The war against the Demon King shook the very foundation of several kingdoms in the central region.
And even amongst them, the Holy Kingdom Astoria suffered considerable damages as their Pope was assassinated even before the war began in earnest.
With the outbreak of war, priests and Templar Knights had to be spread throughout the continent in order to support the front lines of vulnerable kingdoms. This burden was so great that such a burden would probably never be seen again in the country’s history.
But ironically, as the burden on the nation grew heavier, the stronger the nation’s power became.
The reason for it was simple: Divine power was the only weapon that could purify the land and people contaminated by the demons and their demonic energy.
Using this as an excuse, the Holy Kingdom changed the structure of the central kingdoms. The chief positions of each kingdom were filled with pro-religious figures and even in the midst of war, the Holy Kingdom built temples in the kingdoms so that there were no locations where the Holy Kingdom’s influence wouldn’t be felt.
Each country was filled with people who were friendly to the Church and were rapidly becoming a nonsecular country of the Holy Kingdom. And people’s faith grew stronger than ever before as they realized that if the devil actually existed, then God must exist as well.
Of course, the cost for all this on the kingdom was beyond imagination. The assets the Temple had accumulated through generations were consumed in substantial amounts and the number of deployed priests lost on the front lines grew day by day.
If the war continued as it was, then the Holy Kingdom would collapse as it would not be able to afford the human and material resources that were consumed.
But nevertheless, the Holy Kingdom did not stop supporting the other kingdoms. Instead, the kingdom took people from its own front line and sent them to support the other kingdoms’ front lines.
Everything is an investment for the future.
The martyrdom of the faithful knights and priests was the foundation of the Blessed period that would come after the war.
Soon, the Holy Kingdom’s long-held dream of uniting the entire continent as the Holy Land of God would be fulfilled.
But if there was one concern, it would be the lack of power once the war was over would weaken them.
However, there came a way to recover the immense human consumption all at once - it was the Qeishas that the Indomitable Duke brought over from the West.
The elves, each of whom had the power to match a high level knight, were the answer that could solve the nation’s troubles all at once.
But unfortunately, the Qeishas already had an ‘owner.’ Not to mention, that ‘owner’ was the Kingdom of Adenburg who had already emerged as the strongest country in the East.
Even in the East, where the secular rulers’ authority was strong, the Adenburg Kingdom, despite having few believers, was a particularly difficult opponent for the Holy Kingdom.
On top of that, the timing wasn’t great either.
With the entire central region fighting at full strength in the war against the Demon King, the eastern kingdoms were one of the greatest strengths supporting the central region.
And the Adenburg Kingdom was the leader of the entire eastern alliance.
But now, the already difficult to handle opponent became an opponent the Holy Kingdom had to be conscious and wary of upsetting.
In their current situation where the Holy Kingdom didn’t have the justification, nor was it practical, they couldn’t recklessly argue against the migration of the Qeishas. It hurt to watch the Qeishas, who had walked into their kingdom, leave towards the Adenburg Kingdom.
The person who stepped forward was Archbishop Benedict, the person who was in charge of the Panthea base.
Since the Holy Kingdom had a crab mentality where if they couldn’t have it, then neither could anyone else, there was no harm in stirring things up. And even if things went wrong, they could always blame the person in charge of the assignment and escape repercussions for it.
It was a plan where the Holy Kingdom would lose nothing.
Benedict, whose relationship with Park Joon-Min, the hero, who was now the most important figure in the country, showed no signs of getting better, and was now a useless nuisance that needed to be tossed aside.
In fact, if you looked closely at the leader in charge of the base where a huge number of troops were gathered, then you’ll see that a demoted priest had somehow ended up at the front lines.
If such a man could be sacrificed to bring in the Qeishas, then it would be the most profitable business.
‘Archbishop Benedict failed to elucidate our case to the Indomitable Duke. In the process, the offended Indomitable Duke became enraged. Quick follow-up action is needed.’
But, Benedict failed.
However, since he wasn’t someone who wasn’t as capable as he was greedy, there wasn’t much to be disappointed about.
“It seems like even the Indomitable Duke, a hero of our lifetime, isn’t worthy enough to understand God’s will.”
“It is a pity that humans cannot work together in a situation where we have to worry about the safety of the continent.”
“If God’s teachings had been spread throughout the world, then our current situation would not have happened. All this happened because we were inadequate and lacking.”
The archbishops in the central diocese quickly changed their countenance and spoke with words full of regret.
“Anyhow, it’s a pity what happened with Archbishop Benedict.”
“His faith might have been strong, but his enthusiasm was constantly turned towards the wrong path. It’s no wonder he committed a breach of etiquette to not only the hero but the Indomitable Duke as well.”
“We must take action before Archbishop Benedict acts ‘arbitrarily’ again. Shouldn’t we let the Indomitable Duke know that this is not the will of the Holy Kingdom so that there will be no misunderstanding?”
