Ten-odd crucifixes line the heart of the execution site. Fastened to them are Adofu’s relatives and the beastman girl with pieces of cloth tied around their mouths.
All of them wore sorrowful, seemingly helpless expressions. I stand alongside the knights between the crucifixes and the townspeople so that I can clearly see their faces.
What a nice view this is. The result of bought-out security. It is a privilege of church officials to be able to see it up close.
It would’ve been interesting if there was someone here who would show more anger towards Adofu, but it seems that phase has come and gone over the past few days. Right now, everyone is just trembling with the color drained from their faces.
It’s a shame I can’t hear them beg for their lives and what have you with their mouths gagged, but I can’t have them causing me trouble from talking too much. At any rate, no one’s going to scramble over here to rip them off. Though, it is also tiresome pretending to get injured every single time.
Whenever they conduct executions in other countries, they cover their heads up with sacks. As for me? I don’t like that because I wouldn’t be able to see that last moment of regret on their faces.
And as for the execution method, an executioner selected from the knights goes around and beheads those on each crucifix with a sword. There’s no more to it than that. Beyond that, I think it’s also effective as a deterrent as it’s better to make an example of these people by killing them after tormenting them. Maybe next time I could try proposing something to them since they have nothing left to lose? Although, it won’t be easy to get them to follow through with it since they’re stuck in their boring superstitions, like how dying on one of those by blade will purify their tainted souls or something.
I look up at the sky. The sun was now right overhead. The evil plague dragon didn’t come after all. So that’s how it’s going to be.
My beliefs at that time were wrong about that evil plague dragon. There’s no reason for a dragon to come all this way to die for the sake of a single girl. It probably got a little excited after just killing Adofu. That’s the unfortunate impression I get with how well things went for it. That can’t be helped, but there is another opportunity for me to throw a monster at Haranae. Though, if I summon it, they’ll trace it back to me. What should I do about that? It’ll be a big problem.
The executioner walks up to the crucifixes. He turns himself and faces the townspeople, raising his sword to the heavens.
“These people are grave sinners who have done great harm to Haranae! May their corrupted souls come to be more pure through death!”
I cover my eyes and hide my face as I almost yawned. That was too close for comfort. I almost zoned out there for a second.
Suddenly, I hear the sound of someone’s foot stamping hard against the ground. Bewildered murmurs begin rising from the townspeople.
I drop my hand and look forward. I don’t spot anyone who I’d expect to make that sound.
From the side, I hear the sound of swords clashing. I turn my head. There’s a man with his face concealed by a cloak that he’s wearing like a robe. It’s an attack. A knight, defeated, is already down on his hands and knees.
He’s not just some small fry, he intentionally waited for me to let my guard down.
“Why the hell do you have a knight’s sword!? Hey, you! Who the hell are you!?”
One of the knights raises his voice, pointing the tip of his sword at the assailant. The assailant has a large sword in hand with a knight’s crest engraved on it, the same kind Adofu had carried. Did they loot it from his corpse in the desert?
The man threw his cloak toward me. I unsheath my sword and cut the cloak with a sideways sweep. The cloak flutters in the air, its top and bottom halves pulling away from each other.
The man wasted no time in approaching me. He created a blind spot for his body by making use of the cloak so he could jump in towards me while being concealed. A great stunt, but slow. You’re inferior to me.
I immediately assume a stance. With this distance and the differences between our speeds, I could position myself lackadaisically and still have room to spare. Should I stab him in the shoulder and have a knight finish him off?
The split cloak falls to the ground, revealing the assailant’s face. My body completely freezes up.
“Adofu!? How!? How are you still alive…!?”
No way, he managed to recover from that state!? Seeing that I had stopped moving, Adofu alters the trajectory of his sword. The tip of his sword dives toward my face, coming for it. It would probably only cause a minor injury, but I don’t want any gashes on my face.
My sword won’t make it in time and he’s also too close. However, if he really is Adofu then he’ll be stopped by the prisoner’s seal. I kick off the ground and jump back while shouting.
The momentum vanishes from Adofu and the large sword parts from his hands. Adofu’s body fell, from his shoulders, to the ground. With a delay, the large sword strikes the earth’s surface.
The knights rush over to me.
“Sir Irushia! Are you all right!?”
“Phew… yes, I’m fine. More importantly, capture… him…”
“Why did that guy fall over? What was that just…”
The acolytes approach from the side of the crucifixes. I only just realized it when I saw the acolytes.
