|Author: Sasaki Ichiro||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 3279 characters|
|Translator: Tanaka||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1195 words|
The Cathedral Crusaders stand as the epitome of power, the elite and most formidable knight order in the Holy Kingdom of Aeon, and are considered the ace of the nation.
Each member is born of sacred lineage, dubbed «God’s Manservant», stemming from the union between select clergy who are profoundly devout and closer to divine presence than any ordinary person. Their abilities and spiritual strength are unparalleled, with individual ranks ranging from A to S, and squad leaders at SS rank. The company commander and higher echelons possess power that transcends standard measurement. Their spiritual prowess varies from national to super class, making them a gathering of superhumans in the purest sense.
Adorned in uniform azure armor, helmet, and shield—collectively known as Gospel Mail and Gospel Shield—they boast a defense impervious even to dragon breath. Wielding the Holy Sword – Cross Blade, their might rivals ancient weaponry. To say that a single crusader can solo a thousand men would be an understatement. Though their numbers reach 5,000, their coordinated warfare is so effective that they surpass even the entire army of the Graviol Empire at its zenith. They are the strongest knight order on the continent, outshining other nations’ forces significantly.
Historically, their deeds were limited within the Holy Kingdom, only venturing out to handle threats like Elder Dragons that regular sacred knights could not. Despite their claim of never suffering defeat or casualties, their lack of records regarding large-scale expeditions has led to the moniker «Strongest Inexperienced Knight Order». This title has caused many in other nations to question their true combat capabilities.
But now, in a historical first, the Cathedral Crusaders are embarking on a foreign campaign, nearly in full force, to vanquish their god’s foes without fear or hesitation. Bernardo Gloria Casas, the knight leader and «Saint», is consumed with unprecedented excitement as he leads his disciplined troops.
“Oh, the Azure God, bear witness! Our knight order is invincible and unbeatable! We will demonstrate to this continent’s uncouth populace that ‘Strongest Inexperienced Knight Order’ is the mightiest on the actual battlefield! No one can oppose divine will!”
Five days have passed since they crossed the border, fending off scattered vampire attacks with effortless spiritual light bombardments, leaving not even ashes. Though the lack of resistance was disappointing, neither Bernardo nor his men were complacent. They are likely a day or two away from the «Castle of Darkness», where the vampire ringleader resides, according to the Great Pope’s oracle.
They are well-aware that intelligent vampires, not mere lesser ones, await them at their destination. The true battle will unfold there, rendering the encounters thus far mere skirmishes, hardly worth mentioning.
Bernardo’s brow furrows as he gazes at the setting sun, reflecting on what lies ahead.
“Halt! While the sun still shines, prepare the camp. We must anticipate severe nighttime attacks starting this very evening. Adhere to the initial plan, rotating guards every three shifts. Place barrier stones marked with holy seals at the outer perimeter, arranging them in a hexagram. Inside, draw five layers of defensive magic circles!” Bernardo commanded.
“Yes sir,” came the response.
Satisfied, Bernardo watched the messenger hurry off before the scout unit’s leader approached him, face taut with concern. “Sir, I have a report. The scouts have detected something strange in the sky ahead.”
“An… abnormality?” Bernardo questioned, looking up to see only clear, blue sky, as though they were under their god’s divine favor.
“Yes. At first, they noticed black clouds near their destination. Within 30 minutes, the area was nearly enshrouded in darkness. Their investigation confirmed the clouds are encircling our target in a circular pattern, resembling sorcery more than a natural occurrence.”
A murmur of disbelief spread among Bernardo’s close aides.
“Manipulate the weather through sorcery? Impossible!”
“Could it be a deception?”
“Silence, fools!” Bernardo snapped. “We follow our god, and obstacles in our path—no, trials—are there to be overcome through faith! This is how heaven’s gates open to us! Are you so feeble in faith to be shaken by this hindrance?”
Chastened, they apologized and offered prayers.
“Set camp as planned. We’ll hasten our march tomorrow. The First and Second units will join me in attacking the vampire stronghold. The rest will defend. Without daylight, our enemies will likely rely on numbers and wave-like attacks. Holding ground will be your duty, my brothers. We will not lose in our Lord’s name. Understood?”
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“Understood, Brother Bernardo,” they shouted in unison.
Bernardo’s pleasure at their composure was interrupted by an unexpected, dry clapping sound above them.
Startled, they looked up to find a man atop a grotesque, winged giant. Dressed in black silk with a top hat, tailcoat, cloak, white gloves, and a red bow tie, he stopped clapping and spoke with evident amusement.
“Well, well, an impressive speech indeed. But don’t you think it’s a bit optimistic? Watching the blind enthusiasm of fanatical believers is quite entertaining.”
He looked down at the knights and laughed delightedly, clearly enjoying the spectacle.
Startled by the voice that effortlessly reached everyone’s ears even though the man hadn’t raised his voice, several knights of leader rank surveyed their surroundings with watchful eyes.
“He’s employing charm magic in his words! Activate ‘Mind Resist’ now!” Bernardo ordered.
Upon his command, everyone began to chant a portion of the sacred teaching, fortifying their mental defenses.
“My, oh my, quite well-trained, aren’t you?” the mysterious man mused. “But it is in poor taste to impersonate a god, really… Ah, but since you all believe in that thing as a god, you have my sympathy.”
“Who on earth are you?” Bernardo demanded, signaling his forces to ready themselves for battle while subtly circulating his own aura.
The man, laughing merrily atop his monstrous mount, seemed youthful in both demeanor and voice. However, his true age and appearance were obscured by white hair and a white mask adorned with a simple depiction of crescent-shaped eyes and a mouth. Though attired like a gentleman, he exuded an incongruous, rustic air, more akin to a country squire than a nobleman.
“Oops, how rude of me not to introduce myself. Verbally explaining is so tedious, but let’s see… My name is Pahlen Accen Apostrophe Ohm. We’ll leave the rest, as it’s a bit lengthy. In short, I’m the owner of the castle you’ve been targeting. Pleasure to meet you.”
With that, he casually tipped his top hat.
“So, you fiend, you’re the ringleader! All forces, assume first combat formation! Release the Holy Light!” Bernardo shouted.
At once, a torrent of holy light burst forth from the 5,000 Cathedral Knights, converging on the man named Pahlen.
“Dark Silence,” Pahlen intoned, snapping his fingers with a theatrical flourish. Dark orbs materialized around his mount, absorbing most of the holy light.
Though the darkness neutralized much of the attack, the shots fired by the squad leaders broke through, damaging the giant beast, which was then struck down by successive holy light strikes.
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The creature let out a fierce, bestial howl, crashing to the ground a short distance away.
“Did we get him?”
“Behold! Our divine will!”
“Don’t lower your guard!” Bernardo warned. “We haven’t dealt the finishing blow yet!”