Chapter 1:

INTERLUDE: MISRULE

The Saint Series 4: The Elf Saint is a NEET, so I Forced Her to Work in Another World, Vol. 16


**Kuro**

Honestly, returning to Chersea after all these times felt weird.

I guess this was for all the time I was inside that destroyed world of old Cherflammen. The bright, ‘homely’ atmosphere of Chersea was a stark contrast to that dark, cold and sandy ‘prison’ I spent six years with, and also the elvish ‘grandness’ of the Saint’s Tree and Cherwoods, reminiscent of that movie I watched about nine individuals trying to bring a ring of evil to the mouth of the volcano where it was forged.

If anything, this world, Chersea, reminds me of that other children’s fantasy novel I read about a lion, a witch and a wardrobe…

Anyway, my ruse as an elf guard of Lady Hinwe was already exposed, even before we went to attack the antiquated elf fleet in Cherwoods. Apparently, Her Lazy Holiness, the Elf Saint Lady Hinwe Tal-Inwir decided to reveal our secret to Salis, Eris, the Ladies Henristone and Malvette, Nari and Tama’lee, to spite me after that fight witnessed by everyone in the consulate.

Well, I can’t help it.

Look, I was aware that what I did to her was a ‘jackass’ move, but Lady Hinwe had to step up. We’re in the middle of a crisis right now; there were more problems she had to be concerned with, than thinking about this anime and manga stuff she left in her palace. Argh, her collection of figma dolls and that laptop she had was counter-productive! Whoever gave it to her surely didn’t see the possibility that Her Lazy Holiness would end up a useless ‘freeter’

"Ahem…I’d really appreciate it if you think of that to give the Elf Saint a break, Kuro. Bullying sucks, see?"  From somewhere in my mind, Gaius emerged. He knew he’s the one at fault for the Lady Hinwe’s current state.

"Yes, I’m aware of your intentions, Gaius. It’s just that, the Lady Hinwe’s responsibility is an entire race of people, and she can’t afford to become a ‘freeter’ whenever it is convenient for her."

As one could see, while I did take over Gaius’ physical body (the one given to him by the heavens after he died), he now shares his existence with me.

"Don’t worry, Kuro. I told you before, right? I’ll leave once you gain the determination to be a god after me."

"No one’s wanting to be a god, except you, Gaius. That’s not what we agreed upon when I possessed this body."

"It’s what I—as well as Ruro and Natasha—wanted you to become."

"Can you please be quiet? There are other saints here."

"Your waifu agrees with my vision, should she learn about it. And I’m sure, even the Nerfes princess serving the tea would conform as well. The only person who still is keeping her faith on my return is that dark girl over there, Seirna,’ Gaius laughed. ‘Also, they can’t peek inside your head as long as we’re talking, so it’s pretty safe for us to talk in here."

A-Anyway, back to the previous topic, Lady Hinwe was a victim of ‘high expectations’, and I could fully understand her sentiments regarding her rule. If possible, she would pass the burden of sainthood to someone else; however, it was something that’s meant to stay forever…at least, until the day they die. So, Lady Hinwe would be Cherwoods’ saint for as long as she’s alive.

And it’s also why the elves were out to get her life. They desired an actual ‘ruling’ saint, not a slovenly-dressed, timid and vulnerable girl that was the product of their relentless criticism and hate. Nevertheless, this was also the reason I persevere. As a victim of bullying myself, I couldn’t bear to watch the Lady Hinwe accept her fate. She was a legendary, well-respected figure from eons ago; I even read that Maddie’s ‘Saint’s Peace’ was modeled after her ideals.

I don’t want a tragic end for her story.

“No worries, Kuro, I also have the same desire for her as you do,” Maddie whispered in my ear.

I threw a glance at the Human Saint as I gently squeezed her hand.

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In any case, after we returned from that naval engagement in Cherwoods, there were a lot of things that needed to be cleared. So Maddie asked for our time to talk, and the consul allowed us to use the inner room of the consulate. However, while many of our friends in Chersea and Cherwind came with the Human Saint’s party (ostensibly to welcome me), this talk was reserved only for the ‘highest’ authorities: the saints and their closest servants.