I should not have used the prisoner’s seal. Not here. Not in this place.
Among the acolytes, one of them engraved Adofu with the seal. Even though I should have played this role perfectly, why did something like this happen when I should have lamented? Maybe a good opportunity arose for the escaped prisoner Adofu to prove his innocence by returning? That might be what he’s thinking.
“…As I expected. So you did set up the church to be inept about the seal. I was thinking you’d do something like that.”
Adofu spilled out while being seized by the knights. So from the beginning his goal was to get me to use the prisoner’s seal?
Power spontaneously fills the sword in my hand. Calm down, Irushia. Even if you cut him down here, it won’t change anything. After all, Adofu will be executed later.
The acolytes were looking at me suspiciously. Me, who was supposed to have pointed out their defective seal, instead relied on the seal as a first measure when I was attacked by Adofu. Wouldn’t it be natural to also be suspicious?
One of the acolytes approached me.
“Sir Irushia, forgive my impoliteness but, I’d like to ask you something if that’s…”
“Please save it for later. Put him in jail promptly. Let’s proceed with the death penalty for the sinners.”
“B-b-but, about that… if Adofu has returned, then I think it’s reasonable that we ought to hold another investigation and then reconsider the punishment for his relatives. To begin with, these punishments are used as deterrents for cases where the person in question cannot be punished directly, particularly so for this case which also has numerous worrisome things about it. So, if the person in question has returned and there’s room to investigate them, then…”
“But nothing! Such thinking is unnecessary! Return to your original positions!”
Right now, one way or another, I have to earn time. If even a little bit of time passes, then the details become that much hazier and it will give me a grace period to think things through slowly. If that happens, I can even falsify about the seal’s details in any manner I want.
I turn my eyes to the priest.
“*Ahem* Do not be upset! The revolt has already been subdued and we will resume carrying out their sentences! Transfer the assailant to a jail cell.”
Following the priest, the acolytes return to their original positions.
The townspeople and the acolytes look at me with suspicion in their eyes. Shit, that damn Adofu. I never thought that I would have failed in killing him. I didn’t think it would be my undoing that I couldn’t confirm whether or not Adofu survived due to the lack of experience acquisition from the cursed sword’s finishing blow. He’s a stubborn one, pestering me to the very end.
Well, it’ll be fine. This is about the only thing that can do something like this. They won’t get hold of any kind of conclusive evidence. Later, I’ll have the priest dispose of Adofu’s corpse, and that will be the end of that story.
“Sir Irushia? There’s something I’d also like to ask you.”
Pushing aside the townspeople, a single man came out in front. Commotion rises all around.
“Wh- Hagen!? H-how did you…”
“I heard that you cared for me as I was dying. I won’t assent to you putting this off; I want you to tell me everything about where my men, who should have escaped earlier, have gone.”
I should’ve been more aware of the possibilities. It was a dragon, after all, that seemed to get along well with beastmen.
Hagen wasn’t killed by it. What I heard, from the beginning, was a misleading report.
“What is the meaning of this, Sir Irushia!? I also would like to request an explanation from you!”
One of the knights presses me. The acolytes, who had returned to their posts, come up and approach me, taking advantage of the opportunity.
“Rather than postponing it, I think it would be better to talk about it right here to clear up any misunderstandings. Especially now with all the townspeople’s prying eyes…”
A dark cloud looms over my head. Here, at the most inopportune time. Things couldn’t be worse. I never thought that both Adofu and Hagen could somehow still be alive.
Ignoring Adofu, who’s got blood on his hands and has lost his credibility, Hagen is really bad news. He must have gotten in contact with Adofu and then the two of them came here. That being the case, he should know of the matter between me and Adofu.
At any rate, I need to have Hagen removed from in front of the townspeople and have him thrown in a place where there are no prying eyes and somehow come up with a reason for it. Why is such a slip-up only just coming out?
“Now! Proceed with the execution! Can’t you hear what Father said!? I’m the one who wants to be told about Hagen! We must ascertain anything regarding him afterwards. While I don’t think he would ever run away, There is still the possibility that he’s a transformed monster in disguise. For now, put him in jail!”
I’ll be in a fix if he keeps saying whatever he wants, more so than he already has. I just have to arrest him so that he can’t go out roaming around and then give a good reason for the priests to dispose of him.
