“It’s just… it’s simply mark, nothing more.”

A mark.

Evan’s eyes narrowed at Peter’s words.

He reached out and tugged on Peter’s arm.

He pulled up Peter’s sleeve to see the mark on his arm.

Panicked, Peter tried to shake off Evan’s hand, but he was no match for the man who had trained in martial arts all his life.

Evan rolled up Peter’s sleeves and looked at the black mark on his arm and gaped.

“This is…”

“Do you know this mark?”

“It’s the mark of a hero.”

Peter’s face hardened as he heard the words.

The mark of a hero.

Peter had spent his life far from the temple, but that didn’t mean he didn’t know the word hero.

Heroes were beings from the old stories his parents had told him.

They were strong warriors, each with a special weapon and exceptional fighting skills, who defeated evil creatures.

As Peter listened to the stories, his chest began to tighten.

Thump.
Thump.
Thump.
Thud.

His heart raced and he felt his mind go blank.

What he’d thought was a mark of evil was, in fact the mark of a hero.

Peter turned to Evan, wondering if he had misheard.

“A hero……? Is that true?”

“It is indeed the mark of a hero, and one chosen by the…..
Goddess of Honour.” (TL; Same god who never responded him.}

Peter’s hand began to tremble slightly at the conviction in Evan’s voice.

This was a paladin from the Holy Land.

Such an assurance could not be false.

If his words were true, this was a very dangerous situation for Peter.

The man before him was an apostle of an Evil God.

To him, a hero would be an eyesore.

“You know…”

Peter’s head spun furiously as he spoke.

He is a hero.

It wasn’t just Evan he was facing now who was a threat.

The Apostle Euthenia and Archbishop Roan.


If either of them found out about the mark, Peter’s life would be in danger.

To survive, he had to make sure no one in the church knew who Peter was.

“Is there something you want to say?”

“C-can you please keep it a secret from everyone that I have the mark……?”

Desperate, Peter’s choice was to plead with the apostle in front of him for help.

He doesn’t know why he made that choice.

All he could think of was to pretend that Evan didn’t know.

When Evan heard Peter’s story, he let out a hearty laugh.

He released his grip on Peter’s arm and turned to look at him.

“Is that what you want me to do?”

“Yes, yes… I don’t want to worry everyone because of one mark.”

“You’ve chosen the hard way, and it’s going to be a tough road ahead.”

“Yes.”

The Mark must be hidden among the many worshippers of the evil gods here.

Peter knew the risks.

The thought of bandaging it had even crossed his mind.

But Evan’s next words were more shocking than he could have imagined.

“If you’re going to hide it, hide it thoroughly.
From the members of the Church, and from the people of the Holy Land.”

“…”

“The Church and the Holy Land, for either will not leave you alone if they see the mark you bear.”

Not only the Church, but also the Six Temples of Crossbridge might try to kill Peter.

The warning left Peter puzzled.

A hero, along with the temples, was supposed to fight against evil.

At least that’s what the heroes of the old stories he knew were supposed to do.

But the words coming out of Evan’s mouth were warning him of an unexpected danger.

It went against everything he knew, and he asked Evan why.

“What does that mean… what are you talking about, why would anyone want to kill me in the Holy Land?”

“It’s not hard to change the hero if it’s early days for the Mark.
If you are the only survivor of a village that has been sacrificed, you are a danger to the Holy Land.”

“It’s possible to change the hero?”

“If the divine spirit has not yet been attributed, the hero will reappear, though it may take some time.”

It will take time, but the hero will reappear.

What this meant was simple.

It meant that if the people at the temple discovered his connection to the Church of Evil God, he would be killed.


Peter was already deeply entangled with the Church.

If the Holy Land learned of Peter’s past, it was only natural that they would try to eliminate him.

Peter’s hand clenched hard on the hero’s sigil as his head ached.

The damned symbol had made it impossible to even think about running away now.

“Of course, even if enough time passes, it would be best not to give away your identity.”

“……Yes.”

“Because if the temple does find out about your identity later, I intend to take matters into my own hands.”

Evan’s piercing gaze met Peter’s.

Though his mouth formed a cold smile, Evan’s eyes held a mixture of emotions.

Not killing Peter right now was a good thing.

But was the Apostle in front of him really someone he could call an ally?

Gulp.

Peter swallowed hard as he turned to face Evan.

Tapping Peter on the shoulder, Evan pushed past him, closer to the slope.

“You don’t seem to understand why I’m making these choices.”

“Well, it’s just that…”

“I was a paladin who served the Goddess of Honour.”

