Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“I warned you,” the priest said. “I told you to get lost. Now you’re sneaking around in the middle of the night. Do you really want to lose your head that badly?”
“I could say the same about you. You’re watching me even in the middle of the night. You must have a lot of free time on your hands.” It was nothing but false bravado.
The priest sneered. “A natural-born warrior like you who satisfies himself by killing others is terrified of mere corpses?”
“Mere corpses? That’s quite the remark coming from an adjudicator of Dea Ignis. If an ordinary priest saw that, he’d be screaming it was the work of a witch.”
“Those are nothing but lifeless bodies. Too many dying people gather here. So much so that Her Eminence alone can’t do anything about it. When people die and there’s no place to bury them, their corpses have to be thrown away. That is all there is to it.”
“You talk as if disposing of bodies without even a proper burial is not a big deal. Are you really a churchman? How can you look at that and not think that Lia is a witch? Allow me to ask you the same question you asked me before. What are you up to?”
“My mission is to protect Her Eminence until I hand down my verdict. That is all. I defend her from violence, fear, and malice. And as of this moment…”
The priest removed his eye patch. It was a cloudy, moonless night, and he had better night vision than me. A Beastfallen that didn’t have the upper hand in open combat? It made being born a monster seem meaningless.
“You have become a threat to Her Eminence.”
A blade slipped out of his staff, turning into a huge scythe.
“I am an adjudicator from Dea Ignis, executioner of the condemned, bearer of the sin of Secrecy. I am nameless. I simply kill until I perish, and die in a sea of vindictive blood. Say your prayers, sinful monster with a tainted soul. In the name of God—” The priest bent down. “Die.”
“As always, you’re fuckin’ insane!”
His scythe closed in in an instant, and I quickly blocked it with my sword. I kept my focus this time, however. Twice before, I stopped his blade, but something wounded my neck. I needed to find out what that was, or I’d be dead.
As soon as I felt a chill on my neck, I pulled out a throwing knife to protect myself. There was a grating sound, and I could feel pressure on the knife even though it didn’t seem to be touching anything.
No way. Is that what I think it is?
“A string?! So the scythe is a distraction!”
A flashy scythe would inevitably draw attention. The priest’s way of fighting seemed to be using the scythe as a distraction to create an opening, then wrap the string around my neck and strangle me to death.
The string was too tough to be cut by my knife. What is it made of?! It was so thin that even when I strained my eyes, I could barely see it.
All the fingers on his left hand had rings. The strings probably ended there. The other ends were probably tied to his scythe’s grip. Does he have a spool of string hidden there? Damn, those church toys sure are complex.
“A distraction?” The corner of his mouth quirked up. For a churchman, he had the look of an actual villain.
I couldn’t move as I was blocking the string on my neck. The priest, brandishing his scythe, looked like the grim reaper in my eyes.
Correction: It wasn’t a distraction.
If you paid too much attention to the scythe, you could kiss your head goodbye, but if you focused on the string, the scythe would cut you to pieces.
Man, this guy sure is nasty.
Using all my strength to shake off the string, I dropped to the ground, dodging the scythe that still managed to graze my ear.
I gripped my sword and hesitated for a moment. Should I kill him? Right here in the Holy City? Not a good idea. But can I defeat him without actually killing him?
It was a tough call. We were evenly matched. We were both experienced, and terribly accustomed to killing.
I felt something creeping up my spine. Delight.
This wasn’t a one-sided slaughter. This was a battle. Kill or be killed. So it was okay to kill him. I had to.
“Kill him!” a voice in my head shouted. You wanna see blood, right, you monster? You like the feel of ripping flesh, don’t you?
I deflected the scythe with my sword. There was a grating sound—the strings, most likely. They stretched from the glittering rings on the priest’s five fingers to the scythe’s grip.
The priest brandished his weapons gracefully as though he was dancing. There was beauty in his perfectly calculated movements.
I felt a strange sensation around my arm—a string that the priest was pulling. Quickly, I took a huge leap backwards to distance myself. Twigs started falling from the surrounding trees. A poor bird resting on the branches was cut in half as it flapped its wings, dropping to the ground.
I exhaled, and the priest closed the gap between us in one breath.
I expected his move. I grabbed the slender arm wielding the scythe and gripped it tight. I heard bone creaking underneath his muscles. The priest tried to shake his arm loose, but in terms of raw power, I was stronger than him. I then crushed his bones with my grip.
Still the priest didn’t let go of this weapon. Neither did he scream in pain.
“You monster,” I said with a hint of praise.
“Being called that by a monster is proof that I am human.”
A moment later, the priest put his foot on my knee and ran up the top of my head, moving the scythe to his other hand. There was a popping sound as his shoulders, twisted by the motion of swinging the scythe down, dislocated.
“You’re sacrificing your arm?!”
He fought with the assumption that he would get injured. The objective was to kill the enemy, not surviving afterwards.
I could see the image of the curved blade tearing away at my back. I swung the arm holding the priest downwards with all my strength. Even when he lost his balance mid-air, he landed perfectly.
At the same time, I felt a tugging sensation in my arm. Strings had already entangled around it. It was too late. A second later, blood sprayed out of my left arm.
“You have tough bones.”
The strings cut through my muscles, but creaked as they dug into my bones. My overflowing blood colored the countless strings stretching from his fingers red.
Before I knew it, the strings had trapped me.
Without the momentum from his descent, or the force from his scythe’s swing, the priest would not be able to cut my head off with his strength alone. But there were many ways to kill me when I couldn’t move.
The priest dashed forward, aiming for my heart. I couldn’t avoid his attack.
I was fully prepared to die, when I heard the sound of metal clashing against each other. I felt a blow to my chest, but something blocked the priest’s scythe, preventing it from touching my body.
Immediately, I reached out with my right arm and grabbed the priest’s collar. It didn’t matter if I couldn’t move; I had a chance to win if I closed in on him. Claws and fangs were the best weapons a Beastfallen had in their arsenal.
But he quickly tore up his clothes and took a huge leap back, evading the jaws closing in on his neck. At the same time, the strings around my arm came undone. They didn’t seem to be that long, perhaps to transmit power more efficiently.