Translated by: Miss Ruby
Edited by: ShadowDog
* * *
The weather on the day of the praying ceremony was much nicer than the previous day. As the weather was great for outdoor activities, people were out and about from early in the morning to enjoy the festive mood.
The opening event for the praying ceremony was set to kick off at noon and it was to begin with the purification of the impure like yesterday.
After which, the priests would come out to hold a ritual to pray for peace for the remainder of the year, then there would be all sorts of attractions for people to see.
When the sun begins to set, there would be a pruning event to chase away bad luck. There was something called a fortune tree, which only grew in the East and it had become a tradition to cut off the branches with white flowers and take them home as a talisman to prevent bad luck.
This event was especially popular among the people because the priests would also give blessings to the people who went up to them with the pruned flowers.
And by sun down, there would be a final event that ends the day by releasing lanterns into the sky.
This was the approximate order of events for the praying ceremonies held in the East.
On this day, the head of the Crawford family and ruler of the East attended personally and gave an opening remark to begin the ceremony even though he was almost impossible to see at other times.
And so, the people who wanted to see him up-close came to the plaza early in the morning to secure a spot for themselves as well. Moreover, yesterday’s execution had served as a decent advertisement.
“It’s time already, when is the purification starting?”
“It will probably start soon. Did you see the execution yesterday?”
“No, I only heard people talking about it. Apparently, they showed a strange weapon? I came to see that today.”
Perhaps because all the preparations were over, the platform for the purification ceremony in the plaza was much higher and wider than yesterday, and therefore, a bigger crowd could see what was happening.
“Oh, I think it’s starting now.”
“They are coming out. Over there!”
At noon, a set of uniformed knights filed out first. They took control of the crowd and made a pathway to the front. They were moving a few things covered in black cloth in the middle.
“Those must be the heretics.”
The people who saw that whispered among themselves.
Since the execution of death-row prisoners took place yesterday, the targets for today’s purification was limited to heretics as announced previously.
“Before we fully begin the praying ceremony, Dominic Crawford, leader of the East, will offer a congratulatory address for the people.”
The knight on stage descended from the platform then a man with an extraordinary aura stood before the already prepared podium.
Dominic Crawford was a very busy individual and he did not often make appearances before people. Due to this, Kalian Crawford was the one who was closer to the common people and was called the Hero of the East.
So when Dominic Crawford appeared officially for the first time in a long while, the surroundings immediately fell silent. But soon, a cry cut through the air like they had been waiting.
“Glory to the East!”
Even the nobles who were sitting in the pre-arranged seats applauded for Dominic. However, the seats for the Salvatore family, the only other great noble family in the East, were empty.
Soon enough, Dominic raised a hand and the crowd quickly fell silent again.
“As we embrace the occasion today, the East takes another step towards a new era.”
A low voice swept majestically over the plaza through the alchemy devices installed around the platform.
“As you all know, the mission left to us by the first Crawford who restored order to the East, was to build an East that was much stronger and peaceful than any other region…”
His speech began with a preface similar to what was usually used in other official speeches.
“Therefore, till today, our East has done its best to fulfill that mission. This is certain.”
So far, the contents were commemorating the wonderful times in the East and celebrating the achievements; perhaps one could call it a little boring.
The next moment, the atmosphere around Dominic suddenly changed.
“A few years ago, those who infringe on our rights and threaten the order of this land that we have worked so hard on began to appear.”
The crowd began to grow noisy again.
In the midst of this, the eyes of some of the nobles who Dominic had shared his plan with, secretly lit up as if to say ‘it is finally starting’.
“These devils that have appeared to test the East, are enemies that we must strike down first.”
The knights got the signal and tore off the black cloth that was covering the cages.
“What is that?!”
“It’s a monster!”
The appearances of the heretics were finally revealed, causing a commotion in the plaza.
“Punish the heretics!”*
“Leave the East!”
Inside the cages, were mutants with bizarre figures and it was impossible to know whether they were human beings or monsters.
The ones in the front were real experiments whose appearances had turned grotesque due to the side effect of absorbing the ruin’s fragment.
While some of them were people whose appearances had changed due to birth defects or illness so there were people mixed in who were not heretics at all.
