Chapter 41: The Apostate
The eyes of the other three suddenly focused on Adrian’s back, and even the gray parrot froze on Nemo’s shoulders without saying a word. The crowd was already much thinner than at the beginning. The Knights of Judgement neatly drew their swords and surrounded the four of them in front of the burning house.
The aroma of roses was finally dispelled by the unique smell of fireworks.
The shadow of the superior demon began to scatter like smoke and started becoming more solid. It looked like a huge cobweb formed between the heaven and earth. There was an equally huge brain-like structure in the middle of the cobweb. Unfortunately, the whole thing was a virtual cloud of translucent black mist, and the details were not clear. The shadow stretched out its smoky end and merged into the dark shadow under Adrian’s feet. Nemo frowned slightly, and the shadow of the demon in front of him revealed a strong sense of disobedience. If he had to say it, he did not feel the aura similar to Pandorater from that shadow. It wasn’t strong, but quite the opposite— its momentum was a bit weaker than the fake ‘Cahill’.
Adrian turned around with his left wrist exposed. An engraving flashed faintly.
"Long time to no see, teacher." He said in a deep voice, lowering his head slightly.
The knights removed their shields and a rickety figure appeared. The old man was dressed in a red robe, and his figure was not tall, but his whole body exuded an indescribable majesty.
The expression on his face was closer to regret than anger.
"Holy Sacrifice," he sighed. "I know Joanna. She set it up for you."
"I had guessed it." Adrian raised his eyes.
"I believe she knows what we’ll do." The old man said as if he was having a nice chat and was ignoring the burning mark. The blades of the swords from the Knights of Judgement flickered in the fire, like a row of neat metal tusks. "Of course, you also know. Come back my son. Zenni will forgive your mistakes."
Adrian didn’t speak. He sighed and slowly raised his engraved left wrist. Behind him, the huge shadow of the demon slowly twisted, and several bold civilians crossed the silver armor of the Knights of Judgement and watch desperately through the gap.
"I know what this is, my son." There was more sadness in the old man’s voice. "It’s not a contract. It’s just a transaction mark. You know that the demon has invaded the world. You’re not the reason. God won’t blame you too much."
"But they don’t know." The former Knight Commander’s tone was calm as he casted his eyes on the people watching carefully in the distance.
"Child, I can guess what you’re thinking." The old man in the red robe said. "Please— please come back. Don’t be obsessed. Cahill Edwards is dead and you’re still alive. The reputation of the living is always more important than that of the dead. Joanna is my good friend and I know the pain. They’re all gone. You have to accept this."
"So you still plan to use the old method to solve it." Adrian lowered his wrist.
"Everything is for the overall situation." The old man said slowly.
"Push him down from the alter and tell everyone that Cahill Edwards was possessed by a demon from the start. He tried to become a hero so he could bewitch everyone afterwards. He miraculously recovered while I was chosen as a sacrifice not long after I was imprisoned. These can be the best evidence. And I— I will become the new ‘Tragic Hero’ and hold onto the glory of God while in prison."
Adrian smiled. It was the first time Nemo had seen him smile and that smile was complicated and sad.
"Then His Majesty and the Holy Church only need to admit this harmless little injustice— Who made this demon’s evil plan?"
"…This is the most appropriate and your persistence is also a fact," the old man said. "The dead is gone. People need stability, and they need to know the existence of heroes."
"I’m not a hero." Adrian said it slowly, word by word. "I’m undoubtedly a sinner."
"First, my blindness caused bloodshed. Second, my lies have created despair. Third… What do you think of this ‘truth’ that I colluded with demons to seduce heroes who trust me wholeheartedly?"
"It makes sense in theory," the old man commented in a low voice, "but are you sure you want to go this way, my child? Your sacrifice will be worthless, and the same thing is bound to happen again."
"Two and a half sentences that I spoke are facts, you know." Adrian lowered his hands and the huge shadow of the superior demon fell silent. "This is not a sacrifice, Mr. Mercer. This is just an attempt. I can guess the ending, but I don’t regret my decision. Even if you still ignore the cause of the demon this time, one day, His Majesty must face up to that fact— a few symbolic gold coins are useless, and the wounded soldiers on the road to death cannot survive only on faith alone."
