Ch.17 Looking for Isabelle
The two men traveled by day and trained fiercely at night, arriving at Lea Marquisate exactly fifteen days later.
The only thing that awaited them, however, were shocking news.
“What did you say? Isabelle already left, two days ago?”
An old servant with a goatee was sweating fiercely with an uncomfortable expression. He was one of the butlers of the Lea Marquisate.
“Yes, sir. Two days ago, the lady left the Marquisate under guard by the holy knights of the church of Flora.”
“Did they mention where they were headed?”
“I apologize, but I do not know.”
Luke bit his lips. He had rode his horse here mindlessly, only to find that everything had been useless.
‘Looking at the situation, this was planned.’
It was also out of order for a seemingly low ranking official, a butler, to greet Luke on his arrival.
“I wish to see the lord of Lea Marquisate.”
“I apologize, but the lord has gone out on a patrol around the territory.”
“When will he return?”
“It will take fifteen days at the fastest.”
Luke rubbed the back of his neck in frustration. How could he possibly find Isabelle now that the holy knights of the church had taken her? Luke gripped his fists tightly.
‘The bastards would have taken her to the main temple in the capital. No doubt about it.’
Luke made up his mind to look through every road leading from the Marquisate to the capital to find Isabelle. The butler looked at Luke carefully and remarked.
“Since the engagement has been called off, your knighthood in our House has been cancelled as well. The lord has entrusted me with the written contract to give to you.”
Luke silently accepted the contract. The contents of the contract included permitting his marriage to Isabelle provided his swearing fealty as a knight to the Lea Marquisate.
“All right. I have no more business here, so I will be on my way.”
“Please be careful on your long journey.”
Luke walked out of the lord’s hall of Lea Marquisate with a stiff expression. Kurotan, who had been waiting with the horses, greeted him.
“How did it go?”
Luke slowly shook his head and took the reins of his horse from Kurotan. He took a couple of steps before stopping. He had discovered a familiar face approaching him.
The man, clearly a knight, seemed to be in his thirties, with a kind face.
It was Isabelle’s brother, Robel.
“It has been a long time.”
Luke bowed his head stiffly, and Robel frowned with sympathy.
“I’m sorry that you came all this way for nothing.”
“It’s all right. Then, I am busy so…”
“Wait a second.”
Robel looked around to make sure no one was around before lowering his voice.
“Are you planning on chasing after Isabelle instead of returning to your House?”
Luke’s face turned serious.
“Yes but… Do you happen to know which way Isabelle was headed?”
“Of course. I escorted the party until the edge of our territory.”
“Can you… tell me where?”
“The child is headed for the Tranbel Kingdom. The church of Flora is planning on raising her into a Saintess in the main temple of Tranbel’s capital.”
‘It seems the church wants to avoid any possible conflicts with our House, and sent Isabelle to another Kingdom.’
The House of Esteban was counted amongst the most powerful of Houses in the Kingdom of Hansel, and would be a force to reckon with even for the church of Flora.
“I am sorry about the whole ordeal. Even I cannot agree with my father on this matter.”
“This is the way it is with our House, so I can only ask for your understanding.”
“Not at all… Thank you for telling me Isabelle’s destination.”
“It is not a problem.”
Robel shook his head with a bitter expression.
“Isabelle talked a lot about you. Thank you for making her happy until now.”
“No, sir. I was the one who was happy to be with her.”
“Even if you catch up to their party, it will be difficult to see Isabelle. The church of Flora sent thirty holy knights to escort her.”
Luke’s expression darkened at hearing that the church had sent a force of thirty holy knights. He had hoped that the escorting party was small enough for him to take out and safely escape with Isabelle.
“Then I will be on my way. I will not forget your kindness today.”
“Kindness? Please, just be careful. I wish you luck.”
Luke saluted once more and turned around. Robel’s sympathetic eyes fell on Luke’s back.
‘Poor Isabelle, I had hoped for at least you to be happy… This is the only thing your brother can do for you…’
Robel shook his head once more with a bitter expression and walked away as well.
An impressive procession traveled one of the streets leading to Tranbel kingdom. Eight horses pulled a large carriage that was surrounded by dozens of holy knights, dressed in pure white.
