I recognized the pendant at a glance: the design was familiar to me. It was the symbol of a god.
This continent worships a sole deity, one without even a name. There is only god. Instead of teaching humans his name, the god engraved a sun-like pattern on items so that people could worship him.
And only wizards and priests were allowed to wear the revered crest. The Pope bestowed blessings upon objects with the engraved pattern, and the magical power contained within those blessings was distributed among the priests. With that power, they sought to make the world a better place. At least, that was the case in the world five hundred years ago.
Amidst the memories of the past that the pendant had suddenly stirred up, Daniel spoke up.
“It’s from five hundred years ago.”
Although I had considered it the past of five hundred years, hearing it from Duke Daniel somehow made my heart tremble.
Yes, it really had been five hundred years. It was like a nail being driven into my head with that fact.
Everything was in the past, everything was meaningless, and everyone I had loved had left nothing behind and died.
“At that time, the patriarch of the Anderson family…. received a request from a Paladin with this pendant, to watch over the temple where Her Holiness slept. After casting a spell to allow the door to open only from the inside, the Paladin entered the temple, and that was the last time he saw the knight alive.”
“So, when I heard the report of the temple’s doors opening, I knew exactly what was going on: the only person who could have walked out from the inside was you, Her Holiness Vivian.”
“Why were you so sure it was me, when it could have been a simple intruder?”
“The one who can break the Paladin’s magic from five hundred years ago is currently very rare… And above all, the coffin was empty.”
Daniel lowered his eyes as he said that. Dense lashes cast shadows across the man’s face.
“At first, I intended to confirm your presence from a distance and then leave. I said that if you needed help, you could ask. However…”
He didn’t finish his sentence, but I understood what he meant. I chuckled bitterly. I knew why he couldn’t just let me go as he had initially decided. The resurrected saint, who had barely survived, was living in hiding among the commoners and even attempting to die again. I self-deprecatingly said,
“Well, I guess I couldn’t help but interfere.”
Daniel’s lips curled as if he wanted to say something, but he couldn’t find the words and fell silent. What could he say now that he had seen the true form of the greatest saint of all time, Her Holiness Vivian.
Yes, I had a lot of work to do after waking up after five hundred years. The world I saw again after five hundred years was very different, and not for the better. The bad parts of the world that I and my friends had tried to change had settled into sediment, unchanged by the passage of hundreds of years. In fact, it had gotten worse.
I’m not so self-conscious as to say that my death was the cause of all that ugliness. But I’m sure I had something to do with it.
The most powerful wizards, the priests, brought benevolent and mysterious powers to this world just by their mere presence. I, the Pope, along with the archbishops and paladins, had created miracles everywhere we went. Mysterious and powerful powers granted to humans by the gods, powers that were meant to be used for good. Sometimes called miracles.
But those miracles had disappeared. Because I,Vivian, a foolish saint, had murdered the human king.
How many people can live with hope in a world where miracles are gone?
Nevertheless, after waking up, I did nothing. Not only that, I tried to throw away my life again for something worthless. I pondered on this fact for a long time.
Then it happened. Daniel reached out and gently covered my hand, which was lying haphazardly on the sheet. Lost in thought, I was startled by the sudden contact and opened my eyes to look at him.
“It was Lady Lotia who protected you to the last. The testimony from Lady Lotia to you was received by the Anderson family at that time and passed down through the generations. Would you like to hear it?”
I knew it.
I could picture her face as vividly as if I’d met her yesterday. Lotia was a woman with black hair tied up high, wearing a mischievous smile. She didn’t hesitate to speak her mind, even to the Pope. Such was the woman who loved and cherished me sincerely.
I wonder what she thought as she carried my decapitated body to the temple in the north.
If she, who had waited for my resurrection until the moment her eyes closed, saw me now, she would undoubtedly be disappointed. Her last words in the will would surely be words of reproach.
But I had no choice but to listen. I gripped the sheet tighter.
“Sure, tell me. I’m ready.”
At my words, he opened his mouth, not once giving me a chance to catch my breath. The words were unrelenting.
“Now live as you wish.”
The moment I heard those words, the tension that had been present throughout my body dissipated momentarily. I opened my mouth and looked at Daniel in surprise. Duke Daniel chuckled at my reaction and spoke again.
“Now live as you wish.”
“You are now at your disposal…….”
“No, I’m not saying to repeat it…”
“Yes, that’s it.”
At a loss for words, I closed my eyes tightly and opened them again.
“I’m sorry, Archduke Daniel. Will you leave me alone for a moment?”
As if he had anticipated my words, Daniel removed his hand, that had been covering my hand. He quietly rose from his seat and bowed to me.
“The servants will bring the items you requested shortly. Will that be enough for now?”
“Then I will wait for you outside the door, and if you need me at any time, call me.”
I laughed briefly at that, even though my eyes were on the verge of overflowing with tears.
“You’re not really going to stand there like a puppy, are you?”
“…Not exactly like a puppy.”
Leaving those words behind, Daniel left the room. Finally, I relaxed and blinked my eyes. Tears that had been building up in my eyes overflowed. The damp pillow was uncomfortable, but there was nothing I could do.
“Wow, Lotia, this is so….”
That was all I could say. Laughter bubbled up at the corners of my mouth.
Could one really make fun of their own Pope like this? I had such thoughts, but if she were in front of me and I said such things, she would undoubtedly scoff at me.
Paladins lose all their powers when their current pope dies, and they return to being ordinary people. Lotia, in particular, was one of the knights who stood by me to the end, so it’s not hard to imagine what kind of relationship Emperor Areno, who struck my throat, would have with a Paladin.
I didn’t have to look far to find out how they ended up together. Their lives, as written in the history books, had crumbled away without meaning, worse or just as bad as I had imagined.
The first thing I purchased with the jewelry I brought from the temple was a history book. How many times did I beat my chest, weeping and agonizing over their sudden deaths, searching for their traces in the emotionless records.
My knights, who had lost their magical power, roamed the continent, evading the Emperor’s pursuit, and met their end in various places. It was easy to see that the only one who kept watch over them on their deathbeds was Lotia, the only one with ties to the ancestors of the then Grand Duke Anderson who was able to escape the Emperor’s clutches.
I am the one who gave you such a life.
And that’s all you had to say to me? You, who believed that one day I would come back to life, and in that one day, in that one future you believed in, all you wanted me to hear, all you wanted to say, was to just live my life?
You might as well have cursed me, Lotia.
You wouldn’t have said that if you knew that the only thing I wanted when I woke up, the only thing I was trying to accomplish yesterday, was death.
No, more precisely.
I now wish that all the good things in this world would die.
One day, I woke up and found myself trapped in a wooden coffin. I was dressed in mourning attire, and my mouth was filled with dust.
Now that I know what happened, I can laugh, well, no, not laugh, but you get the idea, but at the time I woke up, I was very confused.
I was dead, so why did I open my eyes? Am I a saint and didn’t make it to heaven, or is heaven a dusty attic? Did I become a ghost, perhaps? All the fleeting thoughts that crossed my mind were negated as my body hit the wall, causing intense pain. I was even hungry.
Although I came out of the coffin, I couldn’t move properly for a while. My muscles were completely dead, frozen in place. Well, in fact, I had been dead.
But fortunately, I was still a saint. In this world, being a saint means being the most powerful mage in the world, and with the help of magic, I regained my strength. It took me two days to break through the darkness of my imprisonment, and when I did, I barely realized where I was.