In order to save Millie, the group rode the Elder Dragons to the Church’s headquarters.
There they met Lilishila, cardinal of the Church. She requested Shin to capture Bulk, a fanatic follower of the “Summit Faction”.
Bulk had not only kidnapped Millie, but also imprisoned Hermie, a girl bearing the name of “Holy Woman”.
Shin’s party, acting alongside Lilishila, assaulted Palmirack -the facility serving as the Church’s headquarters- and successfully rescued both Millie and Hermie…
“…what will I do now, you ask?”
“Yes. We could save Lady Hermie thanks to you all. Once this information spreads, all the others who had to endure Bulk’s arrogance will want to thank you.”
About 30 minutes had passed since Hermie and Lilishila had reunited.
It was already well into the night.
The guard knights ran off to convey the word of the Holy Woman’s rescue, while Hermie and Millie were resting in another room, guarded by Wilhelm.
Shin sent a message to Tiera, asking her to come to Palmirack.
Shibaid, guided by a knight, headed to Bulk’s room to collect any remaining submission items, like the “Submission Collars”.
Shin, Schnee, and Lilishila were discussing the rewards in the room assigned to the female cardinal.
Shin didn’t wish for any reward; instead, he wanted to be considered a “mysterious helper”, but Lilishila wouldn’t agree. She strongly argued that the others wouldn’t agree either.
Concerning the efforts spent on this operation, at that point in time the date had changed, thus it was 3 days in total. The only money spent was on lodging fees at the inn. There was no particular expense to be refunded.
What Shin’s party had done was simply infiltrate Palmirack and take down Eline and Bulk.
Shin understood that it was the most important part, but for him it had been an easy feat; that’s why there was such a difference of opinions between him and Lilishila.
Even if they were to receive a reward, something too generous would, on the contrary, make it difficult for them to accept it.
Shin’s name had already begun spreading because of the Balmel defense battle. If he was grandly awarded by the Church here, it would only invite greater trouble their way.
It was too late to say things like “I don’t want to stand out”, but his honest desire was to avoid as many problematic situations as possible.
“I would really appreciate it if you kept my name hidden.”
“Your name? But to me this seems to be a great chance to gain recognition.”
“Our reason for coming here was to save Millie, the rescue of milady Holy Woman was…pardon my bluntness, but it just happened along the way. Besides, after knowing about what Bulk was doing, I’m sure that anyone would have tried to do something, no matter what they could or couldn’t do, without concern for what could be gained or lost…don’t you agree?”
Any proper human being would have been disgusted at Bulk’s actions.
It was the same for Shin’s party, which also happened to have the power to stop Bulk. That’s all there was to it.
“At the very least, is there anything you need? I have asked for your help saying that I would give anything in return. After everything you have done for me, letting you go empty-handed would brand me as ungrateful.”
“Aaah, well, I didn’t mean to say we wouldn’t need anything, so please calm down.”
Shin moved a step back from the slightly too close Lilishila and laughed wryly.
Shin understood well enough that from the standpoint of someone who had been saved, not being able to express gratitude would be hard to bear. Shin was thus thinking about what to ask for as a reward.
“Is there something you need?”
“Yes. There are 3 things we would like to request. First, we would like to collect any remaining collars like the ones used by Bulk. I would like to do so before they pass onto others’ hands, to examine their structure and effects. We would then dispose of them ourselves, and if we can come up with an item to nullify their effects we will offer it to you too, of course.”
Leaving behind items that grant the power to control others would eventually give birth to other Bulks. History itself tells how even holy men and women can succumb to desire.
In addition, there was the necessity to research a method to nullify their effects, other than Shin’s ability. In order to build and test a collar removal item, having the collar themselves was a prerequisite.
The request to hand over items that instantly force others to obey one’s will, would likely be a difficult decision for Lilishila, thus Shin considered it a fitting reward.
“I see, even we are not immune to temptation after all. I shall entrust them to you, Shin-sama. Considering your actions until now, I am positive that you will never use them as Bulk did.”
Contrary to Shin’s expectations, Lilishila accepted his request with ease.
According to Lilishila, Bulk supposedly had other allies within the Church; candidates for the position of “next Bulk” were not scarce. Rather than risk keeping the items, letting a trusted person have them would be better.
Lilishila’s trust towards Shin was deeper than he thought.
“I would truly appreciate it if you get in touch with us, the moment you succeed in creating a collar removal item.”
“It’s quite a problem if I’m the only one able to do something about them, after all.”
Will it be possible to make them? How much time will it take? There were still too many unknowns in the equation, so the topic was closed by agreeing to communicate whenever the desired effect was created.
“What is the second request, then?”
“The second is information. We would like you to tell us everything you know about the Sacred Place. If possible, we would be grateful if you contacted us whenever you learned something new in the future.”
The Sacred Place still hadn’t been researched enough, but if anything had been discovered already, Shin wanted to know in advance. The Church had a great number of believers, so in this head church of Sigurd there was likely a great concentration of information as well.
Information about the Sacred Place was known only to the top members of the guilds; survey missions of its interior sometimes claim the lives of an entire expedition teams. It was that dangerous a location. Information about it was more than worthy to be requested as a reward.
