After hiding the medicine in Leah’s cupboard, I immediately went downstairs to avoid the knights finding out that I went to put something away. Leah’s cupboard was a safe location. I doubted anyone would fumble through a child’s clothes. However, the place belongs to a businessman, so I doubted anyone would force their way in to search through my belongings. If the chapel barged in, that’d create a conflict, after all.
The knight in front of me spoke in a somewhat mocking tone: “Let us go now, then. Please follow us. Do you need anything? If you do not feel safe, you can ask Lord Veirya to accompany you.”
They were under the impression I needed to rely on Veirya. They weren’t wrong. I didn’t have any combat abilities. The two of them could easily rip me apart with their hands. To add, my left foot had yet to heal, so I fleeing wasn’t an option. If I brought Veirya, however, I would’ve already lost the mental game. Also, I had no clue where she was!
“Wait a second. Something’s not right. Veirya only arrived last night, and she only went to the brothel last night. Logically, the chapel is unlikely to have noticed her. She went with me to the imperial palace during the day, too. How does the chapel know Veirya has arrived in the imperial city? Could their surveillance be that air tight?” I pondered.
“How… did you know that Veirya has arrived?”
The two knights froze. They exchanged eye contact. One shot the other a complaint. After hesitating for a long time, one of them answered, “We noticed. In regards to those around you… sorry, but we have been keeping an eye on you. However, we are sure you understand. After all, that is the status quo of our relationship.”
“I don’t care if you want to keep tabs on me; however, if you dare to harm my family, I won’t forgive you!”
They gave me small nods. I knew my threat looked pitifully laughable, but I let them know I wasn’t playing with them.
One led at the front, while the other followed behind me as the three of us headed to the chapel together. It was the first time I stepped onto the chapel’s marble steps. I turned around to look. I wondered if I could still see the street from there. I wondered what the chapel’s significance to me was.
I entered the chapel. The curious members in their robes and the armoured knights scanned me. Their gazes showed their bewilderment. Though somewhat nervous, I had to display a composed demeanour. The big door behind me shut. There was no light inside. There were only fires on either side, which gave the building a murky vibe. Nobody spoke. The knights and believers didn’t speak. Our footsteps resonated, as it was the only sound. It was a weird scene to be part of.
“His Excellency is waiting for you in the literature room. Please enter.”
I ascended the spiralling stairs to reach the second floor and came to a dark door. The knight gently knocked then immediately left leaving me standing at the door. The individual inside said, “Please come in, Mr. Lin. There is no need to stand on ceremony here. You did take care of us in the North.”
I breathed out to relax myself then opened the door and entered. The so-called literature room was enormous as I expected. There were plenty of bookshelves inside with a plethora of literature works on the shelves. Paper production methods probably hadn’t come into existence in this world yet. The paper was very tough. We probably used ordinary paper made from papyrus or something similar, while they probably used expensive parchments here.
The pope sat behind a table. In front of him was a big black book. On the other side of the table was a stack of books. He examined the letters and illustrations underneath the flame. Without raising his head, he said, “God said money cannot erase one’s sins.”
“I’ve never believed humans live bearing sins. Living is great.”
“So, may I ask, you must know that life has a time limit. What exactly did you work so hard to earn money and gain power through the elves, company and us for? What is the point in having the money and power?”
“There’s obviously meaning to it. I can’t enjoy those things when I’m dead; however, I can enjoy what money and power grant me when I’m alive.”
“What about after you have passed away?”
“What happens after I die has nothing to do with me. I don’t believe in souls or the afterlife. I live in the present. I think that’s why I don’t get along with you.”
I sat down opposite to the pope. He gently shut his book then looked at me with his eyes narrowed. With a composed smile, he replied, “That is how this world is. There are believers, and then there are those who do not pray, such as you. I guess it is due to the money and pollution that has inhibited you from noticing God’s gaze. Nevertheless, I did not ask you to come here to discuss God. I merely wanted discuss what we are currently facing.”
“About what you want to do?”
“Correct. Before that, though, I hope I can talk to you about my daughter. I am very grateful you can visit my daughter. She appears to have fallen for you; unfortunately, it is a pitiful romance. After all, we are in opposition with each other. That said, I am genuinely grateful you could grant her hope to live. That has nothing to do with the matter between us, however.”
I expressed, “What I want is very simple. The Queen plans to eliminate you. Even if I do not figure out your plans or find your weapons, she will kill you. I’m powerless to stop the turmoil.”
The pope got to his feet and went around to my back with light steps. He pressed down on my shoulders and responded, “I am fully aware of that. When I baptised her in the past, I knew she would be one to bring bloodshed. Queen Sisi possesses unbelievably amazing luck. When she was fifteen, she decisively quelled the rebellion in the South, thereby winning the support of the military. At seventeen years old, she won the support of businesses. Now, at twenty years old, she ended humanity’s threat that plagued them for centuries. She was also the one who slew the Demon King. In saying that, all of that, everything that happened went too smoothly for Sisi. Thus, she became excessively arrogant. She is arrogant to the point she is convinced there is nothing she cannot do. She is arrogant enough to believe she can rule the entire empire. She shines too brightly and is excessively arrogant. Her father’s first teaching to her was to be modest, yet she lacks that most fundamentally important trait a monarch requires.”
I was quite surprised. I never expected those words to come out the pope’s mouth. Is there not something wrong about him as an antagonist character? Is there not something very wrong?
“You can rest assured; I harbour no sinful thoughts for Sisi. I knew long ago she would come for us, but I could not help it. I have to save my daughter. I must ensure I have enough income to save my daughter, which is why I will not change what I intend to do. Just as you would do anything for your daughter, I believe you understand my sentiments as a father. A father can do anything for his daughter. Nevertheless, I do care very much about Sisi. Queen Sisi must learn things that happen in this world are not playing out as per her wishes. Let her fail for once. Let her be embarrassed for once, and she will learn to be humble.”
I asked, “What if you fail, though?”
“Then, use my blood to consolidate Sisi’s rule. She can consolidate her rule after she learns to be humble, while our elimination can be used to demonstrate to others the consequence of betraying her, I guess. I have always viewed Sisi as my biological daughter. I would be happy to help her. In saying that, I do not believe I will fail.”
“Bear in mind I never said I’m siding with you. I couldn’t possibly side with you even though you sound as though you have very justified reasons and are loyal to Queen Sisi. I won’t upset her for your sake. I, too, have to put up with her to live. I also want to obtain what I want.”
“There is no need. I did not ask you to come here to reach a consensus. All I ask is that, if I succeed, I promise not to hurt your family. If you succeed, I hope you can protect my family and stay by Queen Sisi’s. Queen Sisi’s arrogance will only grow after she eliminates us. By then, nobody can control her, which means the arrogant monarch will forever be arrogant. She needs someone by her side to guide her. If she is arrogant, so be it; however, the next person who wants to oppose her will not be me. The next person to target her will definitely come for her life. I hope you can protect her.”
I stood up and pushed my chair away: “You put me in a dilemma with your fatherly act. Can I consider this conversation to have been meaningless? I will still stop you, but I can’t promise to uphold the promise. I won’t obey the request of the dead. I only take orders from Queen Sisi. I will do what she asks me to do, including in regards to your family.”
“I trust you. While you say that, your conscience does not concur.”
“Interesting. This is our first meeting, yet you’re talking to me about consciences.”
I went to the door. I grabbed the door handle. The pope suddenly chuckled: “A man who can adopt the Demon King’s daughter and help an ill individual he helped for the first time must have a conscience.”
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