Sitting across us and being attended to by her maid Meanor, was the Lady Hinwe. Flanking us on both sides were the Lady Ruro and Lady Natasha, all were listening to their elf peer’s story. The Saint of the Flame, Lady Seirna, stood by the window, occasionally sending stares at me whenever Gaius would pop in my head. Lily, as her usual duty, was serving us food and drinks. As Maddie’s trusted friend and ‘blood-sister’, however, I bet she was also listening to the discussion.

“Gerard is a loyal servant of the elvish race,” Lady Hinwe picked up from where we left. “I know that child; though he’s now pointing his sword against me, he’s like that because he thinks it is the best course of action to save our people.”

Maddie was about to speak when Meanor interrupted the conversation, “M-My apologies for my brazen behavior, Your Holiness, but the Lord Gerard’s duty is to protect you, the Elf Saint. I can’t think of any logical reason for him to betray you.”

“Mea, don’t be so hard on your lover,” Her Lazy Holiness replied. “Before I completely lost my ability to peek into the hearts of mortals, I saw in him his desire to protect you. And I believe he still does, that’s why he ended up on the other side of the camp. That’s what makes Gerard the better elf for my most faithful maid.”

“Milady…”

“I’m sorry for interrupting your drama,” Seirna interrupted. “But I think we’re going way-off the point of this talk. Aren’t you guys going to plan on how to take back Cherwoods from Lady Hinwe’s treasonous subjects?”

“R-Right…” Maddie—trying to regain the right direction of our conversation—took charge. “My ambassador from Cherwoods reported a change of government inside the Lady Hinwe’s Tree Palace a week ago, as well as the closure of the border crossings between Chersea and Cherwoods. This is also confirmed by the first-hand account of the Lord Kuro of Arles, who was using another person’s identity at that time.”

I couldn’t help but notice a hint of sarcasm in the Human Saint’s voice as she trained her eyes on me. Maddie was annoyed, perhaps it’s because I purposefully hid myself from her, instead of showing up.

“Well, it’s the Lord Kuro’s original plan which led to this situation,” the Lady Hinwe, oblivious of our personal matters, revealed. “According to him, we need to uproot those treacherous people inside the palace, so I can ‘properly rule’.”

“Please elaborate, Your Holiness,” Ruro told her; the wolf saint’s ears perked up, and she leaned towards the Elf Saint’s direction.

However, not wishing to create misunderstandings, I explained the words of the Lady Hinwe. “I stand by my observations, Your Holiness,” I declared. “Back in my own world’s history, an ancient eastern empire known as ‘China’ saw its share of rulers who rose to the throne and fell—unceremoniously—because they let their authority be undermined by the so-called ‘eunuchs’.”

“Similar to my own palace officials, really,” the Elf Saint interjected when she noticed the inquisitive stares of everyone in the room.

“Yes, these people were supposed to guard the palace of the Chinese emperors,” I backed her words. “That position near the most powerful man in the empire gave them considerable influence and power. But, the rulers who relied on their support often left the eunuchs in-charge of all matters, who decided things in their emperor’s name, including issues of the state. Blend in their personal ambitions and characters, and what would follow were tragic consequences of misrule and treason. In the end, these incompetent, non-ruling emperors were deposed, and some were even killed in the cruelest manner.”

No one dared to speak anything as I revealed to them the potential tragedy of Lady Hinwe’s situation.

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The entire inner room of the Holy Palatial Consulate of the Mouth of Calabria was silent, their ears and eyes all focused on me. As they seemed to demand more explanations, I continued, “Her Holiness, the Lady Hinwe, is in similar situation as to those emperors. Her non-governance has emboldened her ‘servants’—the palace officials, head maids, and holy guards—to seize effective power to enrich themselves at the expense of their saint. As a result, the common elves resent her, and the actual threat of Cherwoods—its slow but steady desertification—is left unimpeded.”

