The cold stone dungeon was actually warmer than the above-ground environment.
The footsteps of the foot armor integrated with the boots echo high in the gray corridor lit by the magic lamps.
“This way, sir.”
Gomez, a stern middle-aged knight, escorted Lawrence.
Gomez was Lawrence’s subordinate and in charge of one of his squads. Lawrence admired his honesty and loyalty to the king. Although he has passed his peak as a soldier and was beginning to show signs of deterioration, he was still the best man under Lawrence’s command in terms of individual strength.
That is why he dispatched his squad to capture Bertil. When dealing with a truly powerful opponent, a hundred ordinary soldiers would be swept away.
As Lawrence entered the cell, which was closed by a steel door, a chained man on a crude bed narrowly looked up.
“Lawrence…! What is this!?”
It was Bertil.
Bertil, stripped only of his upper body armor. His muscular, statuesque body was exposed.
However, from both shoulders down, there was nothing. Only blood-soaked bandages were wrapped around him.
Even though he was in a cold stone prison, Bertil was sweating profusely. His breathing seemed painful.
“Good capture, Gomez.”
“Yes, sir. He resisted, so we cut off his arms and captured him as you requested.”
As soon as Gomez said that, Bertil yanked on the chains and jerked away.
“It’s a lie! I’ve been…”
Gomez thrust his sword down to the side of Bertil’s head and stabbed through the cookie-thin pillow.
“You have shown your foul nature, Bertil! I knew this day would come from the moment you defied His Majesty’s holy decree!”
Gomez yelled at him with a look of rage, like a god of war. Bertil’s eyes were black and white.
Lawrence understood what was going on. Gushing with righteousness and unable to restrain himself, Gomez had probably resorted to rougher measures than necessary.
Even so, all Lawrence could think of to say was, “Look at this mess.”
“Let’s just state the facts. About 20 members of the Second Order attacked the South Gate tower and breached it.”
Bertil peeled his eyes and exclaimed.
“What… is happening…”
“Are you kidding me? You really don’t know? Well, anyway, you brought this on yourself.”
Lawrence snapped. Instead of slashing with his sword, he slamed his words down on him.
Even if Bertil had not betrayed him, Lawrence was sure that the reason the Second Order members acted this way must be the result of the meeting earlier.
The naive idea of negotiating with the diabolical Undead had led to this outcome. And the cause, Lawrence believed, was the heart of Bertil, who had been sympathetic to the former king.
“What happened to the undead army?”
“What’s the use of you knowing?”
But Bertil smiled sarcastically, as if he could see right through him.
“I can guess, though. The gate has been breached and you’ve left your command post just long enough to come and see me. There’s a lull … between the city walls and a standoff, or they’re retreating while the undead are regrouping in the city and the offensive has stopped. The city wall has been … completely breached.”
Lawrence clicked his tongue.
It seemed useless to talk to Bertil any longer. It only made him angry.
“What about healing magic?”
“There is no healing magic. We’re dealing with a traitor.”
Gomez answered the question with a serious face.
Bertil looked strangely distressed. It might have been a miracle that he had bandages on him.
Thinking that he could make him suffer a little more, Lawrence nevertheless gave him a pragmatic instruction.
“… This will interfere with the interrogation. Give him minimal medical attention.”
“He may have some information. Make him talk, no matter what it takes. Just don’t kill him.”
Gomez followed Lawrence out of the cell, locked the door behind him, and left quickly to call his “interrogator”.
“God… Protect the people of Ciel-Terra…!”
Bertil’s mutterings were probably heard only by Lawrence.
Biting his teeth back in disgust, Lawrence left the prison with his boots clattering high in the air.
＊ ＊ ＊
Apply «Consecration» to the members of the Second Order and discard them…
The cooperation of the temple was essential to carry out this operation. If numerous members of the Second Order were to be subjected to «Consecration», a large number of priests would inevitably be needed.
However, what came back in response to the request to the temple, which was expected to be readily accepted, was an outcry from the temple head.
“We are at our limit! We can only do our best to treat the retreating knights. Half of the priests have already fallen.”
“Can’t you hold out any longer? What about the potions for restoring magic power?”
The story was that as long as the catalysts were gathered, the barrier would be able to be put up once again.
In other words, if they gave up on that, they would have a lot of magic resources to spare.
But the temple head’s reply was the same.
“We ran out of those as well! If it weren’t for the revival earlier, we’d…”
“Revival!? In this situation, we can’t afford to use any resurrection magic except in case something happens to His Majesty! Why did you do that!!”
How much magic did it take for the revival magic to work? Even Lawrence, who was not a magician, knew that it was no ordinary effort.
Even in a capital-class city, the maximum number of people a temple could revive in a day was two or three. Without a large supply of potions to restore magical power, it would be impossible to revive more than a few people.