Almost as if the archbishops had foreseen this situation from the start, they presented countermeasures with a calm face.
‘As the leader of the expedition, the Indomitable Duke has officially requested to meet with His Holiness, the Pope.’
However, they were dumbfounded when the Indomitable Duke asked to meet with the Pope. They never expected him to suddenly make the problem bigger.
“As of now, demote Archbishop Benedict and have him serve on the front lines as an ordinary priest. Additionally, inform the Indomitable Duke of this whole situation so that he knows that the Church understands the importance of this matter, and that priest Benedict’s proposal is unrelated to the will of the Holy Kingdom.”
With this action, the archbishops believed it would be finished with this. Since they had dismissed the archbishop, they believed that even the offended Indomitable Duke would have no choice but to let this go in consideration of the Holy Kingdom’s face.
But that was a terrible illusion.
‘The Indomitable Duke is currently requesting to communicate with his home country through the base mage. Trying to buy time, but the Indomitable Duke’s attitude is uncompromising and difficult to refuse.’
The Indomitable Duke’s response was completely different from what the archbishops expected.
‘The Indomitable Duke has directly used a supporting mage from the East. Attempting to use communication magic through the Iberian Alliance.’
He moved much quicker than the archbishops expected.
“Tsk, what on…”
“Is the Indomitable Duke really not concerned about the harmony between the central and eastern regions?!”
The flustered archbishops criticized the Indomitable Duke, but seeing how it was the Holy Kingdom who had offended him first, they could only helplessly watch the Indomitable Duke’s actions.
“The Indomitable Duke is a knight to his very bones so he may be somewhat aggressive, but the regent of Adenburg will be different. Although I heard that the country recently invaded Noctein, Adenburg is generally a country who is more concerned with peace and internal affairs?”
“You’re right. Since the current regent of Adenburg has recently taken office, she will have no choice but to move carefully and watch her behavior. She will not take things too far.”
“Agreed. No matter what anyone says, I don’t think they'll do anything that could harm the peace between the central and eastern regions when right now, all the countries in the continent have to work together to overthrow the Demon King.”
And of course, their expectations were wrong again.
Ophelia was a monarch, who held the nobles more tightly in her grip than the archbishops thought and was several times more aggressive than her father who had faithfully lived supporting peace and handling internal affairs.
“A message has arrived from the Kingdom of Adenburg!”
While the archbishops were being optimistic about the situation, Adenburg quickly sent a message through magic.
“What?! Are you saying that Adenburg decided on matters between countries without discussing it with her confidants?!”
When the shocked archbishops demanded that the missive be quickly read, the priest who brought in the message looked at the message and the archbishops alternatively, warily.
“What are you doing?! Quickly, read the message!”
The archbishop bellowed at the priest; the former was in a bad mood as things kept going wrong and deviated from the expected. The priest finally began to stumble through the message.
“We request an immediate establishment of a two-way communication channel between the Holy Father of Astoria and the leader of Adenburg.”
[I’ll take care of this, so you needn’t worry about this any longer.]
“Will you be alright? Although their behavior is reprehensible, we’re currently in the middle of the war. I worry that this will demoralize the front lines…”
[Those are just empty words.]
Ophelia immediately cut him off when Kim Seon-Hyeok sounded worried.
[If you planned to deal with this in moderation, then you would not have contacted me.]
He replied without a hint of embarrassment when she immediately understood what he really felt.
“Since the Regent will not deal with this in a sloppy manner, I will leave this in your hands.”
For some reason, he felt like Ophelia was smiling.
“Anyway, the more capital you have, the more you’re left with when you’re done with business.”
[Tsk, how flippant you are.]
Contrary to what she was saying as she clicked her tongue, her tone was not scolding. It was obvious that she was very pleased.
[But, you’re not wrong.]
Her voice held a hint of laughter.
[Your faith in me is so great that my shoulders feel heavy. I will make sure to live up to your expectations.]
Listening quietly, Kim Seon-Hyeok realized that Ophelia planned to pressure the Holy Kingdom and gain something.
Although he was curious as to what that was, considering the lack of security with the intermediary communication, he didn’t ask her for the details.
“I put my faith in you, Your Highness.”
He could only express his trust.
[The season is changing again.]
Once their official business was finished, Ophelia talked about the changing season, alluding to something. She was subtly pressuring him to come back quickly.
“Once the western expedition comes back, I will join them and head back.”
Realistically, he would be returning to Adenburg the following year since they would need to go by land and sea.
[We shall see.]
The pressure behind the short phrase was beyond imagination. In a cold sweat, Kim Seon-Hyeok tried to think of a response, but in a situation where even ten mouths wouldn’t be enough to talk, he had nothing to say.
Ophelia clicked her tongue at his silence and changed the subject.
[Have you received the gift I sent you?]
[I see. Seems like it hasn’t arrived yet.]
When she talked about a gift out of the blue, he tried to ask her what it was, but Ophelia didn’t give him an answer.