“Pick up the pace. We must cross the boundary between kingdoms this morning in order to arrive at Amien Monastery, where we can rest.”
The Captain stroked his beard as he ordered the rest of the party to speed up. The rest of the holy knights handled their horses extremely well, and was able to pick up the pace while remaining in a formation around the carriage.
Priests rode on the carriage, with the image of an ear of wheat sewn into the breast of their robes. The ear of wheat symbolized their Goddess of earth, Flora.
Unlike the priests, however, a single woman in the carriage wore a pure white robe.
The women looked on with empty eyes. Her name was Isabelle. Her eyes trembled slightly.
‘I was unable to see Luke, in the end.’
Her eyes reddened, and a single teardrop rolled down her face. A strict looking old man sitting across the carriage saw and began to open his mouth. It was an Archbishop named Aznan, in command of the mission to secure the possible future Saintess.
“Suffering from a lost affection passes in the blink of an eye.”
“When our Goddess Flora takes you into her arms at the main temple, your suffering will disappear completely without a trace.”
When Isabelle turned to look at archbishop Aznan, it was not with kind eyes.
“Words are easy to say, Archbishop Aznan.”
“The opportunity to be taken into the arms of the Goddess does not come to everyone. You must consider yourself as blessed for having such a talent and affinity towards holy power.”
Isabelle was unable to contain herself and spat back.
“Oh is that so? Unfortunately, I consider it a curse, not a blessing.”
Archbishop Aznan’s eyes turned terrible even before she finished her sentence.
“I will warn you now to watch your tongue. You are to become a Saintess, worshipping the great Goddess Flora.”
“Don’t forget that your actions represent the honor of Lea Marquisate.”
Isabelle shut her lips silently. She was not brave enough to rebuke him when he talked of her House’s honor. Archbishop Aznan snorted coldly when he saw Isabelle return her gaze to the window of the carriage.
‘Stupid young fools that don’t know their place…’
Two holy knights also rode inside the carriage in case of unforeseen complications. Archbishop Aznan opened his mouth to address one of them.
“Has there been anything out of the ordinary?”
The helmeted holy knight shook his head.
“There have been no such signs so far.”
“Hm… I hope it remains that way until we reach the main temple.
Archbishop Aznan frowned with worry. His worry was not without reason.
Five years ago, there had been an incident he had been responsible for. It had been in the name of the Goddess, Flora, and for her honor, but something he should not have done as a priest.
Five years ago, he had caught wind of rumors, speaking of a woman talented in holy power about to enter a rival church.
“We must absolutely take her in to the church of Flora.”
Archbishop Aznan had immediately held a meeting with the leaders of the church. The conclusion reached by the end of the meeting was to employ violence to kidnap the woman. If the woman received a baptism at the main temple of Flora, she could be made into a Saintess of Flora.
“The church in question is not very powerful, there will not be any repercussions.”
Archbishop Aznan had taken twenty holy knights provided by the church of Flora and committed the crime. They had massacred the four holy knights of the opposing church and kidnapped the woman.
Unfortunately, a problem rose after the kidnapping. The woman absolutely refused to become a priest of the church of Flora.
“Even if I die, it will not happen.”
They had tried to coax and threaten her, but the woman did not budge. In order to keep the secret from leaking out, Archbishop Aznan had no choice but to kill her. There had been no other way, since the woman had been so adamant.
Archbishop Aznan smiled bitterly at his memories.
‘I should not have even started it.’
It was an incident that had already passed. And now, Archbishop Aznan was placed in the opposite side of the situation five years ago.
‘We have thirty holy knights, nothing will go wrong.’
He glanced at Isabelle before biting his lips. He absolutely had to take her safely to the main temple of Flora located in the capital of Tranbel kingdom.
The holy knight in the carriage had been conversing with a fellow knight who rode outside, and turned to the Archbishop.
“We will reach the border soon.”
“Hm, we should reach Amien Monastery by evening.”
Archbishop Aznan’s expression softened. There would not be a problem crossing the border.
It helped that Hansel and Tranbel kingdoms were currently allied with each other, but no one would stop a party of thirty holy knights, especially of the church of Flora.
It was as he had expected, and the procession crossed the border without the soldiers guarding the border stopping them. But there was one thing that the party missed. That there were a pair of eyes studying them from far away.