It was at that moment when he started walking back toward the lake to watch over Senia when a rattling sound could be heard from the shadows in the forest. It was a sound that couldn’t be made by a dead creature, but at the same time, he couldn’t tell the source of it.
Carr quickly turned his head toward the direction of the sound coming from, but there was still no sign of any creature that might be the cause of the sound.
“….it could have been a gushed of wind.”
He mumbled as he slowly made his way closer when his eyes caught a glint of something hidden between the trees.
A set of old, faded armour, tilted against an old tree. The plate was rusty and black that it was difficult to determine its original colour. Although, Carr could guess how colourful the armour must have been just from the patterns carved near the shoulders and chests area.
As Carr inspected more closely, he spotted the cause of the rattling sound. A worn-out cloak, uglier than a rag, wrapped around the armour flowing due to the wind and as it continued to move it causes a long sword to fell to the ground next to it.
“You must have been someone important.”
Carr mumbled at the sight of the armour who seemed to be equipped with everything. Based on its appearance of the now-dead knight it was probably a general or part of an elite soldier squad. It was common for people in that position to wear a cape around their armour with their master’s coat of arms. However, the cape was too worn out that it was hard for Carr to recognize the coat of arms.
“I think, it’s okay to ignore it.”
It’s a remote forest where there was no path, so there was no reason to think that a high-ranking general would come this far to end his life. No one would look for him so it should be fine for him to ignore the little details. In any case, the armour that had been neglected for decades was something that could potentially harm him or Senia.
Carr let out a soft sigh, relaxing slightly, but then another rattle could be heard. His shoulder tensed again and looked back at the armour. Unlike last time, no wind could be the cause of the sound. He stiffened when the helmet, which was tilted helplessly before, was now looking straight at him. Beyond the visor of the helmet, there was only deep darkness, not a pair of eyes, but Carr could still feel the gaze.
“….I thought it was a dream at first, a body I couldn’t even dream about.”
A voice was so low that it gave Carr goosebumps, although it only made Carr curious about the now speaking armour.
A low chuckle came out of the armour when it saw how Carr was holding on his sword,
“It looks like it’s not just an illusion. It seems that the long-awaited ending has finally arrived.”
“….Then what are you doing here?”
“I’ve been waiting for someone to purify me.”
The armour clanked and raised its right arm, gesturing at the ground front of it,
“Would you like to sit down? It’s been so long since I was affected by the poison that I almost forgot to interact with my fellow human being.”
“No, that sounds a little unreasonable. You…. I mean, aren’t you an undead?”
There were many levels of an undead being, the higher they were the better their intelligence was. Rich, who reached the peak of magic, and Durahan, who reached the peak of swordsmanship, also had an immortal body but were rational beings. And for Carr, the monster hunter, this type was a much more terrifying opponent than a skull that is trying to hit him with its head.
“Although I was cursed,”
The armour still spoke politely despite Carr’s accusation,
“I spent my life as an honourable knight. I swear on my pride and soul that I have no intention of harming you.”
The heavy helmet nodded its head before it lifted to look at Carr again,
“May I know the name of the guest in this bare forest?”
Carr hesitated at the question. He was wondering if he should trust the words of the undead, who he finds odd ever since he saw him for the first time.
In the old days, he would have pulled out his weapons right away without mercy or without thinking about the situation or he would have run away. However, after spending a considerable time with Senia he was hesitating because he knew the importance of conversation. Now, he wanted to hear the truth – the story that the armour wanted to tell him.
Carr realized that he wanted to imitate that kindness Senia always showed to him. He watched how the armour remained motionless while waiting for his decision. After contemplating about it, Carr took his hand off his sword and sat opposite the armour.
“My name is Carr.”
“Thank you. I know it is a difficult decision, after all, I am a dead man who shouldn’t have existed.”
The man let out a peal of faint laughter,
“I should return the kind gesture and introduce myself with the name that I haven’t used from a hundred years ago. I am Ellard, paladins of the Sun god who protected the Holy Lady.”
Carr looked at the armour shocked at the introduction.
“The Holy Lady… wait, really? That means you are 300 years old, right?”
“Yes, although I have stopped counting after I was cursed but time continues to pass by. Only now that I can finally follow the lady to heaven.”
Ellard slowly moved his hands to draw a sign on his chest. It was rather an unusual act for the undead, but he was a paladin when he was alive, and it was a sacred ritual for them.
“….if you need to be purified, why don’t you just go to the temple? I don’t understand why you’ve been stuck in this forest for so long.”
“Before I answer your question, I want to know why a non-believer like you can endure this poisonous place without any protection, is there anyone with you that have a strong divinity? I want to know how you came to this forest.”
Carr scratched his head before he started to talk about what had happened during his journey. Of course, the important details were hidden but he told Ellard that he was escorting the sun’s saint on pilgrimage, that they met a unicorn who wanted them to purify the lake in his territory.
Ellard who was listening to the story silently, nodded his head once Carr reached the end of his story.
“I thought it was an abandoned forest and I had been sitting down here for a while now – poisoning the forest with my curse self and ended up hurting the unicorn. I should apologize formally.”
“The forest was in this condition because of you?”
“Yes, and now that I have heard your story, I’ll answer Lord Carr’s question.”
Ellard coughed slightly causing dust that piled up on his armour to fell to the ground.
“The curse on me was quite a powerful one that even the Holy Lady gave me a prophecy to break it. If I live without harming any humans for three hundred years, a saint will appear to purify me. I’m sure that the saint you mentioned, Senia, is that person.”
It was true that Senia had a strong divinity and she would help if she was asked for it. For Ellard, who had lived for a long time because he couldn’t die, Senia was truly a saint that would give him salvation.
However, Carr was worried to bring Senia close to an undead. But if what Ellard told him was the truth, stopping Senia from helping him would be difficult.
“Huh? Wait a minute, but isn’t the Holy Lady is the strongest out of all the saints?”
“That’s true, she was the only one who was loved by all seven gods.”
“Then why did she only give you a prophecy? She could have broken the curse herself.”
Ellard didn’t answer right away at the question before he opened his mouth.
“I couldn’t ask her to do that. This curse…. It’s from the Holy Lady.”
“You don’t believe it. It’s understandable, but it was my punishment and I accepted it. I had been waiting for the prophecy to finally come true.”
“No, it’s still weird no matter what.”
Carr looked bewildered while Ellard just scratched the back of his helmet. Carr leaned in, not done with his speech,
“You were the guardian of the Holy Lady, what level of wrongdoing did you commit that you should be cursed like this?”
“Well, I can’t say that it was wrong, but it was unacceptable. After 300 years, it will still be considered unacceptable.”
The black line in the visor shone mournfully,
“I fall in love with a woman who is a demon.”
Ellard unable to look up as he admitted it and Carr forgot what he was going to say. He felt dizzy as he took a deep breath, his mind trying to process this piece of information he just heard.
“….that’s a lie, right?”
Demons couldn’t be loved by humans.
“No, it’s the truth. She saved me from the battlefield and treated me without looking for a reward. She gave me medicine instead of weapons, it was just because she was a demon that she was attacked at the end. She was purer, more beautiful, friendlier than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
I love her.