"If he insists on going his own way, not thinking about solutions, but just hoisting them high with virtue, then the demons are destined to return again, because that is not the suffering given to them by God, but by man. The glory should be attributed to those who died or were injured by his command, and it has nothing to do with God."
"’Don’t run away from your mistakes. Just as you look directly at the painful truth’… This is what you taught me. Cahill Edwards saved 387 people on that battlefield, and he is their light."
The former knight straightened his back and raised his head, his eyes burning with fire.
"…And I don’t want you to erase that. I’m very sorry, my teacher."
The old man known as Mr. Mercer was silent for a long time.
"I respect your choice, my child," he said, taking a deep breath and raising his voice. "Adrian Cross colluded with a demon because of his lust, fell from the grace of God, and betrayed Zenni’s love and trust."
"Cardinal Mercer Nathaniel hereby proposed to treat this as ‘apostasy’ for the time being."
The crowd of onlookers in the distance stirred. The old man coughed a few times, bending his back down a bit, and he looked even thinner.
"Catch them," He gave the order wearily.
At that moment, Nemo wanted to raise his hand, but Ann was first to move.
"Come on, a big one—" she shouted at Nemo. "Clear the field!"
Nemo immediately understood. He took a step back and raised a hand. A purple black light of Abyssal magic immediately obscured a piece of the sky.
"I’m a demon warlock." He thought seriously for a moment. "I suggest you run away… No, leave."
A live demon warlock and an unknown shadow were not the same thing. The nearest onlookers screamed and fled, spreading panic wildly. Within a few minutes, the people who were still watching from the distance suddenly fled, leaving only small debris that they had no time to pick up.
The Knights of Judgement didn’t wait until they finished their attack. They skillfully rushed up and raised their shields to advance under the crazy pouring of icicles.
"You won’t last long," Mercer said. "Don’t resist. Now give us Adrian Cross and I can help you regarding the dungeon."
"We have such a big demon warlock!" Ann jumped on the top edge of the big shield and dodge a sword neatly. "Are you going to imprison him too? Oliver will die of a broken heart."
Nemo was leaning in the direction of Adrian. The shadow shield offset the beams of light that bombarded one after another. He tried to give puzzle glances at Ann. Oliver’s ice spikes stopped unnaturally for a few seconds and he almost collided with a heavy shield. He shook his hand uncomfortably, and the icicles changed direction to suppress the large number of enemies in front of him.
The gray parrot was screaming happily, throwing black balls of light at the Knights of Judgment one by one— Although they didn’t cause any incredible damage, they were annoying to deal with on this narrow battlefield and restrained the movements many people.
Adrian caught a knight’s right arm with his hand who was attacking him from behind and snatched away his sword, even removing the scabbard along with it. He put the sword back in its sheath and assumed a calm stance. The shadow behind him was really just a hideous decoration as it was slowly dissipating at this moment.
"Heilem’s city wall has been blocked and the teleportation array has been disabled. You can’t escape. It’s better to give up earlier—"
"Oliver, do you have the Amulet of Holy Light? Follow what we discussed."
"Nemo, how about you?"
"Are you ready?"
"…Probably." Nemo was sweating nervously.
"Nemo, do you want to know how you were able to escape the Walls of Sighs? Come on Oliver, it’s time for you to show—"
Oliver interrupted her mercilessly with his movements. He raised the Amulet of Holy Light and a surge of magic powers swept into the small amulet like a whirlpool, turning into pure light. The dazzling white light burst out all at once, and this time, he didn’t hold back— the amulet directly turned into dust.
Under the pure brilliance, the Knights subconsciously stopped their movements.
"Nemo!" Oliver shouted.
Nemo crossed his fingers unfamiliarly and the dark shadows rose from the ground forming into vines. He was caught in them himself. He was so nervous that it made him nauseous. Oliver jumped and clung to the nearest vine closest to Nemo, while Ann neatly grabbed one that had rubbed against her and grabbed Adrian’s collar— easily dragging him off the ground.
