Chapter 37: The Only Problem
Joanna Edwards walked into the door from the yard, and a little piece of dirt fell to the floor. She put away the garden shovel in silence, and her skirt smelled of roses. It was completely dark but the warning from the bell tower from the Church of Penitence was particularly dazzling.
"Mother," Cahill nodded to Mrs. Edwards who was wiping her hands. He was leaning against the bookshelf in the living room, looking through his books casually. "…You’re injured."
The old woman was wiping her hands with a handkerchief. The red on the handkerchief was particularly dazzling.
"It was too dark," she replied softly. "There was just something wrong with the cutting magic. Don’t worry."
Cahill controlled wheelchair approached. He carefully held up the old woman’s wrinkled hand and a golden light of healing magic appeared from his fingers. The wound disappeared as if it had been erased. He breathed a sigh of relief, raise his face and smiled.
"I’m a healer. You can rely on me more, mother." Cahill said happily, covering back Mrs. Edwards’ hand with her palm. Her hand was small, wet, and cold, like a corpse that was exposed from the soil in a cemetery. "Your hands are too cold. Have you been uncomfortable lately?"
"I’m fine." Mrs. Edwards curled the corners of her mouth and took back her hand.
"The flowers on the table have been changed. Did you had guests this afternoon?"
"Those Black Chapters. They had some questions about the task," she replied, moving the case so that the light on the table glowed brighter.
"They didn’t give up? Then maybe they’ll succeed." Cahill smiled heartily. "It’s great that you can see Adri. I wanted to plea with the bishop again to let you at least see him before the festival. After all, I don’t want you to have any regrets." He paused, "and to be selfish, as a friend, I don’t want to see him executed."
Mrs. Edwards’ movements paused for a few seconds. She was startled, and then sighed slowly: "…I hope it’s really them."
"Which team is it? Let me see… the tenth? You must have something important to talk to with Adri."
"Yes," she gently stroked the petals of the roses and nodded with her back to Cahill. "Very important."
"You’ll definitely be able to see him smoothly. Do you need me to accompany you?" Cahill poured a cup of tea and added a piece of sugar thoughtfully. The teacup floated steadily in front of the old woman.
"No need child. I don’t want you to be hurt again. I only have one question to ask him." The old woman picked up the teacup, took a sip, and smiled quietly. She put the teacup and saucer aside, brushed Cahill’s ginger hair, then bent down and kissed him gently on the forehead. Even if she just took a sip of hot tea, her lips were almost as cold as her hands. "…There’s only one problem."
"Mrs. Edwards wants to see you… Do you know why?" Oliver began to use the condensed frozen ice spike as a weapon, unexpectedly mastering the rhythm. From time to time, he aimed at Adrian, who was fighting empty-handed. The reason why Adrian Cross was called the "Shining Morning Star" was more than his lost magic talent; the actions from the former Knight Commander were not sloppy or superfluous at all. In the face of attacking monsters, even though Oliver’s magic powers was amazing, the speed of taking out the enemy was far less than Adrian, who had lost his own powers.
Oliver studied awkwardly. Adrian’s momentum made him faintly feel like he was facing Witherspoon again.
"I don’t know." Adrian kicked a giant poisonous leech on the ground. "You’re not the first team to come and ask me. I heard them mentioned that she posted a task in the Mercenary Guild."
"Could it be Tela… This is why he’s trying to kill you?" Oliver muttered as he launched three icicles piercing the slippery leech. "Honestly, we’re most worried about this now. Although we visited her in the afternoon, she didn’t seem to be under control, but you said that demons are good at illusion—"
"I’ll meet with her," Adrian interrupted him. "Whether she’s controlled or not."
"What’s the relationship between you and Cahill Edwards…"
"He’s my friend." Adrian said in a deep voice, but he didn’t seem to continue the topic. "Your center of gravity is too high, so it’s easy for you to get knocked down," he added with a frown.
Oliver tried to lower his upper body, narrowly avoiding an oncoming leech.
"Thank you for your guidance." He scratched his nose a little uncomfortably as he was almost lost his balance.
"You have good foundation." Adrian lowered his hands after the group of leeches fled in a hurry. "I can see that you have a good teacher."
Olive scratched his head. Adrian’s attitude was much better than he had imagined. If he hadn’t known Adrian’s identity in advance, Oliver would never have thought that he was a high-level member of the Holy Church. After all, from the perspective of the clergy that they had met, they tend to praise the omnipotent Zenni with every sentence and seriously hated Nemo, who’s not involved with demons.
