A dark, deserted cave.
There, a bloodied Evan slammed his sword into the floor.
Deep radiance radiated from Evan’s sheathed blade.
At this point, he had reached the highest level of growth as a paladin.
Even though it didn’t mean anything against an evil god.
A sound of cracking could be heard from his clenched teeth.
Evan tasted the fishy taste of blood in his mouth, and then looked down at his sword, which was stuck in the ground.
Evan’s sword glowed with pure radiance.
It was the sign of an honorable paladin.
Even within the Holy Land, few paladins possessed such a light.
“So… I survived yet again.”
Evan muttered to himself as he stared at the sword.
A pure white aura flickered before his eyes.
It was a warm, gentle light.
Anyone facing it would be tempted to believe in the existence of a goddess and pray to her.
But right now, Evan didn’t have the strength to pray.
The wretched creature failed to move forward and turned back into the cave.
He could not die.
Even as he grew broken and tattered, death was the only thing he feared.
Eventually, Evan gave up trying and turned back.
He could not move forward in his own strength.
He needed the help of others to get out of this place.
And there was only one being left who could help him.
“Why, why won’t you help me!”
Evan’s angry voice echoed through the cave.
Evil came for him, but the Goddess of Honor refused to help him until the end.
There was no end in sight for Evan’s ordeal.
He is hungry.
Yet he can’t eat even a crust of bread, much less take a sip of water.
Paladin is living the life of a roadside beggar.
“The evil god over there is watching me all the time, so why aren’t you watching me?”
Evan continued to rant and rave.
All the frustration he had built up over the years exploded out of him at the Goddess.
There was no saving grace for him.
Evil gods move to protect their own, and the Goddess of Honor does not help even her loyal knights.
She will not save him.
She doesn’t even give him a piece of bread.
She simply leaves him in the cave, hoping that he will somehow use his own strength to escape.
The result is Evan.
A hungry, withered Evan, crying out to God through cracked lips.
“What’s so great about not being able to save a single soul, and all you do is watch from above!”
If only the goddess had helped him a little.
If only she had given him a little water to quench his thirst.
He would still be in this dark cave, but praying to the goddess.
Believing that one day, salvation would come.
But not once has the goddess turned her gaze upon him.
And not once has the Evil God turned away from him.
The closest thing Evan had was an evil god.
A celestial creature that breathes lightning and devours the innocent.
“I kept calling for you–!”
The voice cries out, but there is no answer.
But Evan called out to the goddess at the top of his lungs.
Evan’s eyes burned red as he gripped his sword.
At this moment, he felt abandoned by everything in the world.
All that remained was Evan.
An unending sense of loneliness threatened to rise up in his chest.
“What have I, what have I, what have I endured for……!”
– [Accept your fate.]
Evan’s head went cold at the sound of the Evil God’s voice calling to him.
What had he just said with his own words?
He had insulted God, blamed God, and denied his very foundation.
He who does not honor the goddess is no longer a paladin.
He was a man who wanted to die, as a paladin.
Realizing his situation, Evan released his grip on his sword.
“Goddess! How dare I doubt you!”
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
He slammed his forehead into the cave floor.
The light emanating from the sheathed sword grew dimmer than before.
Undeterred by the fading light, Evan continued to slam his head against the floor.
Blood trickled down from his forehead and down his cheeks.
“How dare I doubt you…….”
Despite his reddening vision, Evan continued to pray for forgiveness.
There is no salvation for those who doubt God.
All he could do now was ask for forgiveness from the Goddess who looked upon him.
His voice continued to echo through the cave as he called upon the goddess.
Despite the fact that he knew he would get no response, Evan never stopped calling out.
* * * * * * *
Somewhere along the way, Evan stopped counting time.
He merely stared at the sword in his hand.
Ever since he had doubted the Goddess, Evan’s light had diminished.
It could no longer illuminate the cave with the same intensity.
All that remained of Evan now was the sword, heavy in his hand.
The sound of the prayer that flowed from his mouth was no longer there.
Evan stared at his sword in silence.
It had seen him through countless battles, and now it was there, battered and broken.
Evan’s sword had always been with him.
Even if the Goddess of Honor abandoned him completely, the sword in his hand would be with him to the end.
Staring at the chipped blade, Evan grabbed it and stood up.
A heavy sigh escaped Evan’s lips.
Silence in the cave.
For countless hours, Evan contemplated his future.
What he should do.
What path was left for him to take.
And now, he had come to a conclusion.
“What a pathetic life.”
Evan held the sword to his throat.
This was the conclusion he’d come to after much thought.
There is no escaping the eyes of evil while alive.
If he was determined to die right, this was the only way to do it.
Evan smiled weakly and tried to channel his strength into the hand that held the sword.
“You look shabby.”
A languid girl’s voice echoed through the cave.
It was a voice that was all too familiar to Evan.
Euthenia Highlost, First Apostle.
An apostle of the Evil God had appeared before him.
Evan lowered his sword from his neck.
A divine glow radiated from the blade in his hand.
“Have you come to mock me?”
The sword in his hand radiated a faint glow.
It was a shadow of its former self.
No one could look at Evan now and not think of the Inquisitor.
Euthenia approached Evan with a leisurely stride.
“I don’t know, I’m not sure.”
Evan raised his sword to slash at Euthenia as she approached him.
The hand holding the sword felt heavier than before.
Yet, until Euthenia was directly in front of him, Evan’s sword never swung.
Evan stood frozen in place, and Euthenia’s hand moved toward him.
“Paladin, are you broken?”
Euthenia’s hand stroked Evan’s cheek.
As the cold touch passed over his cheek, Evan felt his grip on his sword loosen.
It wasn’t that it was bound by some sort of magic.
Evan’s body had simply ceased to move in fear of itself.
What was he afraid of now?
To shake off his own weakness, Evan recalled the spark of faith that remained within him.
He liked the smiles on people’s faces.
He liked the people in the temple who welcomed him.
So he decided to become a paladin.
He wanted to protect the smiling faces of the people with his own hands and spread the will of the gods across the continent.
During his time as a paladin, he saved countless lives.
Though no one praised him for his actions, he knew that the Goddess alone was watching over his good deeds.
My throat closes up and I can’t get the words out.
He had something to say, but couldn’t get the words out.
I am an Inquisitor belonging to the Temple of Honor.
He must always be holier than others, more devout than anyone else in the temple.
The moment his faith wavered, his true self, his worth as an Inquisitor was gone.
Still, Evan couldn’t talk himself out of anything.
He had already doubted his faith time and time again.
He had watched God turn away from him time and time again in the dark.
No one would believe him if he claimed to be virtuous.
Evan’s eyes met Euthenia’s in silence.
Before him was the apostle of an evil god.
He could kill her right now with a swing of his sword.
But the hand holding the sword did not move.
The light radiating from the blade continued to flicker, mocking his precarious state.
What could he do with this weak sword?
What he held now was nothing but an illusion.
An illusion of his past as a paladin of the Holy Land.
– [Accept your fate.]
Accept your fate.
A sob escaped Evan’s lips at the now familiar sound of the Evil God’s voice.
What could he mean by fate?
Evan’s grasp on the sword slowly began to loosen.
He had lived a glorious life.
But there was no glory at the end of this trail.
At the end of this long ordeal, he was no longer a paladin.
Nor am I an Inquisitor.
Instead, he was–.
“I am…… a weak human.”
The light of faith is extinguished, and the sword falls.
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