But because the appearance of the ones in front was so heavily imprinted on people’s minds, they were not really noticed.
“Huh? That’s a child.”*
Right then, a heretic at the very front drew people’s attention.
“What? A child?”
He was small in size and curled asleep on the floor so they noticed him late.
“Oh my gosh, look at those ears and tail.”*
Leo seemed to wake up because of the noise and his ears twitched. As a matter of fact, the guards who brought him out were a little disconcerted. They did not give Leo sleeping pills today, just like the other heretics.
He was very violent at first so they had to force him to sleep with sleeping gas but since a while ago, they didn’t have to anymore.
Maybe he originally had a carefree personality or he gave up on escaping and relaxed, either way, Leo did not show any more aggression. He no longer did things like biting the person who came to feed him. He only ate the food that was not drugged — somehow he was always able to tell which one it was — then he slept lazily even if he was being watched.
Today too, Leo slept without a worry in the world and was the only heretic that didn’t even notice he was being moved to a cage. Indeed, Yuri and his other fellow test-subjects had guessed correctly.
However, even if Leo was deep in his comfortable sleep, there was no way he wouldn’t have heard the noise right in front of him so he opened his eyes.
Moreover, even though he was declared a failed experiment in the lab, his appearance was as outstanding as the successful test subjects.
As has been mentioned before, Leo’s appearance was that of a 13-14 year old boy.
Hence the scene was that of a beautiful boy slowly opening his eyes as he wakes up from sleep, making you feel an innocent loveliness like you were watching a newborn puppy walking for the first time.
The audience in front even held their breaths as they watched Leo slowly lift his head and reveal his face.
And Leo quickly figured out the situation.
His tail shot up and he took a step back. A ‘clang’ rang out as he hit his bag against the iron cage.
Leo’s expression turned fierce, revealing his sharp fangs.
The people right in front saw that and sucked in a breath, shocked.
That very moment, a white butterfly flew into Leo’s cage. It fluttered gently and landed on Leo’s nose.
Leo’s eyes went wide.
It might be an unknown sign to others but he knew it was a mark from Yuri. And on it was very small writing that only a mutant could read.
The moment he saw that, the fierce energy around Leo melted away and became gentle like it was all an illusion.
The butterfly flew down from Leo’s noise and flew around the cage. Leo moved to chase it around the narrow cage.
The butterfly promptly left the cage but Leo found something that seemed to be a bird’s feather and dragged it to himself. Then he began to bite it and play with it.
This sight wasn’t threatening at all, if anything, it looked rather innocent and cute.
So even the people who had seen Leo’s fierce expression seconds ago felt they had seen wrong.
“This, this child is a heretic too?”
“That’s a little…”
“I mean, with those ears and tail, he definitely has a mutation but…”
People began to whisper among themselves for a different reason from before.
They seemed surprised and taken aback because the heretic they expected to be executed at today’s purification ceremony was different from what they were expecting.
However, this was what Dominic and the other high-ranking nobles were aiming for in their plan to hunt the heretics. The more sympathy and affection people had for Leo’s cute appearance, the more appalled they would be to see him out of the cage and enlarged.
“It is said that the devil sometimes comes in the form of an angel to deceive people.”
Dominic signaled with his eyes as he spoke.
“We shall use this chance to let you all see that with your very own eyes.”
At that, the knights began to approach the cages with a special device. They raised their hands to their designated cage and with a click, the locks opened.
All the heretics, except Leo, were let out of their cage.
“Today, I am very pleased to use this occasion to announce another achievement of the Great East.”
As he spoke, knights carrying the new weapon began to climb onto the stage.
After they stood in position, a man was given the go-ahead and reached out towards Leo’s cage.
The sound of a crow crying out came from an area nearby.
Leo had been on alert for any sound after seeing the writing on the feather that had fallen after the butterfly so his ears secretly pricked up at this.
“Today, the East will go further and a new history will be made on this land…”
“Dominic Crawford! How long do you plan to deceive us?”
But right then.
Someone interjected loudly and walked into the square, cutting Dominic off in the middle of his speech.
People’s eyes turned to the person who was approaching the podium.
It was the head of the Salvatore family, who was thought to be absent from the purification ceremony, and he was walking in, escorted by soldiers.
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