Translators: DC, Lox Editor: Boomer Proofreaders: Yomigaeru, DC TLC: Yomigaeru
The darkness in the Papacy was thick.
On a night of a new moon, even more so. If this were a rural monastery, it would now be the end of the compline  (the last prayer of the day), and it would be the time to rest but, this is in the center of Pope Ekström’s influence, the Papacy, so this was not the case. It was the magnificent capital of God, which boasts a history spanning over a thousand years.
To prepare father Ikusu for being in the center of happenings, almost all administrative functions had ceased, and everyone was longing for bed. Aside from the night guards, hardly anyone would go through the trouble of walking about in this dark night.
Or perhaps it could be put like this: the only ones who would be scurrying about in the dead of night are couples having furtive trysts, or perhaps burglars, or else scheming lords.
The man who transported the relics to the vault that night was unusual. This man was a Paladin, a Holy Knight. He was extremely uneasy. He was the youngest person in history to be invested as a Holy Knight. It could be debated that he had such fortune because he had been raised and continued to live in the Papacy since his infancy.
Although he was placed at the foot of the table; he was permitted to join the order of Holy Knights at the tender age of eighteen. At the same time, he was the eldest son of the house of Balladge, the head of the Department of Holy Relic Management.
Their responsibilities are to discover, appraise, periodically recapture from heathens and demons, record, store, and preserve the countless holy relics that the Pope appraises. Ashley was taught that the Balladge house had a duty to which it was dedicated to, and he believed so. Thus, he earnestly practiced more self-discipline than anyone else when it came to sacred precepts.
There was something that was disturbing his instincts.
The surcoat which was worn over his holy knight garbs displayed his rank. He had a gladius for self-defense. He had just barely remembered to bring it, and then left the night duty room. He borrowed one of the candlesticks which were installed evenly throughout the passageways and then quickly headed towards storage management section.
He convinced himself that his premonition was just needless anxiety.
He heard the jarring sound of metal fixtures and fittings. On the wall of the corridor, there was a large window. The luxurious velvet curtains were fluttering from the wind. It was impossible for an official to forget to shut it. Impossible, because there was a silhouette of a demon lurking in the shadows.
It had a figure of more condensed darkness than Ashley had witnessed in his lifetime.
Its beauty was extremely cold. The darkness held the shape of a girl. She was clad in a jet-black dress, which could be mistaken as a mourning dress. She also wore a somewhat large crown-the size wasn’t quite right- worn at a slanted angle.
“Who goes there?!” [Ashley]
Ashley quickly stuck out his lantern and raised his voice, as he questioned their identity. At the same time, he drew his gladius. He readied himself in a low stance.
It was the “Fool’s Guard”, which was described in one of his textbooks. Originally, the proper usage of this stance was for a longsword in one hand.
Calling out to an opponent was his bare minimum of chivalry as a knight. It reeked of naivete that he would not strike first against an unaware (not to mention unarmed) opponent, even if it was a monster, but it was a code that Ashley could not ignore. The girl exerted a strong pressure as she leaned forward, it was almost as though the pressure that almost blew him away had a physical presence. Ashley’s intuition judged that it was a completely formidable enemy. I should have brought the Divine Spear “Shivener” with me. An indecisive thought, similar to regret crossed his mind- but it was too late.
In that moment, as if she was anticipating his hesitation, the form of the girl inside the darkness opened her mouth.
“Art thou a child?” [Shion]
The voice felt refreshing, like the fragrance of lavender. He was taken aback by the startling thoughts of intoxicating pleasure which he experienced. What did you say!? As blood rushed to his head, Ashley became more self-aware.
“Fly to thine mother’s knee. I do not intend to injure thee.” [Shion]
The girl hadn’t finished speaking when Ashley attempted to strike her. Since she had already warned him, she didn’t hesitate.
