Release that Witch Chapter 893
Two weeks later when summer was already nearing its end, Roland finally arrived at Hermes.
??He was welcomed at the gates of the Holy City by the witches and the First Army garrison from the Northern Region. He also spotted several nuns in black church clothing amongst the group of people.
??Although Roland had heard from Lightning that all the top-level figures of the church had disappeared, he still couldn't believe what had happened as he entered this now empty stronghold. The fierce battle that he thought awaited them did not come. Neither the God's Punishment Witches nor the new mortars had to be used. There was no doubt that things couldn't have gone any better, but this turn of events just felt somewhat anticlimactic for Roland.
??He had made a right decision in letting Isabella come along with the First Army to this expedition. According to the reports from Eagle Face and Agatha, the former Pure Witch was quickly alerted to the strange happenings within the Church and promptly suggested the army to investigate the Holy City of Hermes right after they finished taking care of the orphans in the cloisters.
??To their surprise, the entire city was empty except for the people who lived in the surrounding areas. They didn't get to leave in time, thus creating a facade that the church was still under operations. In reality, those people had no idea about what was really happening in the inner city, and all they heard was that the church was preparing for the last battle.
??After that, the nuns, organized by Isabella, entered Hermes and visited as many houses as possible to explain the situation. As a result, the number of evacuees started to decrease, and at least no more large groups of people were spotted fleeing towards Wolfheart and Everwinter. The church abandoning the Holy City was such a shocking turn of events for the people, and it had utterly ruined the church's reputation. Compared to those cowards who ran at the first sign of danger, the nuns who came out and tried to restore order seemed more like the real successors of the old church.
??"How did they escape?" Roland could not help asking. The message he had received did not include many details, so Roland wanted to know where the remnants of the church had gone. "There ought to be thousands of people in the Inner City. How could they have managed to leave the plateau without passing through the city wall?"
??"There are many tunnels under Hermes, some of which go under the city wall. If they evacuated in batches, it would have been possible for them to escape without alerting the residents in the outer city." Isabella explained. "The tunnels were designed to work only one-way so that intruders wouldn't be able 't take advantage of it. Moreover, the tunnels can only be used once. I've checked a lot of tunnel entrances, and most of them were already destroyed."
??"Where do the tunnels lead to?"
??"Only people who have used them would know," Isabella said as she shook her head. "If they had planned the escape beforehand, it would be near impossible to track them now that they already had six weeks to run."
??"So the church is like a cornered lizard, cutting off its tail to escape, and hoping for a chance to come back in the future?" Roland frowned as he pondered over this. "But giving up the Holy City meant that they abandoned their base of operations, which is far worse than just losing a tail, as this was as good as them losing everything. How could they be so confident that they would be able to find a new base that can rival Graycastle? Or are they going to scatter into different places and harass my land?" Thinking about how he had to keep an eye out for fanatical believers in the coming years gave Roland a headache.
??"No need to worry, Your Majesty. They won't come back anymore," Isabella smiled, as she read Roland's mind.
??"Why?" Roland was surprised.
??Isabella replied, "They left behind a messenger."
??In a small church on the north side of the Holy City, Roland met the messenger that Isabella mentioned.
??He was a grizzled old man in a brand new red priest robe hemmed with gold. Seized by two guards, he walked out with a thick book held in his arms.
??The old man hobbled towards them unsteadily, but he kept his chin up as he tried to strike an imposing figure. He cast a cold glance at Isabella and then looked at Roland. "Are you the King of Graycastle, Roland Wimbledon?"
??"Yes, that is I."
??"You have your father's grey hair and grey eyes," the old man said slowly. "My name is Jacob, the High Priest of the Holy City. In your terms, my position would be similar to that of a duke. ... But of course, I don't own any land, nor do I need that many servants."
??"I heard that you've insisted on waiting for me here?" Roland shrugged. "What happened? Why didn't they take you with them when they turned tail?"
??"I wanted to stay." the old man said solemnly as if these were his last words. "I'm too old to run... Even if I could go with them, there won't be much time left for me. I'd rather be buried in this city than start a new but short life."
??"New life?" Roland quickly seized the keywords.
??"Yes. Let go all of all of our duties and live a new and peaceful life for the rest of our days." Jacob's voice sounded satirical. "You've won, Your Majesty. The church won't be fighting against you anymore. This city will become yours with everything intact, and so will our nightmares. if you so desire."
??"Oh?" Roland said noncommittally.
??"What other reasons do you think that made us guard this barren plateau?" The old man's voice rose. "Look what you've done. Humans are going to perish because of you!"
??"Really? What a harsh accusation. However, I don't see why I have to bear it." Roland said as he roughly understood the High Priest's intention. Surely enough, the church would not let him take the city so easily, and even though they did not have the force to fight back, they would try to obstruct him mentally. Zero had tried the same trick before the final battle between them, although their intentions were different. If Roland knew nothing about the Battle of Divine Will, then the news about how the demons would soon annihilate humankind would have definitely taken him by surprise. Additionally, if the church manipulated the truth and made it seem like he was at fault for mankind's imminent destruction, then they would have succeeded in breaking his will."
??"Accusation? Sigh... what gibberish. Do I look like I'm kidding? O, young and untested King, it appears that Her Holiness, the Pure Witch didn't tell you the truth." Jacob gave Isabella a meaningful look before he continued. "The church was laden with a heavy responsibility that is beyond imagination and is unknown to all but a few superiors of the church. You have no idea what kind of enemy we've been preparing to fight over the past few centuries. Now that you've ruined the church, like it or not, you must take full responsibility for what is going to happen. When the end comes for us all, you will only be able to helplessly watch on as your kingdom get razed to the ground!"
??"It seems that this man is not only attempting to attack me mentally but is also trying to take any opportunities to alienate me from Isabella. It's a shame that he has misjudged me and sent the wrong signals." As Roland looked at the self-righteous old priest, an old quote came to mind: All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.
??"You don't have to believe me, but a truth is a truth." As the priest said this, another sentence emerged in Roland's head: People die if they are killed. Jacob let out a long breath after he finished those words. He then flipped open the book in his hands and handed it over, saying, "This is the Canon of the church. You'll understand all the foolish things you've done after you read it! Our... no, I should say the human beings' real enemy is—"
??"The demons, right?" Roland chipped in casually. "You built the Holy City here not to fight against the demonic beasts, but for the God's Stone mines in the mountain. There's a Pivotal Secret Area under the cathedral, where you mined the God's Stones and made the God's Punishment Army, and that's the true form of the church. Of course, I don't know if you've learned this information, for only the pope was entitled to know of the incarnation ceremony of the God's Punishment Army. Oh, were you going to tell me the Battle of Divine Will or the Divine Smile? The battle that occurs every 400 or so is no news to me. Furthermore, the demons are not some invisible ghosts either. In fact, I've fought against them before. So... what else do you want me to know?"
??"You—I—" At the moment, Jacob was so shocked that he opened his mouth, stammered, yet failed to make out any words. He looked like he would pass out at any moment. After a while, he pointed his shaking finger at Isabella and said, "It's you..."
??But Isabella shook her head softly. "I didn't tell him that," she said, "From the very beginning, he knew much more than we had expected. You have underestimated him, or more like, we all did."
??"Now that you've finished your story, let me tell you mine," Roland said, giving a cold laugh.