Vol. 7 Chapter 4.5: Repentance
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***The city of Stadtsberg, League of the Valley Cities***

It was almost the time for the ‘long sleep’ when James arrived at the city after traversing the countryside from the borders of the Holy Palatial Gardens. During his escape, he had to ditch his royal armor, sword, and horse so that no one would recognize him as the former king of Nerfes.

“Good day! What can I get for you?” the tavern maid greeted him with a smile when James entered the tavern.

“Ale and the best food that you got,” he said, taking the nearest seat available. “Do you have any room?”

Ah yes, would you like to rent it?”

“Only for a day,” James said, taking a gold coin from his bag and handing it over to the maiden. "I’ll be back on the road tomorrow, once the hourglass is turned for the sixth time.”

“Uh…” the tavern maid looked surprised at the payment she received. “Don’t you think this is way too much for our price, Mister?”

“I already included the fee for the ale and the food. The change is all yours since you’re really helpful.”

The maiden, perhaps overwhelmed with his generosity, bowed and flashed him the sweetest smile. “Alright, thanks! You’re a nice person,” she winked at him before she left.

“…”

James was now alone at his table. Though the tavern was lively and noisy with the commoners’ music and banter, the former king was oblivious to his surroundings. In the blink of an eye, he had lost everything: his kingdom, friends, and the girl he loved…

Maddie.

“…”

A nice person, huh?

James massaged his head as the tavern maiden’s words replayed in his mind. He was a ‘nice person,’ huh? Pretty sure, once that girl realized who he was, she’d be spitting and cursing at him…just like any other person who knew what he had done.

If only he could turn back time, he wouldn’t have bothered with that black-haired, otherworldly man.

“…”

Slowly, his thoughts drifted into that time when the Beastman Saint reached out to him…

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***Several months ago, in the western borders of the kingdom of Nerfes…***

It was during those dark days that he had to go to the borders of Nerfes to the west, to watch the fortifications being built to defend the rest of the kingdom from the undead.

“Your Majesty, are you sure you’re fine with how things are going?” a figure in the dark asked him as he walked along the parapets alone.

James quickly pulled out his sword and challenged the speaker, “Who goes there?”

“I’m an ally, Your Majesty,” the figure then showed his face, coming out of the shadows, “Please sheath your sword.”

“I can see that you’re wearing a noble’s dress, but I don’t know you.”

“It doesn’t matter, Your Majesty, I only did this to go past your soldiers. But please be assured that I mean you no harm. I’m just here to ask you about the things going on lately.”

“What do you mean?”

“Haven’t you heard? The armies of the Holy Coalition had begun their move towards Huirot.”

“Well, isn’t that good? I mean, they were doing something about these disgusting and vile creatures?”

The noble shook his head, “My King, pardon my speech, but do you realize what’s happening?”

“Speak.”

“That man known as the ‘Fist of the North Lands’ was leading the coalition armies, together with Her Holiness. Are you contented with just watching from the sides while that commoner slowly takes your place in Her Holiness’ heart?”

“W-What are you saying?”

“Don’t deny it, King of Nerfes!” the noble suddenly became so bright that James was blinded for a short while. When his vision returned, the beautiful wolf-Saint of the Beastmen, Ruro of the Wolf—stood before him.

“Y-Your Holiness!” he was quick to kneel before her.

Ah, it’s fine, Your Majesty. Please rise; I just dropped by to talk to you,” she patted his back, “As I was saying, don’t deny your feelings. I can see through your thoughts, King of Nerfes; your anxieties, your doubts…”

“Your Holiness, about Maddie, I…”

“I am aware of your unrequited feelings for Madelaine Ann Rubinforth. It was something that you nurtured in your heart ever since you were young, only to be defeated by the sudden arrival of my master. Don’t you think it’s unfair?”

At that point, the king of Nerfes had nothing to counter Ruro’s words. What she said hit him like arrows from the enemy: painful and sudden.

“We can work together, Your Majesty,” the wolf-saint chuckled, “You see, several human nobles are grumbling about the current situation. They, showing their true, treacherous nature, don’t want a commoner leading on the frontlines, nor do they want a commoner near your saint. I could only look at my master with pity because of that…”

“W-What do you want me to do?”

“It’s simple, Your Majesty. The nobles wanted someone powerful enough to eliminate that commoner, you know?”

“Eliminate?” James was taken aback by the suggestion, “As in killing him?”

The smile on the wolf-saint’s face disappeared, “I’d have to kill you if you did that. No, you don’t have to kill him. But I’m sure you wanted Kuro gone as well, right?”

James reluctantly nodded.

“Good. Now here’s what we shall do; you plan for him to be abducted, and I’ll take him to my land. With Kuro gone, then you can now proceed with Maddie. Do we have an agreement on this?”

“B-But Your Holiness! Maddie can read minds; how am I supposed to hide my thoughts from her?”

“You’re really a coward, aren’t you? Afraid of making known your true feelings to the girl you love!” Ruro then fished something out of her chest; it was a book. “Alright, here.”

“The History of the Amaranthine Kingdom? A history book would help me, Your Holiness?”

“It’s not just an ordinary book. Inside is a magic circle that can block Maddie’s ability to read minds. Just don’t forget to activate it whenever she’s around. And definitely, don’t let anyone else see that!”

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***Present day***

If only James knew he would fail to hide his true intentions to Maddie, he wouldn’t have agreed to conspire with the Beastman Saint that day.

Yes, he’s irritated with that commoner, Kuro, but he didn’t hate him enough to kill him. If anything, he’d like to fight for Maddie’s heart like a man: on a level battlefield, and with fair conditions.

How could he let his emotions get the better of him?

“Hey! Have you heard of the latest news?” a group of travelers from a table across James was talking over some mugs of ale.

“About the disappearance of our hero, the Lord Kuro?”

“Not only that! Apparently, the king of Nerfes had something to do with our champion’s disappearance! And he even tried to seduce our beloved Saint using magic.”

“That’s horrible!”

“Tch. Those nobles only knew how to grab glory from those who worked hard and in honest measure! Why do we even need those assholes?”

“Hey, careful with your mouth, young man! If they could do that to a great common man like the Lord Kuro, then how much more if it comes to you.”

James could only wish he could cover his ears. Hearing how the common folk saw and judged his actions was like a knife slicing through his heart. If only he could tell them it wasn’t as simple as that, he wouldn’t blow his cover.

“…”

Yes, he was aware of the nobles who despised Kuro, yet he listened to them. Now, he’s all alone and on the run.

Should he be able to go back to Nerfes, he’d get his revenge on those people who goaded him to this situation.

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