During the investiture of a Holy Knight, all personnel are taught the fundamentals of swordsmanship without fail. He was no exception, although he was from the Department of Relic management. A spear passed down from the Old World, 〈Shivener〉 is a weapon of unparalleled strength, but as the wielder is human, in the end, it was simply a tool whose effectiveness depends on one’s own ability. The man who was his predecessor, and also his father, said that.
It is the power of human《Will》 that changes history. Ashley also believed this. At the same time, it was a genuine belief.
The girl didn’t attempt to avoid the sword. From Ashley’s accelerated perception, he was able to view his opponent again. The girl approached as if there was no deadly sword being thrust at her.
In that moment, a feeling of shame surged through Ashley. Namely, a feeling of doubt flared up as to whether his own actions were merely the result of a momentary emotional outburst.
“You’re allowed to lightly feel any emotion, but you must always act and remain faithful to God.” These were the instructions of the Holy Knights.
However, it was far too late to return the thrust. Regret clung to Ashley as his sword thrust towards its beautiful prey-
Or, that was what was supposed to happen. In that instant, Ashley couldn’t comprehend what was happening at first.
The girl threw herself. Onto the sword. Voluntarily. Her snow-white fingers ran over the sword in her abdomen, while she clasped her empty right hand to his cheek as if she were greeting Ashley.
In the following moment, the world around him changed. His five senses were engulfed by the aroma of roses.
And when he came to, he was down on the ground. There was no pain. However, he was being pinned down. His gladius had been sent flying from his hand and was out of reach. At that point, he understood that he had been overpowered by a disarming technique.
The girl was lying on his torso. Since he had lost his lantern, his perception was only through weight and touch.
“Is death not terrifying (to you)?” [Shion]
A practically emotionless voice whispered in the darkness. The overwhelming presence has engulfed Ashley. The pressure was similar to when he had been brought before the Pope; it originated from the girl laying on his chest.
“It is better than living disgracefully.” [Ashley]
In a chafe voice, he finally reciprocated. But it was a lie. Ashley was clearly trembling with fear at the moment. More straightforwardly, he was babbling in fright. Whether it was for his honor as a knight, or for his manly pride, the youth didn’t know.
“That is obviously a lie.” [Shion]
Ashley gnawed his lips, as he tried to lightly peer up. Fortunately, it was dark. As a man, and as a knight, he didn’t want the woman to see his eyes, imbued with tears, blurring up. But, her following words caused Ashley to violently tremble.
“The human knight that I knew of plainly stated that death was frightening. Nevertheless, he put his life on the line and fought.” [Shion]
Faith is expressed through actions, not words. That’s what the woman was saying. Ashley felt a shock, it was as if his skull had been hit with a hammer. This wasn’t something that he ever expected to have preached to him on the verge of death, and by a demon no less. Yet, the sermon had been quite persuasive. The line “kill me” which had been on the tip of his tongue, lost all of its power. It seemed hackneyed (overdone), like a cheap play.
“My purpose this eve was merely to return that which was entrusted to me.” [Shion]
Ashley was coughing and dizzy from the mesmerizing scent of roses. It didn’t feel unpleasant, it just deprived Ashley of his will to resist. Something seemingly cool caressed his cheek.
“I do not wish to hurt humankind.” [Shion]
It was a request. He wondered if it was a hallucination that was making him feel entreated.
While Ashley absentmindedly considered such a thing, the heavy pressure from atop his chest vanished, as though it dissolved. Ashley, who had regained his senses, sat up quickly, and after thirty seconds, he inspected his torso. Right after that, he heard the approach of hurried footsteps. While standing up, Ashley sniffed his body. There was a lingering scent of roses. It was as if a man and a woman had just finished a tryst.
While feeling awkward, Ashley fumbled around in search of his gladius. The steel edge bit into his hand, almost as if it were jealous.
“It was a thief! Vault Manager Tredecim Rosae (the Thirteenth Rose)! The intruder was in an area with the first-class relics!” [Alma]
After she hurriedly arrived in front of Ashley, Alma was out of breath, and also had something in her arms.
