12 years ago, Asmophel condemned Piaro and his loyalists as traitors. The fallen hero. Yes, after Piaro's betrayal, Asmophel was no longer a hero. After destroying his most precious friend Piaro, his fellow men, and their families with his own hands, he isolated himself in a mansion for many years, sinking into drugs and alcohol. It seemed like a ritual. A ritual to call death.
"...One day, you suddenly disappeared."
He might be ruined, but a splendid swordsman was still abducted. Did he do this? Mercedes was aware of Asmophel's ability despite his inaction and wasn't convinced. Therefore, she had only one guess.
"I thought it was a self-fabricated act."
The old hero Asmophel appeared in a pillar of light. Like the old days, he smiled at Mercedes with a noble and beautiful appearance.
"I thought that you wanted to turn away from a hellish life and left the empire to escape from the protection of the Red Knights."
She was sad. The knight who died for himself, not for his master, was no longer a knight. Mercedes felt sorrow that the hero who had been an idol like Piaro had transformed into a symbol of shame and corruption.
"Yes. I thought you were already dead."
"You're alive. And you're by the traitor Piaro's side." Mercedes gripped her two swords with great strength. Blood was flowing down her hands as she started to tremble. "You were once a hero, yet you betrayed your country and your emperor to be with your friend?"
The key to resolving the misunderstanding just made things worse. But Grid wasn't worried. He knew that Asmophel would release the misconceptions as soon as he spoke.
"Mercedes, there are a few things to keep in mind."
After responding to Grid's call, the silent Asmophel finally opened his mouth.
"The first one. The Red Knights didn't protect me, they watched me. You know the Fourth Knight, right?"
The Fourth Knight was different from the other Red Knights. It wasn't a position appointed by the emperor but one handed down.
"The Fourth Knight, a position designed to protect the Red Knights, became corrupted. It's my guess that the Fourth Knight is closely related to the Yatan Church. Dive, the one closest to Marie, was a black magician... In fact, he was Yatan's Seventh Servant and the subordinate of the Fourth Knight. The Red Knights who watched under the pretext of protection were the Fourth Knight's men."
It was an unbelievable story. The problem was that he claimed the person closest to the empress was a Yatan Servant. Didn't this mean that Empress Marie was related to the evil Yatan Church? Mercedes and the Red Knights didn't believe Asmophel.
"The empress can't be just anyone. The imperial family thoroughly investigated their origins and only welcome the cleanest women. How can the empress be related to the Yatan Church?"
"At first she was a clean girl. But the empress could no longer be clean the moment she was filled with the ambition to place her son on the throne. She held hands with the evil forces that serve the great demons. Humans are weak creatures to temptation." Asmophel's expression was exhausted. "I'm also a weak creature of temptation."
"I fell for Marie's beauty. I had a relationship with her."
Asmophel didn't use the excuse that his mental state had been weakened by the Yatan essence and that he was brainwashed. It was because of his feelings of inferiority toward Piaro that there was a gap in his mind for Yatan's essence to affect. It was his own fault in the first place.
"That's right. I had lost the qualification to be a knight from the beginning. I betrayed my country and the emperor. Piaro was purely a victim."
Asmophel's heart was shattered and his soul filled with shame every time he reminded himself of his sin. His guilt towards Piaro and his country was endlessly deep, like the depths of hell.
"That's right... I'm the one who betrayed the emperor, not Piaro and the Red Knights.
He didn't even deserve tears. Asmophel's eyes were bloodshot when he thought about it.
"I only wanted to cover up my sin... For my own sake, I framed my friends and comrades, murdering their families and lovers."
It was a terrible sin committed under the name of punishment. Asmophel's body trembled with pain, sorrow, and anger towards himself. But Asmophel didn't stop speaking. It was in order to reveal the hidden truth to the world. This was the only reason why Asmophel was currently living.
Piaro, who had already forgiven Asmophel, tried to stop him. However, it was useless. Asmophel didn't stop. His trembling voice filled the ears of Mercedes and the Red Knights.
"The knight of the empire, the hero who you once admired and loved is still alive. Please get rid of all misconceptions about him and pour the hate and blame onto me."
What the hell was this person saying right now? The Red Knights couldn't follow the truth. However, Mercedes realized it instantly. Asmophel was telling the truth. In the end, tears flowed down Mercedes' white cheeks. She was aware that Asmophel was still hiding the truth from her. If Asmophel was truly wicked, then Piaro wouldn't have forgiven him.
Over the past 12 years, one hero lived in desperation and suffering from a false accusation while another hero was ruled by guilt. In the end, the source was Empress Marie and the Yatan Church. The moment she realized this.
'...I am the hero of your heroes.'
Grid was excited when he saw Mercedes' eyes. Now that she found out the truth, she had an obligation. It was to make the other Red Knights believe Asmophel's words. In order to do so...
"I need solid information to be convinced. We will go back to the empire and review the events from 12 years ago to determine if your words are true or false. Once I can be sure that your words are true..."
Mercedes stopped and turned her gaze towards the Red Knights. The confused Red Knights nodded with determined eyes. All of them believed in Mercedes.
"We will help your pursue charges against Empress Marie and punish her."
It was the duty of the empire and the emperor towards the two heroes.
'First, I need to investigate Captain Limit.'
Was he also on the empress' side? Or had he been affected by the Fourth Knight? There was a lot to do. Mercedes was in a rush and said to Piaro and Asmophel.
"Today I didn't see you. Later when we are reunited, I hope my sword doesn't turn towards you."
In her heart, she wanted to kneel down. She wanted to yell at them for making her feel resentment towards them over the years. But it wasn't possible. She couldn't change her attitude until the other Red Knights understood the truth. She bowed deeply to Grid.
"Overgeared King Grid, I want to apologize for our rudeness and to ask for understanding. Today's price will be paid later, even if I have to give up everything."
"Everything... Okay. I am looking forward to it."
Grid smiled as his heart thumped.
[Affinity with First Knight Mercedes of the Red Knights has increased by 20.]
It was due to this notification window. Grid knew that it was very difficult to raise affinity with this named NPC.
'This woman must've believed in Piaro and Asmophel. It will be a great contribution when the truth is revealed later.'
Perhaps Mercedes would fall into a crisis in the process. The opponent was the empress of the empire. There was a high chance that Mercedes would suffer a counterattack from the opponent and be labeled a traitor like Piaro. It was good from Grid's perspective. It might be an opportunity to take Mercedes away from the empire.
Mercedes commanded the Red Knights and approached the aide guarding her horse far away. His name was Sky. A player. He was wearing a helmet, so Grid wasn't aware that he was a player.
'Kukukuk... It is a jackpot.'
Sky was excited about being able to glimpse a hidden episode of the Red Knights thanks to Grid. He was one step closer to his grand ambition of making Mercedes his slave.
'I have to reach the empress at the right timing. Grid, thank you. Kukukuk!'
Satisfy wasn't a microcosm world, but a world itself. Politics and betrayal were rampant and there were more than a few wicked people. It was impossible for only one person to survive in this huge world where there were conflicting goals between the two billion players. Sky thought like this and it was right.
"Go after the witness who overheard the conversation between Mercedes and Asmophel."
-Are you talking about the aide of the First Knight...? What if I'm discovered by the First Knight?
"It doesn't matter. Mercedes will understand. In the worst case, she might stop the assassination, but she will also dismiss the aide. In the future, she also has to be careful."
The current Grid had the power to go beyond reason. His journey to transcend the category of a legend wasn't over yet.