“Hence, the Lord Kuro proposed a plan,” the Lady Hinwe picked up from where I stopped. “As news of your exhibits here reached the Tree Palace, my desire to go for a visit coincided with his schemes to rid me of my ‘traitorous’ subjects. So, I and my servant Meanor ‘disappeared’, leading to an ‘artificial power vacuum’ that led to the palace officials to expose themselves of their duplicity. Then, my captain of the guard, Sir Eldarv, would arrest and eliminate them.”

“And it did happen, right?” Ruro asked.

The Lady Hinwe and I both nodded, but I also added, “What happened next was a miscalculation on my part. We didn’t know that, while Sir Gerard hated the palace officials, he’s also of the same opinion that Lady Hinwe needs to be removed. The original arrangement was, I would come to Chersea with Her Holiness and Lady Meanor as ‘Sir Gerard’, since I know the human realm and my experience in combat made me a perfect guide for them, while Sir Gerard donned my identity because it was well-known in the palace that I have the trust of the Elf Saint. This is to avoid complications in case our schemes fail; I would take all the hate and escape to Chersea, while Lady Hinwe would be safe, or even gather sympathies for having a human ‘manipulate’ her.”

I could feel everyone, save for the Lady Seirna, Lady Hinwe and Meanor, throwing daggers at me. It’s as if they were pissed I ‘sacrificed’ myself once again.

However, I ignored their sentiments and continued, “Then, once in power, he closed the borders and overthrew Lady Hinwe’s authority. After all, the situation worked on his favor; a ‘human’ giving orders to the elves would be a diplomatic and cultural issue, thus, rallying their people in their hate against their saint.”

“I’ll never forgive that idiot,” I heard Meanor mutter.

“Well,” Maddie took a deep breath before saying, “it’s a pretty complicated matter indeed. And we all know that the only way to change a saint is for her to die. As a saint myself, I won’t let a sacrilegious act like the murder of a holy person happen in my realm.”

“And, as the Overseer and keeper of the Lord Gaius’ will,” Seirna pulled her sword as a warning, “I won’t tolerate such blasphemy, either…and I mean that in every realm my powers can reach.”

“Wow…” Ruro had a sardonic grin on her face, “…big words for someone who conspired to kill Maddie before.”

“You got a problem with me, doggie?” the Saint of the Flame snapped back. “You forgot the reason it had to be done? If that otherworlder didn’t frustrate my plans, then we didn’t have to deal with that monster from the void, and the demons still live in Cherflammen!”

“My master is never at fault in this—”

“Don’t worry; I’m sure we all have the same opinion in this matter,” Natasha finally intervened, as she noticed the sudden rise in tension inside the room. “That’s why we’re talking now, r-right, Sir G?”

Maddie and Ruro blurted, then threw a glare at Natasha, “Sir G?”

“I-I mean, Sir Greg—no, erm, L-Lord Kuro!”

Ahem…while I do agree that murdering saints is not an option, we also have to consider the opinion of the people, from whom the saints are getting their god-powers’ effectiveness,” I pointed out.

Heh, you talk like you understand our situation, otherworlder,” Seirna scoffed. “From your own words, the elves hated Lady Hinwe enough to kill her.”

“What do you propose we do, then?” Ruro shot a question back to her.

“We’re running out of time,” the Saint of the Flame replied. “The Elf Saint’s god-powers are waning, and even I don’t know what might happen next. As such, I can always scare those elves to submission, or better yet, I’ll just wipe them off the face of Cherwoods, if they remain stubborn.”

“No one’s wiping out anyone,” Natasha countered, as she stared back at me and the Lady Hinwe. Apparently, she wanted me to assure the elvish delegation that Seirna would be kept off from killing the entire population of Cherwoods, prodding me to speak up.

“Your Holiness, fear is indeed an effective way of bending others to your will. And, I’m also aware that, even with only one of you holy saints coming along with us, we can always bulldoze our way into Cherwoods and reinstall the Lady Hinwe to her throne at the Tree Palace. However, Lady Seirna, I implore you to think of this; while the elves praise their returning saint with their lips, they curse her in their hearts. And the elves—with their long and proud tradition of independence even from their human allies—would only be kept in line through fear for a while. Soon, the reign of fear will be overthrown by an angry, desperate mob wanting change.”