If it all works out well, then that will be all I’ll need to do. So long as I admit to minor fibbing. The problem will be in coming up with a reason for why I lied, but if that’s it, then so long as I have time, I will see to it that it’s mended properly. My reputation will drop, but that’s the price I will have to pay.
“Get a move on!”
Even upon hearing my words, the knights did not move. They look at each other’s faces, bewildered.
“What are you all doing!? I’m telling you to get to it quickly! Stand up straight and do your jobs! Stop wasting time and seize Hagen! Are you all even listening to me!?”
I should still be alright, damnit. I should still be alright, so why aren’t they moving?
I look to the priest, sending him a visual cue. The color drained from the priest’s face as he looked at me.
“You think I’ll get involved? You… are but a fool.”
The priest squeezed that out in a barely audible voice. The moment I heard him say that, blood rushed to my head.
The knights aren’t moving, the acolytes are suspicious of me, and the other church leaders have gone taciturn, following the head priest.
“Guh- guh- g…”
I look over my shoulder. All eyes were on me. No matter where I look, it’s the same sight.
My head grows hot. My thoughts are cloudy.
Do they already know? I’ll retreat quickly before they become certain of their suspicions and immediately make my exit from Haranae. Will I ever come back here again?
I shove away the shoulder of an acolyte and walk briskly.
“I’m telling you to get out of the way! I don’t feel well! Don’t look at me like that!”
I push aside a knight blocking the way and keep moving forward.
“O-open a path! Out of the way! Get out of the way!!”
Hagen chased after me and grabbed ahold of my shoulder.
“Hey! Do you think you’ll get out of this by running?”
“Get your filthy hands off of me!”
I draw my sword and frantically swing it.
Hagen falls over. I turn my sword to Hagen’s back as he tries to crawl away on the ground. The tip of my sword trembles with anger. If it wasn’t for him, none of this would’ve gone awry. It’s because of this idiot that I’m in this kind of unsightly situation.
There’ll be no way to mend this as long as Hagen is alive… I don’t know what I should say.
Killing Hagen here, in this place, would only exacerbate my problems. But on the other hand, so long as Hagen is alive, there’ll be no way to mend this. If that’s the case, then the least I can do is clear my mind.
That’s enough, Irushia. Completely fade to white. Subdue your emotions. Besides, there’s no one that can stop me if I seriously rampage. Kill Adofu, kill Hagen, and leave Haranae. That will be enough. I don’t have any attachment to a place like this anyways. If anything, I’ll take the head of that priest who called me a fool.
As I brandished my sword in anger, someone again broke through the crowd and jumped out. Unexpectedly, I thought it was another person that I should have killed, but I didn’t recognize them at all. A man with white hair and pale skin… No… this guy isn’t human.
His body rapidly swells up and transforms into the shape of a dragon.
The evil plague dragon didn’t run away. It took the form of a human and hid itself.
I’m saved! I can still manage. There’s still light at the end of the tunnel. If the evil plague dragon goes on a rampage here, everyone will turn their attention to it. With everyone lost in the confusion, I should then be able to kill both Adofu and Hagen. If I can do just that much, then what comes after will practically fall into my hands. A tumultuous dragon is a mere trifle compared to something like the exchange just now.
A large dragon head appears and bares its fangs at me.
It will be very troublesome for me if it dies right away. It will be far more convenient for me to have it violently and thoroughly rampage. Should I agitate it by teasing it lightly with one of the Haranae soldier swords instead of the holy sword?
I drive my sword into the dragon’s mouth and slash it. The dragon’s mouth closes, catching and stopping my sword with its fangs.
It’s stronger than I thought. I can’t pull it free. While straining my arm and holding it taut to pull out the sword, I noticed that the dragon’s face was blue. This… isn’t the plague dragon?
A second dragon appeared, together with a roar, ready to headbutt me. I let go of the sword, but I won’t make it in time.
Should I kick hard off its head and jump back, giving myself some distance?
The moment I put my feet up, my vision spun and I saw stars as I nearly blacked out. I felt an enormous impact on my back. I’m late to figuring out that I was slammed into the ground and sent flying by my opponent’s overwhelming strength. The screams of people can be heard from all around.
Light envelops my body, relieving me of the pain. When I look up, I see not two dragons, but a double-headed dragon.
“What the hell is this? Did you…”
As if responding to my inquiry, the two heads roared simultaneously.