed smile, Vera couldn’t bear to look at her face, so he turned away while speaking.
In Renee’s office, Hegrion, who sat opposite to her while sipping his tea, spoke.
“As I mentioned earlier, I intend to return to Oben soon. There seems to be little more I am able to do here… Now that Alaysia has begun to move at full force, it is best we start preparations on our end as well.”
“Oh, yes! Thank you so much for everything!”
Her words of gratitude weren’t merely out of formality.
It was because his help in normalizing the Holy Kingdom had been tremendous.
He had led the week-long journey from the Holy Land to the Holy Kingdom on foot, tirelessly assisting the residents in finding their footing upon their return. Naturally, Renee had to express her gratitude.
At her gratitude, Hegrion shook his head and replied.
“I was merely here, so think nothing of it. Rather, what I wanted to discuss is…”
Hegrion fiddled with his teacup.
As if seemingly harboring worries, he paused momentarily, then hesitatingly opened his mouth.
“…I believe it would be a good idea to have a Continental Summit in mind.”
Renee and Vera’s bodies froze, and their expressions turned grave.
A Continental Summit meant one thing — when a significant incident posed a threat to the entire continent, the Holy Kingdom would break its silence and summon the leaders of every country for a meeting.
The most recent Continental Summit took place five hundred years ago during the Age of War.
To end the seemingly endless war, the Holy Emperor himself organized the previous one, so there was no need to explain the significance of this summit.
“…It’s an issue worth considering.”
“Yes, even suggesting it makes me uneasy.”
The issue involved the bodies of Alaysia and Ardain.
The next course of action was naturally to gather the forces of the entire continent, yet they had to be cautious because hosting a Continental Summit entailed many intertwined interests.
Firstly, the location of the summit must be in Elia.
This was due to the unique status of Elia, which remained entirely neutral in all political matters. Selecting Elia as the location was a way to avoid disputes among nations over the choice of the venue.
In other words…
Outsiders would have to be allowed into Elia.
The leaders from all over the continent coming to this land meant breaking Elia’s rule of prohibiting the entry of outsiders.
The second was the ever-present national interests.
Given an extended timeframe, decisions must be made regarding the military actions of each country. It would be unusual to see no repercussions when large-scale military forces cross mutual borders.
Amidst the heavy atmosphere, Renee nodded.
“I’ll discuss it with His Holiness.”
“Thank you for your consideration. I will be on my way, then. It seems they’ve finished preparing.”
“Ah, take care.”
Hegrion stood up and bowed his head towards Renee and Vera while speaking.
“I look forward to seeing you again.”
Even after Hegrion’s departure, their expressions remained grim.
In the garden terrace while tending to the flowers in full bloom, Vargo welcomed Renee, stroking his beard and mumbling.
His head was unconsciously nodding along.
“Yes, it’s certainly an approach we must consider. If left alone, who knows what kind of trouble that thing might cause.”
Renee’s expression brightened a little.
“Yes, I will take care of this matter myself. There is no need for the Saint to worry.”
Vargo laughed heartily.
“Well, if any punks refuse to come, don’t I just have to drag them over even if it means breaking their skulls?”
…At such a brutal response, Renee awkwardly laughed it off.
“Ah, more importantly, is your accommodation fine? I tried to keep the layout largely unchanged in anticipation of the Saint’s return, but I’m concerned some details might be off. Do let me know.”
“Oh, yes! It’s exactly the same as when I left. There wasn’t the slightest discomfort.”
“Hm, that’s good.”
Vargo nodded his head and spoke again.
“Now then, the Saint must have duties to attend to, so please run along…”
His voice trailed off. Then, his gaze shifted to Vera before he continued.
Renee’s mouth shut firmly at the sudden blunt words directed towards Vera.
Vera’s eyebrows shot upward.
Then, his eyes clashed with Vargo’s.
Renee felt uncomfortable in the strange atmosphere between the two men, who respected and acknowledged each other, but were too proud to show it outwardly.
“Let’s spar and see how much you’ve grown.”
Vargo grinned menacingly.
It was such a story upon reflection.
Vera had been aware of Vargo’s power for a long time, but when it was directed towards him…
…In other words, this was the first time he had faced it personally.
Having never dueled him before nor sought guidance for the sword meant that Vera now drew his blade against Vargo for the first time. Feeling the overwhelming pressure weighing down on him, he felt his breath quicken.
“What, not coming at me?”
He hadn’t even drawn his mace.
Vargo was just leaning on his cane, but his provokingly exuding divinity left Vera paralyzed.
All he could do was bitterly smile at the absurd power.
‘You monstrous old man.’
Vera had stepped into the realm of Intention and unsealed the memories of his past life, yet that still wasn’t enough.
Wondering how such a thing could be possible, he involuntarily succumbed to an instinctive fear in the face of that power.
Vera tightened his grip on the Holy Sword, unleashing his divinity even stronger.
He immediately invoked his power, not daring to be careless.
A golden regulation was engraved atop the ashen space.
“From now on, all acts of combat within this land shall be conducted solely by the sword. Thus, all combative acts with the sword are bestowed strength beyond…”
Even as he continued, Vargo did not move.
As if daring him to try, he merely let out a cackling laugh.
“…All other means shall bring harm back upon oneself.”
Vera’s divinity burst forth, bright enough to make one’s eyes tear.
“All these laws are enforced in the name of Lushan, and those bound to this land must obey accordingly.”
The instant the regulation was completed, Vera’s divine form blurred and then reappeared right before Vargo’s face.
His blade slashed horizontally, aiming for Vargo’s chest.
The moment Vargo laughed—
A crimson divinity exploded.
It was an indiscriminate display of power that obliterated everything without a specific target.
As Vera’s body was flung far away by the force, Vargo said.
“Oops, a sneeze slipped out.”
Vera’s expression soured.
‘You shitty old man…’
He couldn’t help but wonder that perhaps the old man’s purpose for this spar… was probably just to smack him around.