518 The Dawn Moon of the Avalon
“Uh, I’m already in the South 3rd Avenue, and now I have to exit to Blossom Street…”
In the wintry scenery, where the white townscape became even more so due to the falling snow, I wandered around the demon town with a map in hand.
Well, sorry for not having a good sense of direction. Not only that, I didn’t trust my ability to read a map. I could only wander without getting lost in a dingy slum near the orphanage where I grew up.
Even in the castle town of Helvetia, where I’d remained for several years, I still hadn’t fully memorized the place. It was hopeless for me. Frankly speaking, it’d be a miracle if I manage to reach South 3rd Avenue before sunset.
At this point, someone had to pay me for my hard work.
Nevertheless, my destination was still some distance away.
I had to reach my destination without letting my guard down.
After all, I had escaped from prison.
For I was Linfelt Aria Helvetia Bergunt—also known as the “Holy Maiden of Helvetia.”
During the fifth Galahad War, I was taken prisoner by the enemy.
However, a mysterious masked man appeared, and ordered me to go into hiding. I, Lin, dutifully adhered, and headed for the “Saint Julia Monastery” he’d mentioned earlier.
At first, I had wanted to regroup with the Crusaders, but how was I supposed to leave the Galahad Fortress? Even if I managed to, it wasn’t as if I could conceal myself and traverse through the snowy mountains in the middle of winter. As such, there was no way for me to reach the main camp.
After I had escaped, I snuck into a dragon carriage full of injured soldiers, and was sent straight to Sparda. I couldn’t even afford to return to Galahad Fortress…
For the time being, I tried to hide in Spada—the capital of the enemy country, to prepare and gather intel. However, at the dawn of the fateful Holy Night, news of the glorious victory of Spada, along with the defeat of the Crusaders resounded in the city.
…As a result, my prospect for returning to the Crusader became all the more hopeless.
On top of that, the general—Count Bergunt, was also killed. Even if I returned, peace wasn’t an option.
Then why should I return…?
Thus, I decided to abandon my pointlessly long aristocratic name, and returned to just being “Lin.”
Now that I had nowhere to go, I had no choice but to try and head straight for Avalon. Since I had nowhere else to go, I decided to give that monastery a go. I knew it was suspicious, but…
…After living in Spada for a few days, I realized that even though they were demons, they were living a healthy and civilized life similar to us humans. When the preparations were done, I boarded a dragon carriage bound for Avalon.
For a few days, the trip was uneventful, while the snowy path expanded endlessly.
—At last, I arrived at the magnificent city of Avalon, encased by great white walls—
“—Ugh! That’s it!”
…And magnificently got lost.
I’m so stupid…
However, even if I were to scream in despair, no one would come for me. After all, my life until that point had been a series of unfortunate events, as if G.o.d had a personal grudge on me. Well, there was also the fact that I was donning a covert robe that hid my shabby appearance, so even if I cried, no one would notice.
…As I thought, I could only rely on myself.
I decided to calm down and reconsider my plan.
Ever since I first arrived in Avalon, about two or three hours had pa.s.sed. By the way, I also had a slightly expensive lunch. Perhaps, it was about time to give up the search for the day, and look for an inn.
Fortunately, on the street I was on, I could see various signs that indicated the inns. Since it was the main street, it was crowded. Staying at the nearby inn probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. Although, it probably wouldn’t be high-end. Moreover, if I had stayed overnight, they probably would take it kindly if I were to ask for directions afterwards…
Alright, it wasn’t like I was in a rush. Let’s take a good night’s rest and refresh my body and mind before I resume the search! Tomorrow, I’ll do my best!
Upon deciding that, I decided to go to a suitable inn. Of course, one that was also pristine-looking so that I could rest. Thus, I started walking amidst the crowd—
“Kyaa—! Hey, it hurts!?”
I stumbled upon someone, and toppled over. Soon, I landed on the snowy cobbled ground.
“I, I’m sorry, Miss… Are you alright?”
An innocent voice came from above.
I instantly looked up—
What’s this b.a.s.t.a.r.d’s prob—
—Hey, it’s a handsome guy!
His long, silver hair was reminiscent of a pure white snowfield. But contrasting to his hair, was his brown skin. As for his eyes, they were sky-blue. Upon looking at his smile, I had a change of heart.
“Can you stand? You don’t seem to be hurt.”
