Fallen Monarch Chapter 20

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20. Fallen Monarch (3)

***

Salem looked into the distance, toward Lania, with surprise.

"… What happened?!"

Even the Captain of the Holy Knights, Helpharon, could not answer his question. The Holy Kingdom was currently the strongest nation in the world, and its capital, its greatest city, was being destroyed before their very eyes. The pair, watching from afar, felt that they were having a nightmare. It had only been a few hours since they left the capital. They'd stopped the wagons for a moment to let the fatigued horses rest, pausing near the peak of the mountains they were crossing. In that short amount of time, Lania had been razed. Both the city and the castle wall had fallen and the palace was in cinders. Flocks of crows flew between the dark clouds of smoke drifting into the sky and a crimson moon shone brightly above it all, seemingly basking in the destruction below.

Salem himself s.h.i.+vered the sight of it all, as he watched his own capital burn.

"This is an ominous sign! How…? Did some manner of devil descend?!"

'What if I'd delayed my departure by one more day…?' Salem shook his head as though in denial of that possibility.  'I might have been one of the ones being slaughtered down there!'

"I-I asked what is going on! Helpharon! Didn't I just ask you what was going on! Tell me now-!"

Hepharon could only stand tight-lipped while Salem continued to scream at him. From his perspective, the current situation was incomprehensible. No, he instinctively didn't even want to try to explain what had happened. The scene unfolding before his eyes was too horrible for words.

"… I'll send out a scout for now."

"What for?" Salem asked accusingly." What's the point in doing that now!?" Salem pointed at Lania with a trembling hand. "Can't you see it burning down over there?! What are you going to accomplish by sending soldiers to a place that's already fallen…!"

"We should be able to discern who's responsible."

"Who? That's right! Just who could have…!! Is it the Demon Lord's soldiers? Have they invaded? How? That place is our Holy Kingdom's capital! The center of our nation!" Salem started fervently pulling at his hair. "Does it make sense that they'd be able to sneak an army past us large enough to take the city?!"

Helpharon remained silent despite Salem's continued tirade.

"Speak up! Say something! Can't you hear the peoples' screams and the demons' mocking laughter?! How dare they… to the Holy Kingdom…"

Salem's voice gradually tapered off until he too became silent. It had just dawned on him. Though they could see the city, they were still a few hours away from the capital.

'We can hear screams and laughter from all the way over here?'

It wasn't just a delusion of the Pope, Captain Helpharon could hear it as well. His face turned pale and he immediately shouted at the Holy Knights behind them.

"We leave now! Holy Knights, be on the alert! Those b.a.s.t.a.r.ds are coming he-!"

With a loud explosion, the line of wagons were lifted into the air one by one. The Holy Knights aboard the wagons, and the horses harnessed to them, were sent plummeting to their demise as the wagons fell back down.

"… It's too late."

Helpharon prepared for battle, knowing their attackers would soon be upon them. Moments later, a knight wielding a ma.s.sive sword in his right hand and holding a detached head in his left appeared, a Dullahan. It rushed forward on its headless horse, slaughtering the Holy Knights before it with ease.

"What…?!"

"Undead!?"

Dark arrows flew out from the forest below them, reinforced with magic by incorporeal banshees.

"Defensive formations!"

Following their Captain's order, the Holy Knights hurriedly formed a barrier around the Pope, s.h.i.+elds in hand. They tried to block the arrows using their s.h.i.+elds imbued with Holy Power, but the arrows pierced them easily.

"U-uwaaack! What?! What's going on?!"

Hearing his shouts, Helpharon took extra care to protect Salem while leading him toward one of the horses that hadn't been killed. He raised his warhammer into the air, rallying his men into action.

"Buy time, draw the enemy's attention. Holy Knights! Protect the Pope-!"

The Holy Knights clenched their teeth and unsheathed their swords. The order had been given and it was their duty to follow it, no matter what.

"Protect His Holiness, the Pope!"

"Blessings upon us from our lord, Arrtark!"

The Holy Knights formed up and then charged toward the undead. The sound of their weapons clas.h.i.+ng against the undeads' rang out. In the meantime, Helpharon forcibly lifted Salem and placed him on the horse before mounting it himself. His eyes were wide as he surveyed the army a.s.saulting them. Countless undead were marching up the mountain to reach them. Their eyes glowed with a pure, blue light, and it felt like their gazes were all trained on a single person, Salem.

Helpharon felt a chill. 

'Why would they expend so much effort to capture the Pope when they've already taken the capital?'

Regardless, he only knew one thing for certain. All of the soldiers he had used as meat s.h.i.+elds were already as good as dead men. There was no way they could survive facing that kind of an army.

"… I'm sorry."

With Salem aboard, the Captain of the Holy Knights urged the horse forward.

***

In the royal palace, Artarrk was sitting on Salem's cherished throne. For a moment his eyes lit up, though they dimmed just as quickly. He'd seen the results of his troops pursuit.

[You lost him?]

The undead stood silently with their heads lowered toward him. Artarrk slammed his fist onto the armrest of his throne, causing both the stone armrest and the floor beneath it to shatter.

[… It can't be helped.]

Artarrk looked up at the thousands of Holy Knights and priests trembling in the throne room, having been gathered before him after the battle. Though Salem's escape angered him, there were still other matters to attend to, the first of which was the punishment for these rotten holy men.