“We have documents with collected information about the Sacred Place. I shall have someone bring them to you. As long as it is within my capabilities, if any new information comes up, you’ll be the first to know.”
“Thank you very much. Our third request concerns the “Summit Faction”. We would like to ask you to find out more about the ritual site Bulk spoke of. It would be great to know where the faction’s base is, but we are more worried about the ritual right now. Because there may be others other than Bulk bringing sacrifices there. ”
The first priority for Shin’s party was to investigate the Summit Faction, as the disappearance of Shin’s support character Filma had not been resolved yet.
It was Shin’s 3rd request, but higher than anything else in priority.
“These are the rewards I am thinking about.”
“Are these three requests really enough? For us they would barely suffice to claim we have repaid you…”
“Well, I thought they were rather large requests, honestly. You don’t need to feel so much obligation, you know?”
Lilishila was serious, yet somehow felt under pressure, so Shin tried to pacify her.
“No, that will not do.”
Lilishila, however, clearly expressed that Shin’s words had not convinced her.
“Please listen. This rescue operation, if it wasn’t for you and your party’s cooperation, would have had no chance of success. If we embarked in it by ourselves, most, if not all of us, would have been killed, Hermie and Millie would have been sacrificed, while I and the other women would have probably become their playthings.”
Lilishila spoke clearly and firmly. If Shin’s party had not joined their struggle, that future would have been almost certainly inevitable.
Wilhelm alone too, would not have been able to enter Sigurd before Bulk’s entourage left the city.
There would have been no one able to subdue Konig or Eline; in addition, with Hermie equipped with the submission collar, there was no possible way for Lilishila to emerge victorious.
There was even the possibility for the whole Church to fall under Bulk’s control.
Because of all this, Shin’s appearance was a true miracle for Lilishila; it wasn’t strange that they saw it as a message from god.
“When I said I would give you anything, I included my own self. And this is why.”
“I said those words because I was ready for anything. Please understand.”
“Oh, I see, so that’s what you meant…”
Shin fretted, expecting a phrase like “I give my own body to you” to come out, but was relieved when it didn’t.
You saved my life, thus now I am yours. A common occurrence in some fantasy fictional works.
Shin, however, was not the type of person to happily accept an offer like that.
“Allow us to ask for your help when something happens, then. We aren’t omnipotent, after all. The first request can probably be taken care of easily, so for the time being we would be grateful if you could focus on locating the Summit Faction’s base of operations and the ritual site Bulk talked about.”
“Understood, we will gather all the information we can. Whenever you may need our help, please say so without hesitation.”
Shin told the enthusiastic Lilishila to contact the Golden Company if they learned something. Lilishila was surprised at Shin’s connection to the Golden Company, but immediately nodded with a serious expression.
“I think that’s all for now.”
“If that is really all, it would be no problem if you desired me too.”
“Er, I’m not sure why we are going back to that topic…I will not, of course?”
As the phrase he thought he had dodged came out of Lilishila’s lips, Shin’s face muscles stiffened.
“The women alongside you are an Elf and a High Elf. Female Elves never join parties with men, unless they deeply trust and are comfortable around them…and it seems they are with you, Shin-sama, so I thought you had that kind of relationship. You like elves don’t you? I’m an elf too, you know.”
“You’ve got it all wrong!! Aaahhhhhhhh!!!!”
So screamed Shin in the depths of his heart.
Shin had no idea about the difficulties of female elves in joining parties with males. Knowing that someone aware of it would think he made himself an elf harem was a small shock.
“Anyway! As far as men are concerned, there’s Shibaid too! Why do you pair only me with those two?”
“Just a maiden’s intuition. Although, it is more than clear to whom Lady Yuki’s affections are directed.”
Lilishila stated with confidence and a smile.
Shin was quite troubled by her sudden change in personality. Lilishila probably thought that continuing to discuss the rewards would have inconvenienced him. In other words, the serious discussions were over.
“I-Is that so…er, Yuki, why are you sticking so close to me…?”
“I’m keeping watch.”
“You don’t say…”
Yuki – the disguised Schnee – had slipped very close to Shin, no one knew when. It wasn’t clear if her answer to Shin’s question was serious or in jest.
“Hehe, you two get along so well. I’m envious.”
Lilishila’s expression while speaking to them was of someone enjoying a heartwarming scene.
Lilishila’s warm look, so different than before, made Shin feel slightly uncomfortable.
Only one thought came across his mind: “What the heck is this situation?”
While Shin and company were discussing “rewards”, Wilhelm was guarding Hermie, Millie and Konig, who were recently released from the submission type item, in the neighbouring room.
Bulk was detained, however, he wasn’t the only dangerous individual within the Church. There was no guarantee that individuals, who operate in a dishonest fashion, wouldn’t move and take advantage of this situation.
“You should be able to go home soon, right?”
“Since Will-nii and Shin-nii is here, everything will be alright!”
Millie was in high spirits: she was lying down, her head resting on Hermie’s lap, who was petting her softly.
Everyone was safe and there was someone she could trust among those who came to her rescue.