Isn’t it what happened to my world? I mean, because of all the abuses of the religious institutions and its people, the contemporary society of Earth now mostly shun religions and question the existence of god. Yes, they kept the masses afraid of ‘divine retribution’ for a while, but with the dawn of science and rational thinking, many jumped to the atheist bandwagon at the first opportunity.

“Besides, milady,” Maddie chimed in to support me and Natasha, “if you did make true of your threat to wipe the elves out of existence for their stubbornness, then what’s even the use of being a saint?”

The entire room was silent once again. Only the sounds of Lily giving us cups of tea could be heard. This continued on for a few moments until Ruro broke the ice. “Ah! My beloved master, I know you have a proposal in mind!”

“We definitely have to bring back Lady Hinwe’s confidence to herself, and soon,” I replied.

“How?” it was the Elf Saint who asked that.

At that moment, I realized I hit a dead end. While I know the causes of the problem, I had no idea on how to solve Lady Hinwe’s issue. We’re dealing with personalities here, and those were full of complexities. Knowing the events of how she ended up like that was a step in the right direction, but the actions we need to do to solve the results of those events was another matter. I was utterly dumbfounded, caught off-guard by the questions put forward.

Fortunately, Maddie was quick to follow me, “Why don’t the Lord Kuro take care of Her Holiness the Lady Hinwe for the meantime?”

“Eh?” were the simultaneous reactions of the Lady Hinwe and Meanor. Likewise, Ruro, Natasha and Lily had the same dumbfounded expressions on their faces as well.

“We all wanted to help you, Your Holiness,” the Human Saint explained. “However, when it comes to motivating people to pursuing their goals, I believe the Lord Kuro is the one who has more knowledge in dealing with your issue.”

“Right!” Natasha blurted out, “Sir G—I mean, the Lord Kuro helped everyone in this room!”

“Count me out,” Seirna countered. “The guy’s a former enemy of mine; we just have the same goals, that’s why we worked together before.” Her statement was drowned by the others, who began telling stories about me. I still heard her, though.

“Anyway!” Maddie brought us back to the topic. “The Lord Kuro can help you. So, while we deal with your supporters and talk about possible aid to your cause, he’ll be the one in-charge of your well-being. What do you say, milady?

The Lady Hinwe was uncomfortable. Honestly, I don’t think she liked that idea, with us having fought not just once, but many times throughout the days we’re acquainted to each other. She’s seeing me as someone who’s meddlesome; I see my former self in her. And Meanor was aware of our issues against one another, so she answered for her mistress, “Your Holiness the Lady Madelaine, can you…give us time to think of your proposal?”

“Sure,” was Maddie’s answer; her smile was brimming with confidence.

“And can you guys also ask for my permission before deciding I should help them?” I added.

“Will you help the Lady Hinwe, Kuro?”

“Of course.”

“There, I already have your permission.”

“Hey, that’s not—” I glanced at the Elf Saint, who also looked at me. Well, it’s not like I won’t continue on helping her; I already dipped my feet on her issues. However, there’s one thing that’s been bothering me ever since Maddie suggested I take the responsibility of caring for the Lady Hinwe while she’s here in Chersea…

I’m dirt poor.

As far as I know, the properties I acquired in the aftermath of the ‘Imperial War’ and the ‘Great Rising of the Undead’ were sold during my six-year absence; Eris told me about it, after all. See, with people forgetting about me, why should they keep those ‘unowned’ belongings and estates accumulating dust and expenses? And I won’t force the Kingdom of Cherwind—who treats me as their ‘eternal king’—to give me subsidies for my living; I still have my pride as a man and would prefer poverty anytime than live off the money of others.

“!!!” At that moment, I felt someone put their hand on my shoulder.

“Kuro, don’t worry,” the Human Saint whispered to me. “Leave everything to your fiancée.”