༺ At One Point In Time (2) ༻
Needless to say, Vera could not defeat Vargo.
Vargo was strong, even without taking any combative stance. The release of divinity and provocation alone were enough to overpower Vera.
“What, not coming at me again?”
Vera’s expression crumpled at Vargo’s words.
“Ugh, how boring.”
Even though he was belittling himself, that was the sole thing Vera could do.
The Sanctuary faded away.
Vera stabilized his breathing and calmed his surging emotions as he thought.
‘There’s no opening.’
It was a power befitting the title of strongest – that would be the right expression.
An entire body overflowing with divinity. A carefree attitude and unbreakable spirit. And above all, his boundless Intention. It was a realm that Vera currently had no hopes of surpassing.
In response to the inexplicable power, Vera asked.
“How is that possible?”
“What do you mean?”
“Your Holiness’ Intention.”
No matter how he thought about it, the pressure bearing down upon Vera throughout his confrontation with Vargo came from his Intention, which was comparable to the Ancient Species.
When asked how a man who hadn’t lived even a hundred years could be compared to the Ancient Species who lived for an eternity, Vargo laughed and answered.
“It’s because I am superior to them.”
It was an arrogant answer.
However, Vera accepted it simply because of the one who stated it as such.
Indeed, the old man known as the Holy Emperor, Vargo St. Lore, was worthy of exhibiting such arrogance.
“Do you know what you lack?”
Vargo bent his waist, and yet he was still taller than Vera.
Looking up at him, Vera swallowed then responded.
“What is it?”
Vargo’s mouth twisted into a crooked smirk.
“The conviction that you can win. The confidence that no matter how strong the opponent is, you are superior to them. That’s what you lack.”
They were unacceptable words.
Vera was full of conviction in his own talent, believing that he was a match for even Vargo in terms of raw talent, and he objected.
“If only I had enough time, I could also reach Your Holiness’ level…”
“That’s the problem.”
“You’re too calculating.”
Vargo clicked his tongue.
“Fine, I’ll acknowledge it. You have talent. It reminds me of my youth.”
Despite acknowledging Vera, his eyes were filled with dissatisfaction.
“It must be easy. No matter what enemy you face or what wall stands before you, you can see yourself surpass it. If I were you, I would have the conviction that I can overcome it someday.”
“What do you mean…”
“That’s what’s holding you back.”
Vera’s words came to a halt.
Vargo clicked his tongue at the sight of him and continued.
“It’s easy when you see things too clearly and can see the whole picture. You have the ability to compare yourself against all of that, and that’s why you don’t know what challenge is. Even the problems you thought were challenges in retrospect must have been overcome through calculations, haven’t they?”
Vera couldn’t deny it. Indeed, his words were true.
How was the time he first wielded the sword? When training his divinity? How about when he was weaving the Sanctuary and awakening his Intention?
He calculated the distance from where he stood to his goal, the height of the wall before him and his current position, and how far he could push himself.
“A sword untested in battle does not know struggle. One who does not challenge himself knows no accomplishment. Thus, you are ignorant. Your blade, which still doesn’t know struggle, accomplishment, and possibility, remains unchanged.”
Vera clenched his fists tightly.
Though those words rejected his accomplishments, he realized that those were also words from a senior who had already walked this path. He knew Vargo had a reason for saying this, so he held back his emotions.
As Vera expected, Vargo straightened his bent waist and continued.
“I will be training you intensively for a while. By nature, enlightenment should come from within, but time runs short. With no clue what that wench may attempt next, I have to tear you down and fix you up myself.”
“May I interpret that as Your Holiness offering to be my master?”
“Yes, you foolish punk.”
Vera’s eyes pierced through Vargo.
At the end of his gaze was a giant looking down upon him with eyes seemingly regarding him as a worthless, insignificant creature. However, those same eyes were also those of a troubled craftsman trying to figure out how to handle the small creature.
Vera simply bowed respectfully.
“…Thank you for your guidance.”
“Enough. Spare me the needless formalities.”
Vera waved his hand to accept Vera’s gesture, then stroked his beard and asked.
“Then, I must first ask about that. What is the ‘Idea’ that has enlightened you?”
Right as he reflexively tried to answer, Vera’s mouth suddenly shut. Discomfort and a hint of embarrassment colored his face.
“Hm? Why such a reaction?”
Vargo’s question deepened his hesitation.
After some consideration, Vera wondered how Vargo would react if he knew his enlightened Idea was ‘love.’
How would that spiteful old man, who enjoyed ridiculing him, respond?
After much deliberation, Vera arrived at a conclusion.
Needless to say, it would be met with ridicule.
However, it wasn’t something he could avoid saying.
At the end of his continued hesitation, Vera slowly opened his mouth with an expression akin to resignation.
At Vera’s squeaking voice, Vargo’s expression contorted.
Vera gritted his teeth, widened his bloodshot eyes, and with an extremely bright red face, he uttered his answer again.
Vargo slowly opened and closed his eyes.
Vera never wanted to remember what happened next for the rest of his life.
That night, Vera thought.
I never want to see Vargo laugh that hard again for as long as I live.
