Metal shards splattered all around with an exploding sound.
Gregory, who lost his sword and armor, lost his balance and fell to the ground.
That was the first blow he had ever experienced in his life.
In the middle of the fight, there was a result that came from a combination of power and magic enhanced swords and Luke’s swordsmanship.
However, Luke didn’t seem to be glad. Gregory, who had fallen down, soon began to stand up.
“Since the day I became a Sword Sage, this was the first time I have fallen to the ground.”
Gregory spoke through his teeth. He took a broken branch nearby.
Injecting the wobbly branch with Hyper Aura, he made a powerful weapon. A weapon that couldn’t be compared to others.
‘You have taken a beating, yet you are still going to fight?’
Luke bit his lips while holding onto Dragon Tooth.
It was the best attack Luke could manage to perform, but still, he wasn’t able to defeat his opponent.
‘I can’t let this keep going, but…’
Dark magic and demon abilities might have to be used.
Of course, even if Luke did manage to use both of those skills, it still wasn’t definite that he could beat a Sword Sage—Arch Duke Gregory.
Even though the power of darkness was much greater, it was completely opposite to divine power.
‘Even then, I can’t keep on hesitating anymore.’
The opponent was already determined to kill him. Therefore, he had to do everything he could to survive.
Luke decided to use his build-up ability to recover from the injuries that he got and release his potential.
However, he stopped upon seeing the person in front of Gregory.
Reina, who had been silent in the entirety of the battle, stood in front of Gregory.
“Stop it now.”
Reina’s voice, which halted his steps, was enough to make Gregory tremble. It wasn’t just that, his heart was beating hard.
Nevertheless, he had no intention of retreating. The gleaming eyes of Gregory looked away from Reina’s face.
“The test, which was placed for me, isn’t over yet.”
“No, it is already over,” said Reina.
“No, it isn’t like that, not till I change that impure mind of…”
“Are you not going to follow the words of the pope?!”
At the horrific expression of Reina, Gregory withdrew.
Surely he was a Sword Sage and a paladin, but he couldn’t just break the shackles of authority that bound himself.
“I would never do that, Your Holiness. It is just that…” Gregory tried to reason with Reina.
“I know Sir Luke very well. Sir Luke is a man who doesn’t harbor great faith like you, Arch Duke. Which is why he sometimes makes irrational decisions without thinking things through.”
“But he is a man who knows the difference between right and wrong. He admits to the flaws that he has and tries to take responsibility for them.”
Reina was still standing face to face with Gregory, who still wasn’t pleased with her words.
“I’ll ask you, Arch Duke. Would you ever be able to give up your faith for the sake of others? Can you use the stigma of the unbelievers just to save millions of people?”
“Pope, Your Holiness, that…”
Gregory shook his head, stating it was impossible for him.
Faith was everything for him. His ability as a Sword Sage and his loyalty to the pope had all come from his virtues—faith and loyalty.
And to throw away those things?! Could he really go hand in hand with the stigma?!
“Luke had lost all his power and was in need. He lost the pride of being a descendant of a famous warrior. That pride was as precious as your faith to the pope.”
Reina bent down and grabbed a handful of dirt from the ground.
The dirt and soil in her hand were full of earthworms, but she didn’t seem to care.
As Reina blew lightly into the dirt in her hand, a flower bloomed and lit up.
Gregory’s eyes turned serious when he saw the miracle happen right in front of his eyes.
“Life can sprout even in the little things that one considers as dirty and unclean. That sprouting life could be someone’s nourishment, and the one who inherits it, grows old, dies, rots and returns back into a handful of soil and dirt,” Reina explained in detail.
“What is dirty? What is unclean, and what is impure? Why do you think our great Lord and mother earth created them?”
At the question from Reina, Gregory’s eyes went wide.
A long time ago, around 100 years ago, he heard the same question that she asked.
Gregory was a student of theology in the academy. He wasn’t yet sure if he wanted to be a priest or a paladin.
But even then, he had the same faith that he had currently.
He used to get up earlier than anyone to pray. He used to go to work in the field earlier than anyone else. He practiced martial arts harder than anyone else.
There was no one in the class who could keep up with Gregory’s pace.
In particular, Gregory was sharing his dorm room with an inferior student, who had a hard time memorizing the scriptures.
Gregory didn’t notice it because of his faith. Since the man wasn’t skillful enough, Gregory thought that it was natural for him to find it hard.
But one day, Gregory was called by his teacher.
He thought that he was going to be commended for his dedication, but the expression the teacher held was serious.
“What is the most righteous thing for you? Don’t you think you should help motivate the person you share your room with?”
“I believe that faith and loyalty is something that you need to work hard for to see yourself grow. It is something you can develop with or without help.”
The teacher looked at Gregory. The teacher sighed briefly and said, “You’re going to be better than anyone else, but you’re never going to be a Saint.”
At that time, Gregory regarded his teacher’s words as insignificant. It was because not just anyone could become a Saint.
Since then, he had lived for over 100 years, and he never even thought about his teacher’s words.
… Until the moment he heard Reina’s question.
“Holy Pope, I lived up to this very day, serving only God, working for the denomination and this empire.”
Gregory spoke softer than before and looked at Reina, “I am so stubborn and dull that the words of the pope didn’t reach the deepest part of my heart. However, I will try to understand people more in the future.”
At that, Reina smiled and Luke just sighed.
The stubborn Sword Sage’s test was done.
However, Luke couldn’t calm down. The eyes of Arch Duke Gregory were still unsatisfied with him.
‘They are like the eyes of a father-in-law that doesn’t like the man his daughter wants.’
For the time being, things had gone well, but Luke couldn’t help but worry about how much of a hard time he was going to face in the future.