“Huh!? Don’t you dare touch me, you Ibrahim!”
While his handsomeness bedazzled me, I also didn’t fail to realize that those were the traits of the Ibrahim people. I’d seen quite a few of them amongst the heretics I’d defeated.
As if I’d let such a guy pull my hand, hold my waist, and help me stand.
“Haha, that doesn’t seem good. Well, sorry for worrying about you. Also, what are you talking about? I don’t have the slightest idea.”
…I was annoyed by the cool smile of the Ibrahim man, which reminded me of a certain countryman from somewhere. But like he said, there was no way an Ibrahim man could be found in such a place.
Whether it was Spada or Avalon, there were humans with different hair colors, eye colors, and skin tones. To begin with, there were many races other than humans.
It was an unimaginable composition of population for Sinclair, but after a few days, I got used to it.
Therefore, it wasn’t strange that there were races that had the exact same characteristics as the Ibrahim.
“N, never mind, then!”
Uh-oh. If I blurted something outrageous, then he might suspect me. I hadn’t heard any information about the knights looking for me, or that I had a bounty on my head. Nevertheless, they might be looking for me. I need to be careful not to arouse suspicion.
“Is that so? Then, don’t walk aimlessly in such a crowd. Next time, getting hurt might be the least of your worries?”
“Shut up, I don’t need your help.”
“Haha, okay then. See you, Miss. There’re a lot of bad guys in Avalon, so be careful!”
Leaving such selfish words, the fake Ibrahim man disappeared into the crowd, rocking his pure white robe.
“Ugh, I don’t know anymore…”
This time, I merely had the misfortune of b.u.mping into a handsome man. If I had been in a back alley, or in the slums, would I be molested by some pervert? Or be pickpocketed?
I couldn’t believe it, so I searched the pocket of my robe again.
I couldn’t find it—I couldn’t find my purse.
“No, wait, just wait, no… please no, dear G.o.d—”
No matter how many times I checked, it was gone. The purse, full of gold coins I received from the masked man, was gone.
Ah, what a blunder, even though I was raised in the slums.
Since I’d been experiencing the lavish life of a young lady with a butler, I utterly disregarded it. I neglected even the basic things that even rural tourists who came to Elysion knew. I shouldn’t have kept money in my pocket, and instead scattered it throughout my body!
Due to my current lifestyle, I only had to remain vigilant on the battlefield. After all, I’d be served by Sebas and other servants on a daily basis.
“W-w-what should I do!?”
I could no longer find that fake Ibrahim, whose crime was so great, not even the flame of h.e.l.l could purify him. At least, not in this kind of crowd. Even if I had noticed, the moment the purse fell into his grasp, he’d probably deceive me and escape.
Apparently, from the moment he touched me, it was already my loss.
There was nothing I could do about it now. Now that I had run out of money, I had to think about my next course of action.
“Say goodbye to the inn, I guess…”
I didn’t even have a single copper coin to spare. As such, it was unlikely for me to use even the dingiest room, let alone a neat inn. For someone who had neither money nor relatives to spend the night in the city…
Yeah, impossible—absolutely impossible.
Even during my time in the orphanage, I was granted a bed. I had never spent the night outside, much else in the middle of winter.
Sure, “Sanctuary” shielded its wearer from the cold, so I didn’t have to worry about freezing to death. But what of the fluffiness of the bed? What’d remain of my dignity and pride if I were to be forced to spend the night on a roadside!? Even if I was no longer a count’s daughter, I couldn’t simply handle such an environment!?
Wait, it’d be another hour or two before the sun went down.
Until then, I had to secure a bed and a roof—at any cost!
“—I have to go to the monastery.”
Thus, I resumed my search for a monastery with all my life.
After that, I wondered how long I roamed around the unfamiliar city of Avalon. Starting with the main street, I pa.s.sed through the dirty back alley that was familiar to me, and even stepped into an abnormally secluded corner. Honestly, I was expecting an undead to jump out at me.
When the sun finally set, and I was bleakly wandering around like a ghost, relying on the light of the lamp—
“—It’s there, the St. Julia Monastery!”
At last, I found it.
I didn’t know where or how I got there, but in front of me, was the somewhat nostalgic, crucifix church-style building with a huge signboard that read, “St. Julia’s Monastery.”