When the man looked at Nemo, there was only strong vigilance in his eyes, but no hatred. Since they met until now, he hadn’t spoken in that aria-like tone once. Thinking about the rumors of the inquisition, he found himself a little hard to imagine a scene of Adrian raising his sword to stab his compatriots.
Oliver stared at the straight back of the former Knight Commander. Without enemies around, he stood there motionless, in a monk’s uniform, soaked in monster’s mucus and sewage, looking close to pure black. Perhaps it was an illusion, but Oliver thought he looked a little sad.
Oliver didn’t ask any more questions.
During the time Nemo was in the dungeon, he specifically asked Ann about Cahill Edwards, but Oliver had to admit that he didn’t like what he heard.
"It’s a pair of sad heroes. It wasn’t a matter of life and death for the country. As you know, in the Battle of Kandal, they were trying to snatch the dragon breath stone mine near Kenyatta. That border line has always been difficult to draw. Garland casually found a reason and took the lead in waging war, accusing the opponent of sheltering superior demons. This excuse has always been easily used, and it also allow them to conveniently mobilize the Knights of Judgement."
Oliver, who was Orr himself, said he knew nothing about the war.
"The details are not important. In short, they fought, and things ended unexpectedly bad. The dragon breath stone mine was taken by Garland, and it was announced internally that the superior demon had been eliminated. Willard was busy dealing with Alban at that time, so they were severely underpowered, but they weren’t willing to suffer a loss. They sent a group of death row convicts to attack the final evacuation of the Knights of Judgement. It’s estimated that the Holy Church wanted to send Cross there to establish his prestige but didn’t expect that he would be directly planted in the midst of battle. At that time, it was said that they were ‘cursed by evil demons and mana was sealed’. He and Cahill fought against the death row convicts, and while although none of the Knights suffered casualties… well you have seen the consequences and Cahill turned into that demon."
"Shouldn’t both of them be…" Oliver choked. For some reason, he didn’t really want to use the word "heroes".
"Because Cross has never regained his strength, and Laddism Church was unwilling to admit that they were powerless against the ‘demon’s curse’. Honestly, if he was normal at that time, he could’ve killed the entire death row convicts alone. Not to mention Cross also refused to go to Kenyatta at first. It was said at the time that he was bewitched by a superior demon."
"You said that the superior demon was just an excuse."
"’We launched a sacred war against the infidels who sheltered demons’ is much better than ‘I’m sorry, we especially want that mine, so we’re going to take it’, right? Which side do you think devout citizens are more willing to believe in?"
Looking back at it now, two years later, the dust had settled and the blessing festival celebrating peace and love as at hand. One of the original "heroes" turned into a demon in the dark and the other would be sent to the burning alter as a sinner. They used to be so powerful.
The icicles turn into cold water in Oliver’s palm, and he felt terrible. After stepping on a human skeleton, his mood became worse. Although Oliver admitted that he knew very little, he couldn’t understand how Adrian Cross felt. He didn’t even know if the other party really cared, but as soon as the idea of empathy came into his mind, he felt uncomfortable all over.
If Adrian was really as upright as he had shown… A violent man with a conscience was definitely a curse. Perhaps only when Adrian Cross and Mrs. Edwards meet, can they truly understand the truth buried underneath the fog.
However, Oliver didn’t expect this meeting to come so quickly.
They had only be struggling in the sewer all night, and as soon as the application for the advancement of the Black Chapter mission was issued, Joanna Edwards personally came to this rancid place. She held the sheepskin roll task contract in her hand, and the edge of her skirt had a Cleansing Array preventing odor and sticky mold to come near her exquisite embroidery.
Mrs. Edwards stood quietly in front of them. Her face was pale, like a flower that had already decayed and withered. She raised her head slightly, but her white hair remained intact. It was like the surroundings weren’t green dirty water and vile stone steps, but the lights casted on a stage. Adrian stood directly opposite of her in a monk’s uniform that was full of traces left after the sewage had dried up. He lowered his head slightly and looked a little restrained, but his mood remained calm.
"Adri," Mrs. Edwards pursued her mouth and called softly. "You’ve lost a lot of weight."
Adrian did not answer.
The old woman showed an extremely tired smile. With that smile, she seemed to have lost her last support, and her whole body looked shaky.
"I want to ask you a question." Her voice was a little hoarse. "Just one."
"Please look me in the eye and answer me, Adrian Cross. Did my son, Cahill, leave long ago? Don’t be so surprised, I know, I knew it a long time ago, but…"
"Answer me and cut off my last hope."