Once he finished talking with Ophelia, Kim Seon-Hyeok thanked the mage from an eastern kingdom for his role in the telecommunication.
“It was my pleasure, sir.”
The mage accepted his thanks, and Kim Seok-Hyeok left the barracks after thanking him again.
Once the mage confirmed Kim Seok-Hyeok had really left, he pulled out a transcript.
It was the transcript of the call between the Indomitable Duke and the leading power of the eastern region, the Regent of Adenburg. There was a lot that he had to inform his country about.
‘A dispute between the Indomitable Duke and the Holy Kingdom over the Qeishas’ future. Currently, the situation is leaning in the Indomitable Duke’s favor. But it doesn’t seem like Adenburg plans to end things like this. Must be wary about the discussion between the Holy Kingdom and Adenburg.’
‘Must update the Indomitable Duke’s evaluation. Judged to be a good politician as well.’
‘As soon as the missing Adenburg troops return, it is likely they will leave the front line.’
‘Unlike the public belief that it is a political marriage, there is a strong trust between the Indomitable Duke and the regent.’
The mage had been ordered to report any and all information, no matter how trivial it may be, on the Indomitable Duke and he faithfully carried out his order.
But the problem was, he wasn’t good at reasoning and was having a hard time determining what was important.
‘The Regent of Adenburg and the Indomitable Duke are sickeningly lovey-dovey.’
And so, the mage sent everything.
Overnight, Archbishop Benedict, who had once been in charge of the base and the diocese, was demoted to an ordinary priest and was forced to serve the soldiers on the front line.
Officially, it was said that he was taking the initiative and setting an example as he consoled the soldiers on the front line, but who had authority knew that he had been abandoned by the Church after falling into a disagreement with the Indomitable Duke.
An influential figure who once governed a large diocese and front-line base had fallen, but the people were preoccupied with something else than Benedict’s circumstances.
They were more interested in the Indomitable Duke’s status and authority.
Even though Benedict had no actual authority and had been demoted due to his bad relationship with the hero, the people were shocked that the Indomitable Duke had been able to take down an archbishop in one fell swoop.
“Hyung-nim, did you know, the people don’t even breathe when you walk by?”
The hero had poured his divine powers into treating patients all day long, but he must still have energy left because he was very talkative.
“Anyway, I’m delighted that you got revenge for me. That guy, Benedict, he’s been out to get me for a while now.”
“It wasn’t about you, so stop making a fuss.”
“Well, I did hear that he caused a ruckus demanding that you hand over all the Qeishas. I think the Church is out of their mind when you look at how they’re acting. How could they even think of that?”
“Punk, you’re a citizen of this country. Can you say stuff like that?”
The hero was relentless as he criticized the country that held his enemies.
“Why can’t I? I’m telling you, I was so annoyed when I was called into the Temple. Do they think they’re God? They’re just archbishops, but my god, they were so arrogant. I was furious and seriously considered taking Balmung and defecting to your country.”
The hero continued to criticize the country harshly as he wondered how such a country could even function.
“Don’t you know that walls have ears and doors have eyes?”
After a while, Kim Seok-Hyeok stopped the hero from continuing to criticize the Holy Kingdom since continuing would be going overboard, but deeply sympathized with the hero’s words.
“It doesn’t matter, they can’t kick me out. Do you really think they’re treating me like this and calling me an Apostle because they believe in me? No, it’s all because of Balmung.”
Kim Seon-Hyeok was speechless at Park Joon-Min’s confidence.
“Anyhow, did you level up a lot?”
“Don’t be surprised, okay?”
He must’ve achieved a lot because the hero was very confident.
“I reached level 44.”
And there was a reason for his confidence. The hero’s growth was so explosive that even Kim Seok-Hyeok could only gape as he watched him.
“If we fought now, I probably won’t lose like before.”
“That personality of yours must be inborn.”
Kim Seon-Hyeok could only shake his head at the hero’s arrogance despite being beaten to a pulp and experiencing despair multiple times.
“Let’s test it out when we have time.”
“What about today?”
As if he had been waiting for it, Park Joon-Min didn’t reject Kim Seon-Hyeok’s suggestion.
“Sure, why not.”
Kim Seon-Hyeok readily accepted the request as well.
But, there was someone who stopped the two men from leaving the barracks.
“A convoy from Adenburg arrived at the base with supplies!”
A messenger came running in to inform them that Adenburg had sent troops and supplies. And amongst the items that arrived was the ‘gift’ that Ophelia had talked about.
1. 못 먹는 감 찔러나 본다 is the original Korean idiom and I found an English phrase with similar meaning to better convey the meaning. 감 is persimmon and if you can’t eat it, then you’ll poke it so that it’s ruined and no one else could have it.
3. The original proverb used was 밤말은 쥐가 듣고 낮말은 새가 듣다. Which directly translated is: Birds listen during the day and rats listen during the night. It means to be careful with what you say since someone may always be listening.