Vera wrapped himself out of humiliation that night, and his actions remained quietly buried, unknown to anyone.
…Only the wreckage of the furniture faintly hinted at the events of that day.
As Vera fought against Vargo, a completely different atmosphere unfolded in Renee’s room.
Theresa clapped her hands in joy, her face brightening with genuine happiness.
It was naturally her reaction to hearing about the progress between Renee and Vera.
The sight of her as she covered her blushing cheeks was the very image of a young girl in love.
Feeling as though she could die without regrets, Theresa wiped away the tears that leaked out.
“Ah, that fool does know how to get it done when needed.”
Since they visited her at the Academy, she had been so anxious about Vera, who seemed to have a few screws loose after receiving her advice. She had also agonized over seeing Renee attempting to throw herself at him.
The long moments of worry flickered through Theresa’s mind before fading away.
“So, was there any progress after that?”
“Yes! Now that you’ve connected and seen each other eye to eye, you’re in a relationship, aren’t you!? There must have been some progress.”
Taken aback by the abrupt question, Renee’s face flushed with embarrassment, following a moment of distress.
A questioning ‘Really?’ emerged on Theresa’s face.
Having proudly bragged about the confession, Theresa thought there would surely be progress, but slowly began to feel uneasy.
A cold sweat broke out on Renee’s forehead.
Looking back, that was the case.
Her relationship with Vera had only progressed during their journey to Oben. After that, they had become completely absorbed by the bizarre culture of the Archduchy, and were then occupied with meeting Locrion and Nartania.
It was the same even after returning.
The process of reducing the output of the Evil-Sealing Circle and normalizing the Holy Kingdom was rather complex.
“…I was just too busy.”
There was no other way for her to answer as she scratched the back of her head.
Theresa’s hand swept under her eye.
“…Are you aware? Children can be conceived even during war.”
Renee’s head dropped downwards.
Her face became bright red in that short period.
As Renee’s body began to squirm in embarrassment, Theresa answered with a helpless grin.
“Well, in fact, the Saint is right. If you had been focused on romance in such dire circumstances, that would have been disappointing in its own way.”
Thinking about it, wasn’t this the kind of love that suited Renee best?
A girl who harbored a one-sided love for three years because of her shyness, and her awkward attempts at confessing her feelings left her love unreciprocated.
That was exactly why it was so beautiful.
“Take your time. The Saint is still young, and that fool is a devoted enough man to wait for you.”
Theresa said those words, believing that the excessive momentary happiness might cause her to lose sight of her goal.
Renee gave an awkward smile and bowed.
“Yes, I’m really fortunate to have you here, Lady Theresa! You’ve helped me so much in getting this far!”
A radiant smile spread across Renee’s lips, and faint dimples began emerging on her snow-white cheeks.
Finding her appearance truly lovely and admirable, Theresa approached Renee and embraced her tightly.
“Ah, I’ve done something incredible, haven’t I?”
Theresa felt a sense of relief.
And she also felt gratitude towards God.
Gratitude that she was able to present love to a woman who lived in the darkness, giving her a slightly different light.
As expected, that was the beauty of being the Apostle of Love and why she cherished it.
Theresa stroked Renee’s back with those thoughts fresh in her head.
Jenny was in a bind.
“Is it not sorcery?”
[What nonsense! It’s definitely magic!]
“No! The intuitive sorcery is far more useful than needlessly convoluted magic! And who knows how long it’ll take for practical usage if she studies magic!?”
[Bullshit! You think this kid can’t grasp it, unlike an imbecile like you!? It’s the Power of Death! It’s a power that directly intervenes in the soul. With the proper theory, the possibilities are endless!]
“That’s why she should learn sorcery!!!”
Caught in the middle of a heated argument between two childish adults about her future path, Jenny couldn’t help but feel drained.
For the first time in her life, Jenny doubted the words of her master, Hodrick.
‘…He said I could learn a lot.’
‘Do I need to learn these things?’ She thought, feeling tired.
Meanwhile, the childish adults, who were continuing their argument, asked Jenny simultaneously.
[Obviously magic, yes!?]
Startled, Jenny slammed Annalise onto the floor.
Jenny took a few steps back.
There was a fed-up expression on her face.
Only then did Trevor intervene, gently patting Jenny’s shoulder before speaking.
“Now, there’s no need to agonize over such matters. You’re still young, Lady Jenny. I will support you in anything you wish to pursue.”
Hearing Trevor speak with a broad smile, Jenny felt as if she had found salvation.
“Would you like to take a break first? It’s best to get some fresh air when your mind is cluttered.”
Jenny nodded her head vigorously.
Trevor showed a bright smile at her appearance and led her out.
That was a grave mistake.
“Oh, by the way, there’s something I haven’t checked yet.”
“If you don’t mind, Lady Jenny, may I examine your Stigma?”
Jenny’s body shuddered.
Her eyes were filled with terror as she gazed at Trevor.
What emerged on the face of the young boy, who looked about seven or eight years old, was a sinister and eerie smile.
Jenny thought to herself.
No matter how I look at it, the Holy Kingdom doesn’t seem like a very nice place.