“Oh.”

Evan gazed out into the snowless night sky.

The bright moon shone in his eyes.

He stared into the dark night for a moment, then moved his gauntlets to form a strong fist.

His gauntlets echoed with the sound of metal against metal as he clenched his fist.

“Fleeing for my life, I was trapped in a small cave, calling out the name of the Goddess endlessly.”

“…Yes.”

“The gods never answer the call of mortals.
The only ones who care about the weak are the otherworldly gods who want to take over this world.”

An evil god looking down on their world.

The image of the massive presence that looked down on earth during rituals flashed through Peter’s mind.

There was always only one god he faced.

A being with gigantic eyes, greedy for earthly offerings.

And the one who sent Euthenia to devour Peter’s village.

It was something from another dimension, something no mere mortal would ever be able to defeat.

And yet the great gods, worshiped by all the continent’s peoples, had not stepped forward.

All they could do was carve a crude mark on Peter’s arm.


“Even if it was a paladin, no answer came from the goddess.”

Grind.

The sound of grinding teeth echoed around him.

In contrast to the calm voice, the look in his eyes was one of malice.

Facing the sky, Evan raised his gauntleted hand into the air.

It looked like he was grasping for something.

Reaching for the sky, Evan called out the name of the Divine Artifact in a strong voice.

” –Astrape.”

The moment Evan utters the name.

A blue flash began to spread out from Evan’s grasp.

Krik-! Krik-!

Sparks burst from the metal in his hand, gradually increasing in size.

Over time, the spark in Evan’s hand took on the shape of a giant spear.

A glow strong enough to illuminate the surroundings.

Carrying the heavy spear of thunder, Evan angled it and pointed it at the sky.

“Those who do not look down, have no right to reign above.”

As if in response to his words, the thunderbolt in Evan’s hand quivered.

With that, he threw it up into the air.

Whoosh!

The spear of lightning that flew out of Evan’s hand pierced through the clouds in the sky.

At the same time as the blue trajectory pierced the clouds, the clouds pierced by the thunderbolt began to shoot out lightning.

Boom! Crackle!

The thunderclouds in the sky rained down thunderbolts towards the ground.

Peter’s jaw dropped as he watched the lightning strike the ground.

As the rain of lightning continued, thunder rumbled in Peter’s ears.

“…”

The air shuddered.

And a torrential downpour of lightning below.

At the sight before him, Peter understood what Evan was trying to say.

It was a warning.

A warning from Evan, the apostle of an evil god, to Peter, the man who bore the marks of a hero, and the goddess.

The lightning bolts that filled his vision were not an attack that a human body could withstand.


The moment Peter escaped the Church’s line of sight completely, Evan’s attack from earlier in the day would come flying at him.

“Do you understand what I’m thinking now?”

“……I feel like I understand a little bit.”

“Good.
I’m going to take them down with my own hands.”

A declaration of war to the heavens.

With a declaration of supremacy, Evan stretched his gauntleted hand into the air.

Crackle.

A blue thunderbolt burst from the gauntlet.

Staring at the gauntlet, bathed in light, Peter turned to Evan.

“Is that really… possible?”

“You don’t think it’s possible?”

“I mean…”

“I rolled in the mud and crawled on the floor.
Drinking muddy water and holding my stomach in pain, yet never once did I stop calling out the name of God.”

Evan’s shabby appearance resurfaced in Peter’s mind.

Evan’s appearance when he was led by Euthenia was so different from the first time.

Gone was the proud paladin of the first day, and in his place was a raggedy man, worn down by hunger and thirst.

With such hardships in his time, it was understandable why Evan was so broken.

“‘I gripped my sword and prayed,’ he said, ‘and I tried to keep myself together, even though I was constantly doubting my faith.

“…”

“If not today, then tomorrow.
If not tomorrow, then the next.
I believed that one day, salvation would come.”

Still, the paladin’s hopes were crushed.

For it was not the goddess he worshiped who reached him, but an otherworldly malevolence that had been watching him.

Crushed.
Broken.

He fell through the abyss, crushed by the darkness.

His faith crumbled, and what emerged from the other side was a human malice that knew no bounds.

“And yet, to think that the only thing that came back was this joke-!”

Evan’s red, bloodshot eyes glared at Peter.

He was smiling, a smile that didn’t match his previous stern demeanor.

A twisted smile that felt out of place.

With that smile, Evan turned to the being who had marked Peter and declared.

“Now it’s time to pay for that long leap of faith.”

Boom!

A bolt of blue lightning landed behind Evan’s shoulder as he stared at Peter.

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