Well, I sure hope that wasn’t just an illusion that I saw before my death. With that in mind, I banged on the door of the chapel-like building and shouted.
“Excuse me! Bestow some mercy upon this lost lamb!”
Did G.o.d perhaps extend a helping hand?
“To who am I speaking?”
The second handsome man of the day emerged from behind the door. He was a priest with a solemn atmosphere.
Neatly trimmed, bright brown hair. For some reason, his eyes were closed, so I didn’t know his eye color. Despite that, his comeliness was obvious.
“Well, well, you seem to be very exhausted, both physically and mentally. Let’s not waste our time talking. Come in, Miss.”
Hey, hey, even in Elysion, there was no such divine-like priest. While thanking the priest of Avalon, who seemed to be full of compa.s.sion, I stepped inside the house of G.o.d.
Just like the outside, I could tell that the inside was similar to the church of the Crusader. Even if I was like this, I still had the qualifications to be a regular sister.
Then, I was led through what seemed to be a lounge. I saw long tables and chairs where children could eat side by side there.
…Yeah, this atmosphere reminds me of the orphanage.
“I’ll prepare some tea, so please wait here for a moment.”
“Ah, alright, thank you very much.”
On the table where I was sitting, the priest placed a lamp. Empty-handed, he casually strode down the pitch-black corridor.
“…Could it be, he’s blind?”
After all, his eyes were shut the whole time. Not only that, he also didn’t seem to require light. That was enough evidence to suggest his blindness, but how could he move so freely without a cane?
Well, right now, I can’t afford to worry about others. Perhaps, the Knights of the Avalon had been notified by now.
However, even if the gallant knights were to storm this place, I wouldn’t have the energy to resist. I was so tired, and also penniless, so I didn’t care anymore.
“I apologize for making you wait.”
True to his words, the priest brewed some tea and returned.
After wandering through the freezing winter city, the warmness of the tea permeated my body. The taste was so-so, so it was edible, I guess…
My tongue, which had been pampered by the life of a lady, only had harsh evaluations. Nevertheless, thanks to the much-needed break, my tattered heart was eased.
“First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Emile, and I’m a humble priest of the St. Julia Monastery.”
He introduced himself.
Thus, I introduced myself in return.
“Uh, I’m… Lin, erm…”
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As the spearhead of the Crusaders, I came to invade the Pandora continent—
His long, wavy, black hair had vigorous l.u.s.ter; yet his slender face had subtle wrinkles to it. Usually, the man’s golden eyes would gleam as he exuded an overwhelming majestic air. As of the present, he seemed to be weathered down from age.
He was Margrave Wissendorf. The Wissendorf territory, which was located at the Northern end of the Avalon, had inherited the rank of margrave ever since he managed to defend the borders from the vicious harpies that nested in the Asbel Mountains.
Of course, from now on, there wouldn’t be any such fierce battles. Ever since a modern nation—“Windom”—was established, based on the barbaric Harpy tribes, they’d made peace with Avalon, and were now on friendly terms with the townspeople.
Although the Wissendorf family lived in peace for a long time, they were still well-known throughout the Avalon as a family with a strong military background, suitable for defending the borders.
However, the current margrave was famous for a different reason.
“But why, why… Don’t you like cursed armor!?”
Yes, he was quite famous as a cursed armor collector.
“It’s not that I’ve grown tired of them. As I get older, far from getting tired of them, I feel like I’ve become more and more attached towards the alluring darkness…”
The two had the same hobbies. They’d speak about the charm of cursed armor, brag about each other’s collections, and sometimes became rivals competing at auctions.
“Then why’d you sell all of your collections!?”
“At first, I had no intention of doing so, since I’ve wagered my life for them. However, if they become too infamous, I have no choice.”
“That’s right, for the next auction, I’ll put up the ‘Tyrant’s Armor: Maximillian’ for sale.”
Precisely because they shared the same values, Christina was shocked from the bottom of her heart. Her eyes went wide open, while her mouth stayed agape. However, her idiotic visage was half-concealed by the fan she draped over her face.
“T-that’s… The ultimate cursed armor…”
It was the margrave’s most prized possession.
Once upon a time, before the founding of Avalon, the armor was worn by a king who ruled that land in the dark ages. Due to having such a history, it was an authentic first-cla.s.s antique. More importantly, it was a cursed armor with a tremendous grudge. Even the Temple of Pandora gave up, since modern magic technology did nothing to lift the curse.
