The Emperor held absolute power over the templars and was their heart. If the source of their divinity lay in a crystal within the Imperial Palace, it is something only the Emperor and his heir had access to.
“Yes. It’s as natural as the sun in the sky.”
That was because divinity was a result of the contract the First Emperor made with the Lord of the Gods.
[To become a templar, you’ll need a ‘qualification’. That can only be obtained from the Imperial palace.]
Therefore, any templar is able to borrow the power of their respective gods as much as they fully can only after obtaining permission from the Emperor. Because the Emperor was considered the representative of the Lord of the Gods.
[Because of their instincts, a templar cannot directly harm a member of the Imperial Family. Because their heart will hurt.]
The Emperor who had the powers of the Lord of the Gods had full control. In other words, he had the ability to incapacitate individual templars.
However, the ability to control all of the templars’ powers alone was not the only thing the Emperor needed to lead the Empire. Hence, there was also a limit to the Emperor’s political authority.
One of the reasons why the ‘Emperor of the Sun’ from a few generations ago implemented a policy limiting templars to only men was also because he was too powerful which resulted in the powers of individual templars becoming stronger as well.
Putting aside the reason why they targeted women in particular which ultimately resulted in the oppression of women, it was a decision the officials made in fear that his political power would become too strong to keep in check.
It was said that there have been attempts to drive the Emperor out of politics to be used as a mere battery to strengthen the divinity of templars.
[His Majesty is very weak. To the extent he’s called the weakest Emperor in history.]
According to Penne, a weak Emperor was unable to guarantee nor protect the abundance of his Empire.
With the exception of the First Emperor, the ‘Emperor of the Sun’ was the most powerful Emperor in history so even if he was crazy enough to limit templars to be only men, he was still able to maintain peace because he was that powerful. But the same could not be said about the current Emperor.
The weakest in Imperial history.
When the Emperor’s power gets relatively weaker, the Imperial court would force those with little divinity to awaken as well.
I knew that the number of templars had been increasing rapidly through force, both through ethical and unethical means, so that our Empire’s power would not weaken.
However, since that was an extremely flawed strategy, the throne had always been passed to the candidate with the strongest divinity. That was how Castor was able to maintain his position in the damn palace.
‘It’s a simple calculation.’
In the Empire, an official templar was someone who had something like a ‘Templar’s License’. Like the maid from the laundry place, someone with merely divinity but no license could not be considered a templar. She could only be considered a candidate.
“Hernan, is it true that the more templars the Empire has, the stronger it is?”
“I don’t know why you’re asking me this but yes. That’s correct.”
In short, when the Emperor is weak, the number of templars must be increased to make up for the lack of divinity or to make the Empire stronger than it was before. So, since the current Emperor is very weak, he needed a lot more templars. That was how the Empire could keep itself alive.
But the Empire was currently abandoning their ‘female’ templar candidates.
“I’m only asking because I’m curious. Since this is the nation I’ll be living in in the future.”
That was not taught to me during Theology classes. I could not even think about asking such questions because I was so busy with my own survival.
Theology was similar to mathematics or physics. Formulas could be taught but practical applications of the said formulas needed to be shown so that I knew how to use them. I did not know all this because I had been stuck in one part of the palace in the Empire. I only noticed it once I started facing reality.
The current Emperor had been reigning for 60 years now. The Empire has been led by its weakest Emperor in its history with all his power. However, even with this urgent need for templars, women still could not be templars.
Was I the only one who thought that was strange?
Even after excluding half the population with divinity, the Empire was still running fine without problems.
The sun was going down.
In the darkening streets, lanterns were being hung. Even street vendors were hanging lights in between their stalls before it got completely dark.
‘Why hasn’t Meta come to find me yet?’
I was having a lot of fun sightseeing but I had not forgotten about Meta.
‘I thought he had the ability to track me down so he could find me easily…”
It would be reasonable to assume that something had happened to Meta.
He was in trouble.
“I heard that the night market held in the square is spectacular.”
“Is that so?”
“Would you like to see it?”
I shook my head.
“I won’t be able to today. Next time, can we see the night market next time we meet?”
Even though I was wearing the most comfortable shoes I had, my feet could not endure the exhaustion any longer and were screaming. Fortunately, the vial Amor gave me transformed me so well that I did not face any mishaps involving the sudden revelation of my true appearance. Under the dim light, my forehead was soaked in sweat.
“Are you busy?”
“Yes. I have someone waiting for me.”
I was a little disappointed but I did not want to gamble on how long this drug might last.
“Do you have a prior engagement?”
“Yes. I’ll be meeting another man for the evening.”
I did not think he was going to press me for any further answers. Just when I thought I could turn around.
“Then, are you free tomorrow?”
I spun around.
Could he not tell I had flat out refused him? I had given him a quick goodbye. I was about to refuse him.
“Eup, uh. W-where are you going?”