Alma Stella Vantra.
Ashley’s colleague of the Holy Relic Management Department, her official rank was a nun, which was inferior to Ashley’s rank, but she owned an outstanding memory. She was proficiently fluent in four languages, and could write in three. Even the bishop, the administrator in charge of management was astonished by her skill. She was one of the only two teenagers in the Department of Holy Relic Management, and because their ages were similar, they spoke together often.
Alma was calm and prudent; for Ashley, she was a precious member of the opposite sex, whose mere presence eased his worries. Despite being slightly older, the fact that she didn’t want to meddle overly much with others conversely saved her. But in fact, she was helpful before she knew it, that’s the kind of person she was.
“What are you doing at a time like this?” [Ashley]
Ashley was concerned for Alma. Why was she in a place like this?
“It’s my intuition, Paladin Balladge.” [Alma]
He was worried that Alma was going to mention the Holy Relic.
“And what about you?” [Alma]
Alma inquired next.
“I’m here because of intuition as well, Sister Alma.” [Ashley]
The pair exchanged glances, then burst out laughing. Ashley was happy. There was another person other than him who acted out of concern for the holy relics. That was the type of person Sister Alma was. He felt that they could understand each other.
“I see you’ve already donned a sword. As expected of you, Paladin. But, oh no! You’re injured?” [Alma]
“This was done by myself. My sword got a bit jealous.” [Ashley]
Alma pointed out the blood staining Ashley’s hand. Today is full of embarrassing experiences. Alma seemed to be a bit more relieved when he showed her his wound.
“As for my humble self, I ended up bringing this important Bible with me.” [Alma]
Alma showed him a large Bible that would normally be on the bookshelf.
He could see that she was using a paper knife as a bookmark. The knife was considerably antique. Bringing something like that out when she was flustered, humans sure are unfathomable creatures.
Frankly, Ashley thought that it was cute. In addition to that, he felt like he was saved. Even Alma, who was a capable clerk, made mistakes.His own blunder could be recovered from. It seems that his thoughts surfaced on his face. Alma had a delicate look.
“Paladin Balladge, why are you laughing?” [Alma]
As one would expect, even the way she talked was cute. By the way, this was the first time Ashley had seen the color of Alma’s hair. It shone like honey under the light of a reliable candle. Having one’s hair exposed conflicted with the regulations of nuns. Severe punishments waited for those who broke them. However, even in her spare time, Alma liked to wear her nun’s cap.
Unintentionally, Ashley began to praise her beautiful hair, but he stopped himself. It would seem like he was making a pass at Alma. For a time, she was a nun under father Ikusu’s tutelage. It was unscrupulous to a degree.
“It’s because I’ve been saved by you.” [Ashley]
He said, falsely. Alma made a huffy face. Perhaps she was displeased with not knowing (what he was really thinking).
Look! So cute! Ashley thought.
If possible, he wanted to gaze at her for a bit longer, but alas, that wasn’t going to happen. Ashley changed his thoughts.
“I will pursue the intruder. It’s impossible to allow holy relics to be taken from under our noses.” [Ashley]
“I’ll aid you.” [Alma]
Alma, who could quickly change her thought process in an instant, was also capable wielding a staff. After getting ready to go, and accepting Alma’s assistance as support, Ashley took off running. He was running towards the first-rate holy relic management depot, where treasures lie dormant. But, Ashley didn’t know. He failed to notice something of severe importance. A gear which would completely change his fate.
Fate began to awaken, and stir.
Early the next morning, Ashley received an imperial decree from His Holiness, the Pope.
The current Pope, who was old and full of years, was Majest VI. He was known for his personality of being warm-hearted, and wise. Due to his sympathetic policies towards heathens, Majest’s popularity was high, with the exception of Ikusu and his followers. Ashley loved and respected Majest, as though he were his real grandfather.
