Not only footsteps, there was also the sound of something like metal rubbing against metal together with it.
Was this the sound of metal armor?
An armored figure coming in during an audience, even though it wasn’t war time……?
She reflexively looked over her shoulder.
It was a man with a sharp impression similar to that of a bladed tool.
He wore a deep scarlet platemail on his body.
And then, he had several swords in his possession. There were two swords on each of his left and right sides of his waist, and two more on his back, for a total of six long swords. Also, there was a fixed dagger on his belt.
There were chains extending from the pommels of his swords, and that was what made the unpleasant metallic rubbing sound that was resounding.
When he came near──
There was the smell of blood.
It looked like he had washed it off, but the stained blood was making the smell.
In contrast to that appearance that looked like he was in war time, the man expressed a smile that looked like he was a good person, and kneeled down next to Alicia.
「Holy Knight Sadraa, has come carrying a letter from the High Chief Priest.」
An attendant that came at a quick pace received the held out letter, and delivered it to the King.
While unrolling the parchment letter, Dalesh nodded.
「Umu……I see, good work.」
To not even protect the order of audiences, how rude──is what Alicia thought, but she didn’t speak it out loud.
The High Chief Priest was the highest rank of the church.
The Lifelia Kingdom had its faith in the “God of ancient times and the Divine Beings”. That power clearly supported the lifestyles of the Races. The miracle of healing was not something rare. The blessing of good harvest had certainly displayed an effect.
Once, it was said that, in this world, there were Divine Beings and Demonic Beings.
The God worthy of being head of the Divine Beings, and the Demon King that was worthy of being king of the Demonic Beings had continued to fight for a long, long time. At the end of that, the God defeated the Demon King, smashed it to pieces, and sealed its fragments away in different directions.
And then, on the earth that had fallen to ruin due to the war, God brought about plentiful blessings. Furthermore, the Races were born from the blood of the Divine Beings.
In other words, Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Grasswalkers, and Pantherians are descendants of the Divine Beings.
Among the Demi-humans, there were also those known as Demons, but these were said to be people where the blood of Demonic Beings had mixed together with Humans.
Gifting the blessed earth to the Races, the Divine Beings returned to the heavens.
Giving praise to the gods that are probably watching over us from the heavens, we revere them, and seek salvation in life and after death and pray.
This was the most popular religion in the Lifelia Kingdom.
The influence of the church was strong, and if it were the High Chief Priest, they were high enough to rival even the King.
The chief vassals unanimously gave words of thanks to the Holy Knight. Among those voices, voices of fear were mixed in.
The ones known as Holy Knights were selected as ”people who act as the will of God through the use of armed might”.
The ones that they subjugate are Demonic Beings and their believers──the ones that desire the Demon King’s revival, the 《Demon King Worshippers》.
On that point, they were no different from the army and the State Knights.
However, the one that used them was different.
The Holy Knights served God, and moved in accordance with the church’s intentions. They abided not by the law, but by their creed.
And then, while saying that “it depends on God’s honorable will as to who is a Demon King Worshipper”, in the end, the Holy Knight would pass judgment based upon their own dogma and prejudice.
Even if they were a noble or a wealthy person, if they were arbitrarily seen as a Demon King Worshipper, a gruesome torture would be inflicted.
In other words, a Holy Knight was a sword that protects the authority of the church.
And so, not even the chief vassals of the King did not want to be concerned with them. They did not want their eyes to be put on them.
Fortunately, there were not many Holy Knights. Even though there were more than 1000 State Knights nation-wide, in contrast, there were only thirteen Holy Knights.
「Just a few days ago, I had heard that you had just departed for the south but……you have made quite a quick return, haven’t you, Sadraa-sama?」
「Yes, after all, smoothly and soundly bringing Demon King Worshippers to salvation is the mission of us Holy Knights. In the beginning, the questionable one in the southern village wouldn’t quite show their figure and had given me some trouble. However, my humble self only abided by God’s will……And in the end, I had all of the villagers gladly cooperate with me.」
「……And what happened to the people of the village?」
「They were brought to salvation, all of them.」
Alicia reflexively bore a sensation that was similar to her spine freezing up.
Although he didn’t answer it outright, the methods of the Holy Knights was always the same. It was torture and mass killing.
That southern village was made out to “have a Demon King Worshipper”, and in the end, surely all of the villagers were killed with brutal methods.
──I don’t care about the fact that people of the Races had died.
From such a thing, Alicia’s heart wasn’t hurt even a single bit.
However, the Holy Knights were a threat.
For example, if the King and chief vassals were to suspect her with “couldn’t she actually be desiring the Demon King’s revival”, she could make as many excuses as she would like. She had also made many achievements meant to make them not suspect her.
That would probably not apply to the Holy Knights.
If she were to be suspected even just a little bit, torture with no mercy would be waiting for her. She had confidence that she would not talk, but that did not wipe away the anxiety of her body and mind being broken.
If possible, she didn’t want to be concerned with them. Alicia wanted to quickly excuse herself from the audience room.
Even so, Sadraa spoke out something unexpected.
「Although this may have been a bit rude……in regards to the mission given to State Knight Christela-dono, I had overheard it.」
「……And, what of it?」
「Having heard that there was a prophecy of the Demon King’s revival, and then saying that you would personally go, that devotion! It is magnificent!」
「……Thank you very much.」
「However, if there is a suspicion such as that in that town, I believe that we Holy Knights for sure are the appropriate ones. Please, I would like to have the matter of Faltra City left to my humble self!」
However, she was unable to instantly think of what she should say to refuse him.
