༺ Holy Kingdom Elia (3) ༻
There were barracks for Paladins at the east exit of the Grand Temple in the center of Elia.
A white building just like the rest. In front of it was a large training ground.
Vera stood in the middle of the training ground and posed a question to Vargo, as multiple gazes were directed his way.
“What should I do?”
As Vargo stroked his chin at Vera’s question, silence descended upon the training ground.
The twelve paladins bowed their heads. They were bowing their heads with a firm posture, as if they would not do anything until Vargo answered.
It was an awe-inspiring ceremony.
It might have been a gesture of admiration for the feats Vargo had achieved or it might have been respect for his status as a Holy Emperor, but Vera could feel that the feelings they were expressing was a different kind of awe, and it was more of a fundamental emotion.
‘Awe from within the heart.’
Such awe is the kind that cannot stem out if it is trampled with violence and authority.
It was something he could feel more clearly because it was Vera who reigned with fear all his life.
Vera could roughly guess the reason why they were so polite to Vargo.
He is the father of all paladins.
The nickname is given to the fact that he re-established the fighting technique that the Paladins are currently learning and using.
The name must have evoked such awe.
While Vera was immersed in his thoughts, Vargo, who was alternately looking at the Paladin and Vera, made an expression as if he realized something and opened his mouth.
“Yeah, that’s it.”
Vargo gazed at Vera. A large smile appeared on Vargo’s mouth, revealing a yellow tooth underneath.
“Are you sure you said that you have used the sword a lot? Fight those twelve guys at once and win.”
“… What do you want to see?”
Vera heaved a sigh in response to his nonchalant reply..
The intention was clear.
He would like to see him use his powers.
Vargo was too blatantly revealing his intentions.
The fact that the words spoken to him couldn’t possibly be uttered as a joke. It was a fact even the Paladins were aware of.
Nevertheless, what he said with a smile meant that he was finally going to test his powers, and that he was trying to gauge how much he can do with that power.
Vera took a deep breath and then nodded his head.
‘…If that’s what you want.’
There was no reason to hide it. No, it was better to reveal it.
What he wants is a position to oversee the procession of saints. For him, he had to appeal to Vargo by showing his strength as much as possible.
Vera calmed his mind and continued speaking while looking at Vargo.
“Can I use the stigma?”
“Is there anything you possess that can’t be used? After all, that’s your ability.”
“You guys, get ready.”
The twelve paladins moved at the same time.
As Vargo sauntered to the corner of the training room, the Paladins began to surround Vera.
Seeing such a sight, Vera rolled up his sleeves and gripped the wooden sword he was holding tighter.
A formation that surrounds him on all sides.
It’s been a long time since I came across such a formation.
…It was a formation that I had faced plenty of times in my past life.
Vera also knew the weakness of this formation
Having been through a lot, he knew how to use his power when surrounded by such a formation.
The power of the oath lends one strength based on the value they invested in return.
In other words, by sacrificing a certain skill, you amplify other skills by that much.
Vera began calculating.
‘Gain and Loss.’
What it takes to win a battle against many.
‘They will dig into my blind spots.’
There are blind spots that are inevitable because the human body depends on vision. They will go after him.
After thinking as such, Vera closed his left eye and muttered.
“… I will not open my left eye in this duel. My senses will be sharpened in return of my limited field of view. I’ll lose my left eye if I fail to comply.”
The stigma burned with gold, and the divinity was emanating all over his body.
Vera felt his senses had sharpened and then uttered words which made him lethargic as he felt his movements being restricted.
“I will not take more than four steps from where I am standing. In return, I will get a stronger body. Of course, if I don’t comply, I’ll lose the ability to walk.”
Divinity surged through his body. A feeling of exaltation filled his whole being as a divine golden hue blazed in his muscles.
Vera felt his body strengthened by the divinity, and opened his mouth again.
Finally, he had to finish it to further amplify the obtained power.
The power of the oath is a power with obvious weaknesses. As much as it is an ability that is expressed through use of words, it is a power that allows the opponent to clearly understand his or her weaknesses.
So, in order to solve this, he had to widen the difference in weight class to the extent that the opponents could not catch up to him even if they’re aware of his weakness.
Vera’s body is the most valuable price after the soul, among the prices to pay for the oath. It amplified the divinity dwelling in his body.
“I won’t even speak. By not speaking until the moment the match is over, I can confer more weight on my vows. If I speak during the duel, I’ll lose my ability to speak.”
The stigma burned again. Divinity surged with a ripple and spread throughout Vera’s body.
Vera felt the divinity filling his entire body. Then he scanned around.
A momentary silence that will be cut off at any moment.
The paladins raised their wooden swords. Vera held the wooden sword with both hands.
At the end of a brief war of nerves, Vera felt a wooden sword flying in from his rear.
He turned slightly. It wasn’t a big move.
With minimal movement, with the power to slightly twist the trajectory of the stabbing wooden sword. He brushed his sword.
What followed was a simultaneous bombardment of sword attack from all directions.