“Holy Knight Ashley Dow Balladge. I command you to recover the holy relics. Last night, the intruder stole the holy relics〈Hands of Glory〉 and 〈Dextrus〉,. These are the items that you shall recover.” [Majest]
Ashley recalled a freezing winter evening, where Majest gave out presents to pauper’s children, he appeared as though he were a holy man that slipped out of a painting. Snapping out of his memories, Ashley allowed the pope to lay his hand upon his shoulder.
“Even if your resolve shakes,” [Majest]
Ashley’s mouth stiffened. Despite that determination, a light that almost resembled an ache came into Majest’s eyes.
“There are no relics that can replace a person’s life. Be diligent to not forget this.” [Majest]
Majest bent down and whispered that last sentence in Ashley’s ears, then his body trembled slightly, as he turned and walked back to his seat. He staggered, almost as though he were senile.
Cardinal Leda Maria Cruz.
An unusual woman, even when compared to the long history of the Papacy, as she was a teenage girl. She was Majest’s niece and a childhood friend of Ashley’s. Though they had grown apart in their relationship due to the flow of time, when they were both children, they had even competed for the same blanket to sleep with.
The two communicated through their eyes across the room.
“A direct imperial decree” recited another cardinal in an irritated voice, who was requested to read the mission details. Ashley listened to it solemnly. From the side, a loud rumbling came from the bottom of someone’s stomach. Clearly, they did not have respect for the scarlet robes, signifying a cardinal’s status. This was the parting between Majest and Leda Maria.
The basics of the order were “Come back alive.”
The specific details of the imperial decree, however, could not be taken at face value. Two soldiers who were on duty had been killed. Additionally, the killing blow had been from blunt instruments.
It was clearly a planned crime, it could even be termed a direct assault.
That is because the double layers protecting the vault- barriers for demons and thieves, as well as the custom locks, had been cleanly broken.
It was quickly determined by a prosecutor that this was caused by the night demon that Ashley had encountered. However, Ashley disagreed. The night demon’s words, deeds, and clear eyes convinced me that she couldn’t, in any way, be connected to this violent crime.
Furthermore, another situation had occurred which Ashley couldn’t keep calm about.
It had been discovered that near daybreak, no one knew the whereabouts of Alma Stella, she had gone missing. Ashley had heard all of this while arranging his thoughts by taking a walk in an unpopular garden. The pauper children had told him everything when he fed them. Ashley’s startled imagination thought that Alma had fallen victim to a demon, and that thought had sent his blood boiling.
According to the official report, immediately after the robbery incident, it was stated that a lady in a four-horse carriage had passed through the Eastern Gate into the suburbs. The coachman (from a prestigious aristocratic family), when stopped by the gatekeeper, stated that it was for most urgent business. In this age, in all villages and towns with a wall, once the curfew bells had finished ringing, the gate would remain closed. Since it was only possible for the gate to open in the morning under normal circumstances, it was clear that the gatekeeper received a hefty bribe.
In the gatekeeper’s testimony, he had seen a beautiful lady with black hair and a black veil behind the bamboo blinds and curtains of the carriage- matching the characteristics of the night demon that Ashley had witnessed.
Ashley was concerned for Alma’s safety.
He had to hold himself back with all of his might from running out of the Papacy to search for Alma.
And thus, a sleepless night began.
1. TL: The formal office of the pope, similar to the Vatican.↩
Canonical Hours are used to break up the day into certain times of prayer. The current practice separates it into 3 major hours and from two to four minor hours:
1) Matins – the Office of Readings
2) Lauds – Morning prayer
3) Prime – the “first hour” (6am)
4) Terce – the “third hour” (9am)
5) Sext – the “sixth hour” (noon)
6) None – the “ninth hour” (3pm)
7) Vespers – evening prayer (sunset)
8) Compline – night prayer (after sunset/before bed)
3. TL: So, just for those may not know weapons that well, a gladius is a Roman fashioned sword which is a somewhat short, light, and sometimes curved sword. Here’s a video of the few different models of the gladius.↩