"Old man," she grimaced with a smile. "Is the magic radius for the disabling teleportation spell only a few hundred meters?"
The sky above them was defenseless.
The knights came back to their senses and tried to cut of the shadow vines, but the moment their silver sword touched it, they seem to turn into real shadows. Their sharp blade could not pierce or break through nothingness. The shadow vines rose extremely fast and soon their figures rose above and became so small that it couldn’t be seen.
In fact, these seemingly happy fugitives are far from as calm as they seem.
There was no trace of clouds in the night sky. The windows of the buildings that revealed light turned into tiny stars, and the fireworks turned into small shinning splashes of water under their feet. Nemo only felt that his feet were growing softer, and the shadow vines began to sway. Fortunately, the gray parrot had its own wings, so it was fine, but the other three wingless humans were almost thrown out.
"What are you doing!" Ann yelled. She almost lost her grip on the Knight Commander and dropped him from the sky.
"This is the first time I’ve used this technique!" Nemo roared back against the violent wind.
"This is the life of a Black Chapter. Adapt to it!"
"I’m afraid of heights!"
"I’m afraid of heights, okay?" Nemo tried to focus on the shadow vines instead of looking at the ground. "The tallest I’ve ever been was climbing a tree!"
"Oliver, think of a way to stabilize him!" Ann’s voice became a little sharp. "It’s stupid to be killed by a companion. I need a stable environment to stimulate the teleportation array!"
Oliver let go of his hand.
To be precise, it wasn’t letting go. He made a force at the end of the shaking shadow vine and jumped steadily to Nemo’s side, and without hesitation hooked an arm around another vine and raised his other hand and covered Nemo’s eyes.
"Don’t be nervous," he said softly. "It’ll be fine in just a bit."
The swaying of the vines slowed, but it was still trembling badly. Nemo licked his lips nervously. He could feel the wind hitting his cheeks and the darkness in front of him didn’t make him very reassured either.
Suddenly the gust of wind become cooler, and his vision was illuminated by the moonlight again.
He couldn’t see the ground anymore. Thick clouds gathered under their feet, obscuring everything on the ground. They rolled slowly around them as Oliver smiled at him as he crumbled pieces of ice into powder that floated around him.
"Is it better?" He asked softly.
The shadow vine answered his question faster than Nemo himself as it became extremely stable, like a giant tree towering into the sky.
"Well done." Nemo commented pertinently, trying to ignore the heartbeat that was beating half a beat faster in this instant. "You should take note of this Ollie. It’ll be useful when you chase your future girlfriend."
He didn’t know if he was seeing things, but Oliver looked away for an instant. Nemo just wanted to make a few jokes. The light of the teleportation array had lit up. The next moment, their faces were firmly buried in the grass. Nemo got up in silence, desperately spitting out the grass debris in his mouth.
"Welcome back to Frontier Forest." Ann announced happily. "The large teleportation array is very expensive. This charge will be added on to you two."
Adrian loosened his neckline, revealing a terrible red mark. It was truly a miracle that he was not strangled to death and Nemo couldn’t help but had some sympathy in his gaze.
"Now the transaction has been completed." A strange voice that didn’t belong to anyone sounded. The imprint of Adrian’s left wrist was completely extinguished, and a red eyeball the size of an apple was floating in front of them. A deformed pupil was squeezing and flowing on it. Nemo felt familiar with this eye.
"Telaranea," he murmured.
"It’s me." There were slightly squirming fleshy lines hanging under the weird eyeball, which was drying up from the end. "My deal with this gentleman has been completed— Oh, don’t be surprised. It’s just an intelligence deal. He gave me information and I did him a small favor. It’s a pure transaction."
"I’ve gained a lot this time, but I don’t mind adding a little more knowleddge before I return to the Abyss. Nemo Light, I propose a deal with you."
It floated ominously in the night sky and sounded very happy.
The author has something to say：
Oliver: No, I mean, I may never have a girlfriend in my life.
Nemo: ? Don’t be so sad, my friend. You are obviously very proficient in flirting.