Currently, not only potions, but even the magical power of the priests was a valuable strategic resource.
If Hilbert were to die, he would be the first priority for revival, but there would be no time to use revival magic on anyone else.
“Reinforcements from Noacurio at the request of … Theo Colin Edfeldt.”
Lawrence tilted his head, not having any idea what the temple head’s answer meant.
He knew of the Marquis Edfeldt, but the name “Theo” did not ring a bell.
Lawrence, guessing that he was a recent addition to the court, looked at Hilbert.
“Who is it?”
“He is the third son of the Marquis Edfeldt. He is involved in diplomacy with Noacurio.”
“I told him that we could not afford to revive him, even for the defense battle. But he insisted.”
“Why didn’t you refuse!?”
Theo, who was a fool for demanding resurrection magic at a time like this, and the priests who accepted it and wasted their precious magic power were unbelievable fools as well.
However, the temple head, with a somewhat sneering tone, sarcastically defended his position.
“‘Consider the words of those who work for the country as the words of His Majesty.’ … You said that to me the other day. Lord Edfeldt was engaged in diplomacy for His Majesty’s sake. Since such a person is willing to push so hard, I think it must have been His Majesty’s strong intention, yes?”
Lawrence gritted his teeth.
The temple people were insubordinate, and Hilbert had taken steps to bring them to their knees. Lawrence himself had helped with that. He implicitly threatened to condemn the temple in the name of the First Order if they did not do what he said.
Lawrence knew that he was a national hero. If he were to condemn the temple, there would be consequences.
Thanks to his efforts, the temple was finally becoming more reasonable.
It was wasted by an extremely stupid person who was beyond even the biggest fools!
“… What happened to the Revival?”
“Where is Theo? Is he still in the temple!?”
“A missing Skeleton Assassin who attacked the temple just moments before was hiding in the temple and… attacked him, and he lost his life without warning.”
Oh well, he thought.
It was a dubious explanation, but even if it was a lie, it didn’t seem like a problem. At least for now.
“It can’t be helped, if it’s impossible…”
“This is Falcon Squad, please respond!”
As Lawrence contemplated the next best set of directions, one of the call marks barked out.
It was Falcon, one of the First Order’s squad leaders.
“It’s Lawrence. What’s going on!?”
“It’s a Revenant! There’s a Revenant mixed in with the Second Order Knights!”
They were not in the easily recognizable form of zombies or skeletons, but rather the undead, whose differences from humans were not apparent at first glance. They could use their knowledge and physical skills as they were when they were alive, and could even manipulate magic if they were rendered into a Revenant with their entire soul.
Because of their nature, they were suited for infiltration. Incidents occasionally occurred in which an evil sorcerer transformed a living human into a Revenant and infiltrated a human city.
“The ones who attacked the gate tower!? Or others!?”
“As for the knights who attacked the gate tower, we have no confirmation, but … among the retreating knights! The magician of our squad found it and already exterminated it. It was working with the other knights with an ordinary look on its face.”
He could feel Hilbert holding his breath.
“Not necessarily just one, right…?”
Lawrence, too, felt a cold hand on his back.
He could understand if a traitor appeared or would appear.
But secretly replacing the enemy ranks with undead in the middle of a battlefield was a blasphemous tactic beyond comprehension.
–Damn, they are monsters. Should I have expected this much from the beginning?
The Knights of Ciel-Terra had almost no experience in battles with demon armies, even though they had been sent to defeat monsters that appeared in the country.
In the early days of the country, the power of the Demon Lord’s army had recently weakened, and countries far away from the battlefield always provided only logistical support, such as sending money and goods to the “United Human Forces”. Even such battles in which human nations form allied armies had ceased for more than 10 years.
Even Lawrence had little experience in battles against “armies of demons and monsters”. He was not prepared for the fighting style of monsters.
“Could this be Bertil’s doing?”
“I don’t think so…”
Letting his men be replaced by undead as a result of some kind of deal?
…He felt that wasn’t true.
The Second Order’s Revenantification was going on without Bertil’s knowledge.
–Was it too early to capture Bertil, or was it …? No, it is not limited to the Revenant until they attacked the south gate. Above all, it is dangerous to leave the Second Order in Bertil’s hands under the circumstances. How could he be trusted? He did not know what he would do!
“Thank you, but retreat is the priority.”
Lawrence, who had given the instructions, now took up the call mark connected to the temple head.
“Hey, no matter how much magic you have left in you, can you at least tell the difference between the undead and the humans?”
“I can tell.”
“Good. There was information that Revenants are mixed up in the Second Order. Forget about «Consecration», just identify them. If there are any, leave it to the Second Order to take care of them. There can’t be that many Revenants.”
But before he can hear the reply, the Falcon’s call mark called out again.
It was a cry of desperation.
“The ‘Rose Princess of Hellrage’ has appeared!”