That someone, Wilhelm, was right next to her even now, so she had no reason to be worried.
Wilhelm was looking intently at Millie, without speaking a word. He was observing her to find out if there was anything strange remains, while making sure she didn’t notice and was unsettled by his observations.
After all, Millie had been manipulated by Eline and stabbed Wilhelm. It wouldn’t be strange for her heart to bear a deep wound because of it.
However, asking Millie about Wilhelm and Eline’s battle revealed that her memories stopped at the beginning of the fighting. It could be said to be rather fortunate.
Eline had probably made preparations to use Millie whenever needed. This one time, that actually led to a positive result.
“Are you concerned?”
The question to Wilhelm came from Konig.
Once Shin removed his collar, nothing restrained his actions. He thus returned to his original duty, Hermie’s protection.
His armor had been rendered unusable by Shibaid’s attack, but his beloved blade, the Legend-grade magical sword Haufer, rested at his side.
Konig didn’t know that the manipulated Millie had stabbed Wilhelm, but knew that the collar had been equipped on her. He assumed that, like him, something had happened while she was under control.
Wilhelm then inquired back.
“By the way, do you feel like your memories have been altered? It looks like memories while being manipulated remain differently from person to person.”
“I remember very well. The collar’s power was not used too often on me, even when I was being manipulated I felt as if I was dreaming, everything was hazy.”
Bulk often used Hermie to force Konig to do his bidding, apparently.
Konig suggested that it was because when manipulating others via the collar, it was not possible to give concrete, detailed orders.
“I see. The lack of consciousness also means that only simple actions can be taken.”
“It’s just an assumption, though. However, it is rather useful during battle. An order like “strike with all your strength” will be executed even if it ends up costing your arms. During the battle with sir Shibaid, I performed a powerful blow I normally couldn’t. It’s also possible to order suicide attacks, the attacker has no regards for his own life.”
“The more I hear about that time, the more it makes me sick”
Wilhelm’s expression was distorted by disgust.
“Some of those items leaked outside. Fortunately only a few did, but I’d want them dealt with before they’re used for ill intents.”
“There’s something I was wondering, though. If the person equipped with it dies, can the item be used on someone else?”
If such a repeated use was possible, the usefulness of the item would increase even more…in the worst way possible. Wilhelm then asked Konig, as the latter was in the position to know.
“I have never heard about it being re-used. However, the number of items Bulk obtained and the number of times he used them do not match. This is just an assumption too, but repeated use after death could be possible.”
According to Konig, the number of women Bulk had submitted to his will was higher than the number of collars.
Konig had learned the number of collars from Bulk himself. Bulk could have let down his guard, as Konig was under his control.
“A sack of shit through and through, I see.”
“I must agree. If only I wasn’t controlled by that collar, I would have cut him down on the spot.”
Konig was a knight firmly believing in the Church doctrine of protecting the weak.
His strong sense of justice not only made him despise Bulk, but probably made him even unwilling to recognize his existence.
“However…I might have been manipulated, but I have slain others with my own hands.”
“…you’re feeling guilty? If you worry about that you’re going to die soon too”.
Wilhelm spoke rather bluntly to the tormented Konig.
“You say I shouldn’t care about them?”
“I’m saying that nothing changes even if you do.”
Konig’s tone had grown fiercer. Wilhelm, however, continued talking without losing his composure.
“Regret all you want, but the dead won’t come back to life. In the end, it all depends on the feelings of the ones still alive. If you worry about that and end up dying, the people you should protect will die too.”
Hermie could be targeted again because of her abilities, as it had just happened. At such a time, were his sword dulled by doubts, it would spell death not only for Konig but for others as well.
The loved ones of the people he killed might want revenge. He might be demanded to atone for his sins.
However, those are natural consequences for his actions. There was nothing to do about it.
The flow of time does not reverse; the dead do not come back.
That is this world’s rule.
In the world before the “Dusk of the Majesty”, it is rumored that a potion of resurrection existed. But that world is no more.
(Maybe he could…no, this isn’t something to think about)
In Wilhelm’s mind the silhouettes of a certain High Human and his two followers appeared.
Shin and Schnee might know of a way to create such a potion, or even have one already in their possessions.
He won’t say a word about it, though. He had no proof, and even if such a thing was possible, Wilhelm doubted that Shin and Schnee would revive the people Konig killed.
Resurrection of the dead. That was a heretical practice never to be attempted, it was burned within Wilhelm’s consciousness.
Wilhelm knew of someone who had attempted such practices, and how they brought destruction upon themselves.
That is why he stopped thinking about it. Even in the Church, research concerning resurrection of the dead was a taboo among taboos. It was a completely lost miracle.
After a long silence, Konig spoke again.
“That would be a problem.”
“You just have to find your answer fast, then. Most of the time, things like that happen whether you like it or not, after all.”
“Are you speaking from experience?”
Wilhelm dodged Konig’s question and fell into silence.
Konig, suspicious of such behavior, followed Wilhelm’s line of sight and found a peacefully sleeping Millie.
“I see, so this is the man they call the “Demonic Spear”.”
Wilhelm scoffed lightly. His silhouette was, much like a knight’s, one of a protector.