[I shall ask that you curs answer truthfully.] His golden eyes burned with a fiery rage. [Have you… fallen as well?]

***

The Holy Capital, Lania, had fallen, and a week's time had pa.s.sed. When the news of this crus.h.i.+ng defeat was pa.s.sed to the soldiers travelling with the Golden Cross Army, they couldn't help but make a detour. Ignoring their original objective, they moved the main force of their army to protect Salem, and were currently stationed on a wide field near the capital. Salem was sitting on a chair within a tent in their recently constructed camp, shaking with fright. His memories of that night were still vivid. Countless undead eyes were staring up at him from beneath the mountain, ablaze with resentment and rage. He couldn't help but remain affected by that aura of malice, even now.

"T-the situation. How is the situation?" Salem asked with great difficulty. 

For the last several days the Pope hadn't eaten, nor had he slept. In response to Salem, who was almost mentally crippled, the Captain shook his head instead of answering verbally. Most couldn't even look him in the face, for fear of worsening his health by setting him off.

Just then, the door flap to his tent was pushed aside by a shoddy looking Holy Knight. His armor and helmet were in poor condition—like one's would after a tough battle—and his face was pale and bloodied.

"I… bring you a report, Your Holiness."

The Holy Knight spoke faintly, the exhaustion in his voice evident.

"Currently, the situation in Lania is," the Holy Knight surrept.i.tiously peeked at Salem, "complete h.e.l.l."

***

The 50 Holy Knights deployed to scout Lania had arrived at the now ruined city. Even from a distance, it was easy to see how poorly the defense against the undead army's invasion had gone. Most of the outer wall had been destroyed, the air was thick with the stench of burning flesh, and the ground was damp with blood. The main road of the capital was littered with corpses—soldiers and citizens alike—with the only living things being strange crow-looking creatures feasting on the dead. The Holy Knights were simply shocked that most of the corpses belonged to soldiers of the Holy Kingdom, but they had yet to feel true fear. That awaited them at the palace.

***

Their eyes grew wide and they froze in place. Some of them even lost the strength to stand and fell to their knees. Thousands of crosses had been erected in the courtyard in front of the palace. Every one of them held either a Holy Knight or a priest, all of whom were rotting away, a single black spear embedded in each of their chests. It looked like half of the kingdom's holy men were present here.

"These wicked…!"

Even when faced with this gruesome sight, the Holy Knights continued their mission. The last place they reached was the palace itself. In the throne room, the Holy Knights found a single cross placed above the throne itself.

"A… survivor?"

A bald, middle-aged man was hung on the cross. However, unlike those outside,  there were black spearheads embedded in each of his arms and legs and a single white spearhead stabbing into his chest. It was Faron, who had become an Archbishop not long ago. His body was rotting away and being healed in an endless, torturous cycle while he screeched and laughed maniacally, having lost his mind to the pain. Above him was a message written in blood. It was this that surprised the Holy Knights and caused them to look around at one another.

"Kyaaaaaack!"

Sudden screams from outside quickly drew the Holy Knights' attention. Crowding around a window, they could see the holy men in the courtyard struggling on their crosses. They forced their bodies to move over and over again, until they'd freed themselves from the crosses and fallen onto the ground. Once they stood up, each and every head in the plaza snapped toward the window from which the Holy Knights were watching. Despite their training and unmatched skill, the Holy Knights couldn't help but shudder. Every corpse in the plaza had turned into a zombie. 

***

"All of the priests and Holy Knights in the city were killed and hung on crosses, after which they turned into undead. Even now, thousands… no, including the dead soldiers, there are tens of thousands of zombies wandering around Lania. Also, there was something strange written above Archbishop Faron's head."

"Writing…?" Salem muttered out of curiosity.

The Holy Knight shut his mouth. He began to sweat and tremble. 

Seeing this, Salem nervously asked, "What did it say?" When the Holy Knight didn't answer him, he shouted. "I asked what it said!"

"It said… You're next, Salem Gatteschuranche."

It had been written in ma.s.sive letters with the blood of the priests. It was a word of warning left specifically for the Pope. 

Salem's face was one of absolute despair. In his mind he could still see his city burning as the undead razed it; he could still see the bluish glow of their eyes from when they had ambushed his entourage on the mountain, every pair focused on him alone.

"I'll kill you! Salem!"

Suddenly, Thoma's desperate words came to him. Salem shook his head in disbelief, but a sinking feeling of dread forced him to consider the possibility.

"No. It can't be. It can't be…! He couldn't have done it! He was completely broken!" Salem screamed. "He couldn't have the strength in that st… Uwaaaack!"

Overwhelmed by fear and frustration, he began to tear at his hair and throw whatever he could get his hands on. The Holy Knight and Helpharon moved to stop him, trying their best to keep the Pope from harming himself.

After that day, the truth regarding the fall of the Holy Kingdom spread across the continent. The one who toppled what had once been regarded as the strongest Kingdom was called the Devil of Lania, and its existence was feared.

— Ω —

Fallen Monarch Chapter 20

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Fallen Monarch Chapter 20 summary

You're reading Fallen Monarch Chapter 20. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: I.C. Han, Shadow-kun, 그림자꾼 already has 93 views.

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