Vera, who was avoiding the attacks with the least amount of movement, suddenly felt a surge of desire.
It was the wild sensation that awakened when the battle began.
The wild sensation that could either be called thirst or ecstasy, and the raw violence that had been crouching in a corner of his heart, began to bare its fangs.
Vera grinned involuntarily at the sensation that returned to him after a long time.
“You look like a dog in heat.”
These were the words Vargo uttered after the battle was over.
Vera’s gaze turned to him.
Twelve figures were found collapsed on the floor gasping for breath. They were the Paladins who had fought before.
He won the duel. It was an overwhelming display.
It was natural. No matter how many people they have, Vera was the owner of the stigma. He was a strong man who had already reigned for one lifetime.
Whether it was experience or ability, there was a gap between Vera and them that could not be bridged.
So, Vera did not agree with Vargo.
“… I won.”
“Yeah, you bit them like a dog and won.”
A smirk appeared on Vargo’s mouth.
“There is no form. There is no intent. No sense of righteousness. If you just surrender to your instincts and wield a sword as you see fit, is that any different from a dog in heat?”
Vera retorted furiously with his eyes wide open.
“This dog’s sword skill was superior to these paladins.”
“You have to say it correctly. It wasn’t the sword, but the stigma that won them over.”
“Didn’t you say that the stigma is also my power?”
“Yes, that’s what I said. Then I’ll ask. Is it the sword of a guardian?”
All of a sudden-.
Vera’s mouth was closed shut.
It felt like being hit in the back of his head with a blunt weapon.
He tried to make excuses, but his mind was not able to weave an answer as frustration grew within him.
No matter how much I racked my brains, I couldn’t come up with an answer, and the frustration that appeared on my face gradually grew deeper.
As he saw Vera like that, Vargo smirked.
“The paladins are the guardians. The sword of the paladin is the sword that guards. It is the sword that protects the most glorious faith, and it is the sword that protects those who have fled under the shadow of that faith. Therefore, it is a sword that must stand alone even in the darkest hours of the night.”
Vargo approached slowly. The smile that appeared on Vargo’s face turned into an extremely mean-spirited form as he pointed to Vera’s sword.
“We need a brother in him. In order to guard what one ought to protect, it is necessary for him to have a code of conduct.”
Vargo’s waist bent a little more. Nevertheless, Vera still had to look up to him.
“Therefore, righteousness is needed. In order to engrave a single wish with that sword, it is necessary to have faith.”
The sound of laughter echoed in my ears. Vera felt ridicule when he heard that sound.
“I’ll ask you. Is your sword the sword that protects those under your shadow? Or is it a sword of a beast that bites what it sees?”
To the questions that popped up, Vera was unable to utter any answer.
It was a sarcastic remark, but Vera couldn’t find a way to respond to it, so he just kept his mouth shut.
It was the sentence that pierced his essence.
It was the sentence that pierced Vera’s life.
Vera did not learn. Vera’s sword was a sword forged from his past life experiences.
So, Vera’s sword has no brother. The most intuitive and practical movement possible. Only the form embodied through experience was intertwined. Vera’s sword followed no code.
Vera’s sword had no intent.
Vera’s sword was not a sword that contained evil,
But a sword that exuded what dwelled inside of him.
It was a sword that poured out the wrath raging within him,
The hatred that made his entire mind muddy,
And the resentment against the world that was trying to slay him.
He had no faith.
Silence that remained for a long time.
To him, Vargo asked one more question.
“I will ask you again. What are you trying to become a paladin for?”
What did he come here for? It was such a question.
Suddenly, a blurry image appeared in Vera’s mind.
An infinitely faint, yet strong embers that seemed to never be extinguished came to mind.
It was an ember that made him reach out his hand without knowing it.
It was the fire that made him infinitely weak.
Vera’s gaze turned to Vargo.
The image of a sage overlapped with the impression of a mean old man who deserved to be called a monster.
Vera’s fists were clenched. He gritted his teeth to the point of making a ‘crackling’ sound.
There was an emotion that came to mind.
It was a tenacious rage that clung to his psyche.
There was anger at that old man who mocked him.
He was angry with himself for not being able to refute.
There was anger at the shallow thought that he could just stay by her side.
Why do I want to become a paladin?
What did I come here for?
His thoughts continued on as the snow fell.
On the dark soul, an oath engraved in gold emerged.
Vera repeated the question again.
‘What was the oath for?’
Then, at last, he uttered a few words.
With his brows furrowed, Vera pushed through the seething anger, freed himself from that tenacious rage clinging to him, and struggled with all his might to utter a few words.
“…To learn how to protect.”
Because I regretted the life where I only took things away.
“…To learn not to regret.”
To chase after the embers that brightened even this ugly seed.
“…That’s why I want to become a paladin.”
He wanted to live that sort of life, so he chose to follow her.
Vargo’s laughter pierced his ears.
Vera raised his head and looked at Vargo.
A face that is still mean, yet somehow cheerful.
He revealed his teeth.
“Now you look a bit like a human being. You stinky brat.”
He said so with a broad grin on his face.
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