I ran after him. He was too fast! I had no choice but to hold onto his hand so that I would not fall. I had definitely been walking faster than usual but after some point, I started running.
Where the hell were we going? I was out of breath. His hand pulled me as he led the way while I prayed that I would not step on something by mistake and trip.
A narrow alley. He embraced me from behind before blocking my mouth. I was out of breath so I was made more frustrated by him covering my mouth. His body temperature that clung onto my back felt strangely real and created tension in the air.
“… We’re running again.”
He grabbed my wrist before leading me away. I only finally looked back after we passed through a door to a store that was left wide open. And then, I was left astonished.
An unknown crowd of people was chasing us and they looked like a monster. This chase scene was very unrealistic. The exciting festival could be seen from a distance behind the strange shapes chasing us. After passing through a few narrow valleys, the fun and colourful world could be seen just past them.
“You don’t have to know.”
He stopped at a crevice within a narrow wall in a residential area where all the lights had been turned on. At the thought that we were finally stopping, I was panting my heart out. Hernan’s hand wrapped tightly around my wrist.
“From now on, I’ll be hiding us.”
My body overlapped his. Hernan’s face was clearly visible under the sunset. He was not looking at me but at the main road.
“I’m asking for your pardon.”
Hernan pulled me. I was not surprised anymore when a large hand wound around the back of my head.
I tried not to breathe too heavily but I was worried because I was short of breath. The chest my cheeks were placed flat against was pounding.
“Shush. Take a deep breath.”
Soon, the grip around my shoulders got tighter. I wanted to ask him how many breaths I should take.
An unfamiliar voice rang in the alley.
“Where are they?”
“They’re gone! It’s a beast! I’m sure of it. That man’s a beast!”
“I heard he was with a woman!”
I shifted my gaze as I remained in his arms. The creatures were neither animals or humans but instead strangely shaped creatures in lab coats.
The monstrous creature was pale in colour and was moving strangely like gelatin. And the ones commanding them seemed to be the ones in gray suits. The crown of thorns on their heads were clearly visible.
“It looks like the Templar of Animals noticed something.”
The man wearing the suit appeared before us. We were both stuck together and held our breaths in this narrow alley.
“Let’s use tracking magic.”
“Alright. Hurry and find them!”
They looked at each other but they could not spot us when we were just five steps away before running off in a different direction.
When the last man chasing after us disappeared, the alley was quiet again. The arm wrapped around me then came loose. Did that mean I could be relieved now? Then, the anxiousness I had while running hit me all at once.
“Ha… That was crazy.”
As I leaned on him, I let out a long breath before my legs collapsed beneath me like a deflated balloon. A large hand reached out to grab me as I was falling.
“You can’t fall down just yet.”
“You’re pretty weak.”
What could I do about the body of this weak princess who collapses after sprinting for 3 minutes? This body was as useful as a booger.
“… You’re too much. I’m the weakest when it comes to exercising and stuff like that.”
“I can tell.”
“… If you could, then you shouldn’t have brought me here.”
At this point, almost my entire weight was on him as I relaxed.
“Look here. I ran till even my soles are sweating because you asked me to. Tell me since I’ve gone this far for you. I need to know why I ran so hard without any explanation.”
My hair felt like steamed laundry.
I had been curious about him for a long time.
“Who are you?”
Coming up with the words was a struggle when I was already leaning my forehead against him.
“Tell me. Why did you drag me here?”
What was he? Why did he have so many secrets? And why was he showing me parts of him that were unfamiliar to me?
“You’d better catch your breath first.”
I removed my forehead from him and slowly raised my head.
“You didn’t answer my question.”
Hernan grabbed me when I was collapsing again because I was weak and placed his arm around my waist.
“Damn. I saved you but you’re asking me to give you all my baggage?”
From up close, his eyes were darker than his usual sky blue.
“Don’t answer my questions with more questions.”
He smiled insincerely.
“That’s what someone I know always says.”
I stared at him without replying.
“You’re a lot like her. I’m talking about you.”
Why was it so dark here when the sun had not completely set yet?
“It’s not difficult for me to tell. But.”
In this alley, only Hernan and I remained. At that moment, Hernan’s expression looked unfamiliar and disturbing.
“Are you confident that you won’t run away if you hear the truth?”
His voice lowered as if he was trying to seduce me.
“… Yes. Please tell me.”
“I was trying to kidnap you and use you as bait.”
After the brief silence, the pain in my throat finally subsided. By the time I parted my lips, I heard a faint roar.
“So there was a reason behind your kindness.”
“You don’t seem surprised.”
He smiled whilst gently curling his eyes.
I was not shocked at all. Oddly enough.
“I don’t know if this would sound funny but I thought it was strange. It was suspicious how you were so nice to me.”
He kept raising my suspicions. Of course, I did not completely trust him while he led me through the capital.
But it was strange. Why did it feel like I was staring at a faded jewel? Was he disappointed that I did not like any of the shiny jewels?