If she were to carelessly refute him, and be suspected of being a Demon King Worshipper, she herself would be exposed to danger.
Even if it were a false accusation, it was difficult to prove. Not to mention that since Alicia actually was a Demon King Worshipper that desired the Demon King’s revival, she had no idea how much she would be able to successfully hide.
Dalesh also couldn’t just accept it without dissent. He made a difficult face.
If the Holy Knight were to do the same to Faltra City as he did to the small southern village, he couldn’t shut his eyes to it.
Above all, Feudal Lord Galford probably wouldn’t stay silent about it.
The situation of the national armed forces and the church having conflict is something that he absolutely needed to avoid as King.
A young cabinet minister that was in the lowest seat of the chief vassals, respectfully lowered his head.
「Your Majesty, if I may……」
「Oh, ohh, so it’s you, Noa. Do you have some kind of ingenious plan?」
In this case, if possible, he sought a way to keep the Holy Knight silent, or at the very least, a plan that would protect Faltra City.
Alicia still did not know much about the man called Noa.
It seems that he is a young man that has recently been steadily raising his value in the royal court. He held deep knowledge in not only politics and military affairs, but also in agriculture and medicine, and there have been rumors that those propositions of his were bringing about reforms on the national scale.
It’s said that he is the adopted son of the Marquis Givun House, but his lineage before that hasn’t been investigated.
Although his appearance was blond hair, blue eyes and had beauty without a single defect, he did not give a cold impression, and instead expressed a gentle smile. He even seemed like a young girl that kept her hair short.
「……Both State Knight Alicia-dono, and Holy Knight Sadraa-dono are persons worthy of trust. How about entrusting this task to the both of them?」
「Fumu. Are you saying, to have them travel together?」
「Their objective of finding omens of the Demon King’s revival is the same……I believe that it would be best for them to put their hands together to safely resolve this.」
「……That isn’t bad.」
It seemed that Dalesh was pleased with Noa’s proposal.
It did not reject Sadraa’s opinion, and it made it possible to keep surveillance on his running wildly.
Though, Alicia who was forced to do the surveillance was cursing in her mind.
──That man called Noa, is he trying to eliminate me? Or could it be that he seriously thinks that I can hold the Holy Knight back?
Dalesh gave his order anew.
「State Knight Alicia Christela is one of the people that I trust the most. Entrusting her with the important duty of searching for signs of the Demon King’s revival together with the Holy Knight, I see no problems with this but……how about it?」
At the very least, it seemed that the King didn’t intend on making Alicia a sacrificial stone. If she was appraised this much, even if their opinions conflicted at their destination, Sadraa should not be able to arbitrarily decide that Alicia was a Demon King Worshipper.
Though, it would be a different story if the church was planning on confronting the King……
Sadraa respectfully gave his thanks.
「If I am together with such a capable and gallant State Knight, it will be quite reassuring. We shall most certainly smoke out the omen of the Demon King’s revival, and, in the name of God, I believe that we shall obstruct it.」
Alicia also lowered her head.
「In order to meet your Majesty’s expectations, I shall give my all.」
Lined up together with Sadraa, she exited the audience room.
The door was closed behind them.
As usual, he expressed a smile that made him look like a good person.
「Christela-dono, let us immediately prepare for our journey. Are you alright with departing tomorrow morning?」
「Yes, I believe that would be appropriate.」
「This will be my first time going to Faltra City. Being close to the former Demon King territory, just how many Demon King Worshippers will there be……It seems like a town that will need much salvation.」
「Salvation is……yes, that might be true……Sadraa-sama, do you……」
「What is it?」
「Do you hate the Races?」
「Of course not! I like people very much. I love them. They have been blessed by the gods and are their descendants after all. It’s because of that that the ones known as Demon King Worshippers are unforgivable.」
「……I see. I understand that very well.」
So it’s because this man loves people that he kills people……She didn’t understand the meaning of that at all.
What was certain was that “the number of troublesome things increased”. She had no choice but to admit that a large seam had appeared in the plan that had been progressing so well.
She stifled a deep sigh.
The good person smile that looked like it was pasted on disappeared from Sadraa’s face.
「By the way, Christela-dono, your facial expression really is constant, isn’t it?」
「See, even now. You’re being conscious of it and hiding your facial expression. Just what exactly is the reason for that? Is it some ulterior motive that absolutely needs to be hidden?」
Inside of her chest, Alicia could even feel nausea from the delusion that was like an edged tool being grafted into her.
However, the mask that she had long played out created the facial expression of a wry smile.
「For me, since I would look immature if I were to be surprised or to laugh……In places like the royal palace, I become conscious of it and make a diligent-looking face. This might be a trouble that does not exist for a gentleman that looks gallant no matter what facial expression he makes.」
「Ahh, please excuse me for that! But, please don’t worry about that when in front of me. I wouldn’t do something as foolish as make judgements of a person based on the expressions of their face after all.」
「Thank you very much.」
「As I thought, the value of a person, is determined by the color of their internal organs.」
She no longer had any idea as to what kind of face she should make. However, all she thought was that it was creepy.