“Most likely, that greedy skeleton will win the bid. He’s been obsessively aiming for my beloved Maximillian for a long time.”
“You and Lord Mordred of Sparda never change. Do you really intend to yield the armor to such a person?”
“While that skeleton is indeed an unprincipled fellow who collects all sorts of cursed items, he has tenacity and wealth—and above all, a discerning eye.”
The chairman—Mordred of Sparda—was one of the famous collectors, just like Margrave Wissendorf of Avalon. Perhaps because he came from an undead race called a lich, he had a keener eye than Wissendorf, an elf. Furthermore, due to his affinity with the darkness, he could even wield the cursed equipment himself.
For Wissendorf, who was bewitched by the allure of cursed armor, Mordred’s abilities were enviable.
“I’m reluctant to admit this, but if it’s him, I believe my cursed armor will be in good hands.”
The muttering of the margrave vanished into the winter air, accompanied by a hollowness that was akin to a declaration of defeat.
“But still, I don’t understand. What could’ve possibly made you decide to part with the Tyrant’s Armor?”
She had yet heard of the reason why the margrave had decided to be rid of his most valuable treasure. Unless that was made clear, there was no way for her to be convinced.
“Did you know that there’s been some suspicious activities in Avalon lately?”
The margrave scanned his surroundings before continuing.
“Suspicious activities…? I don’t have the slightest clue…”
“Hmph, just like your father, you seem to be ignorant of court affairs.”
“Well, I’m a knight. Besides, when it comes to my family, we’d just be satisfied if we had a mine and a workshop just like any typical dwarf.”
“While I think it’s a virtue to not be overly ambitious, it’s better to devote a little attention to what’s brewing in the Avalon.”
“…What are you implying?”
“I can’t share the details, yet. However, there appears to be a conspiracy amongst the Twelve n.o.bles.”
In most countries, there were influential n.o.bles other than the royal family, such as the four great n.o.bles of Sparda. Since the founding of Avalon, the twelve ancient clans had been widely known as the Twelve n.o.bles.
While it applied to any country, powerful n.o.bles treated each other like rivals rather than comrades. Even in the past history—only half a thousand years ago, there were countless examples of quarrels between n.o.bles developing into war.
Furthermore, the Twelve Aristocrats of Avalon also competed with each other for territories, interest, and government.
“The ringleader seems to be Sir Arkwright. I don’t know what kind of secret deal had transpired, but Sir Azrael and Sir Delacroix seemed to have expressed their support.”
“What, those three families…? Somehow, it’s difficult to believe…”
Among the Twelve n.o.bles, Duke Arkwright, Duke Azrael, and Duke Delacroix were known as the Three Families because even now, they were deeply involved in Avalon’s national affairs. The only reason why margrave was treated differently was because he had the highest rank. Not to mention, he had blood ties with the Avalon royal family.
“Although the three were mocked, if they do unite in an attempt to achieve something…”
“Even His Majesty the King may not be able to stop it.”
With a somber expression, the margrave nodded. From the atmosphere, it was apparent that he wasn’t simply gossiping.
“Anymore than this is just my personal speculation, so let’s not talk about it. But do remember, the sense of crisis that I felt was enough to drive me to part with Maximillian. Christina, I think of you as a good friend and a rare companion. Even if you’re selfish, I always think of you as cute.”
“Ohohoho, that’s discourteous to me.”
“No, you have a unique sense and talent, to the extent that you can wield cursed equipment. If I was 70 years younger, I’d have recruited you.”
“Hahaha, that’s a pity I, myself, haven’t met a gentleman as wonderful as Sir Wissendorf yet.”
“You’ve become a smooth talker. Unlike when we first met, you’ve grown into a fine woman. For that reason, I’d like to give you some advice…”
“I’m unworthy of your consideration.”
He never outright implied it, but she had an inkling as to what kind of “crisis” the margrave was referring to.
Apparently, the three families were conspiring against those who possessed cursed armor.
“…Certainly, while we can’t exactly share our hobbies openly, it shouldn’t be a punishable crime.”
“Then, l guess someone who’d like to prohibit it has appeared. Lastly, let me warn you—”
The margrave turned on his heels, and faced the venue, dazzled with warm light.
“—Beware of the St. Julia Monastery.”
His last line lingered in Christina’s ears.
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