The Seed Thief Vol. 1 Chapter 3.2

Author: Gumi

He was a knight known for suppressing the rebellion and was loved by the royal family. With his handsome appearance, his popularity rose even more than when he was in the temple.

Unsurprisingly, the number of women pursuing him also increased. When he attended the royal banquets, people rushed to speak to him, even if only for one sentence. The former king, queen, and his brother secretly hoped he would find a good match at those banquets.

As a family, they noticed Ervandas’s heart still lingered at the temple—but that was a place he could no longer return to. So they wished for a worldly connection to tether him, apart from God.

But it was a futile thought.

Ervandas did not speak to any woman who approached him. He even openly showed his discomfort. Moreover, his avoidance of women wasn’t limited to banquets.

Even the chambermaids and handmaids argued over who would serve Ervandas. Seeing this, Ervandas ordered the removal of all furniture except for the bed, wardrobe, desk, and chairs. He commanded no one enter as he would clean and organize himself.

Yet he couldn’t stay cooped up in his room forever.

‘I need to get out of the palace, even for a moment.’

He considered visiting the temple, but once someone left, the temple did not accept their return. What’s more, in reply to Ervandas’s letter expressing his wish to visit, the high priest responded that Ervandas’s path lay in the secular world—so he should leave behind any attachment to the temple.

Ervandas felt conflicted after the high priest’s reply.

He was the one who had paid Ervandas particular attention at the temple. But whenever Ervandas expressed his desire to return, the high priest promptly shook his head.

Feeling frustrated by the priest’s resolute attitude towards him as if he were a heretic, Ervandas asked, “Why are you blocking my return?” Then the priest responded.

“Where you reside is not in the embrace of God.”

“Why do you think so?”

Never once had he strayed from God’s teachings, living a life of righteousness that even his fellow knights admired. So, what could be so deficient about himself?

Swallowing a hint of grievance, Ervandas awaited the high priest’s answer. The high priest spoke with a faint smile.

“It’s not my word.”

“Then…”

The high priest acted on God’s will. In the end, blocking Ervandas’s return was tantamount to God’s will.

Ervandas then sought refuge elsewhere—the territory where the rebellion had been suppressed. Knights were still stationed there, and the lingering tension remained from the past rebellion making festivities seem impossible.

Ervandas declared he would thoroughly reorganize the territory. His brother suggested that instead, he should rule the place altogether.

Having lost its lord, the territory struggled to appoint a new ruler. Given its history of rebellion, firmer governance was required. Moreover, if things continued this way, Kalendas feared his younger brother might one day leave, unable to endure the turmoil and people’s affection.

It seemed better to send him somewhere quiet to gradually accustom to secular life.

As they sent off Ervandas, the former king, queen, and his brother thought, ‘We gladly welcome any woman who can marry that stubborn chap.’

“The stables are cleaner than this place. I’ll start with cleaning.”

Upon arriving at the territory, Ervandas surveyed the lord’s castle, where the knights stayed, and issued orders.

Over a week, the knights had to clean the entire castle. They couldn’t even complain as Ervandas was the one who led the cleaning.

After finishing the cleaning, Ervandas dove into the territory’s backlogged documents. Soon, he found something odd—the tax revenue from a certain area had been consistently short. He promptly summoned that territory’s village chief.

“I checked the records, and it seems that a certain sum of money is consistently missing.”

“T-That’s because of the witch!”

“Witch?”

“Yes! The witch of the forest frequently demands tributes from us.”

The village chief told him about the forest witch ruled the vast Erpin Forest for decades, often appearing in nearby villages to seize livestock, food, and valuables. If the villagers refused her demands, she would threaten them with magic.

“So, the missing parts in the ledger are all things robbed by the witch. The lord, no, the former lord, knew about it and turned a blind eye?”

Seeing Ervandas’s suspicious look, the village chief hastily added.

“It’s true! Traces of the witch’s terrifying magic still remain in the village within Erpin Forest!”

“I saw that magic with my own eyes! The sky suddenly darkened, and dozens of lightning bolts struck down with such force that everyone had no choice but to comply!”

The village chief desperately emphasized the might of the witch’s magic—he had to.

‘I have to blame it all on the witch!’

When he first embezzled taxes, the former lord also inquired about the incident. In a panic, he hastily blamed the witch. But the lord brought mages with him. Fearing his lies would be exposed if the witch was caught, the village chief felt troubled. When the mages and lord headed to a corner to discuss, the chief swiftly followed, eavesdropping on their conversation.

“The witch’s…incredibly strong…not to mess with…”

Just from those snippets, the village chief realized even the mages of Magic Tower feared the forest witch.

Sure enough. After finishing their discussion, the lord told the village chief that he would overlook the amount the forest witch had taken. He even ordered full compliance with the witch’s tribute demands.

The lord and mages left. Since then, the village chief had continued using the forest witch as an excuse to embezzle all the taxes into his own pocket. Besides, with the lord plotting rebellion, he no longer cared about the rural village.

‘I’m having such a good time……’

How could the king’s brother interrogate him after all that?

In any case, he had to desperately shift the blame. Even the mages of Magic Tower could not provoke the forest witch. No matter what Temple Knights Order this prince came from, he would have difficulty facing the witch.

As the village chief racked his brains, Ervandas spoke.

“For now, go back. I’ll visit the place soon.”

“Y-yes! I understand!”

After the village chief left, Ervandas gathered information about the forest witch.

The witch of the forest, whose name was unknown, had been living in Erpin Forest for decades. Due to the strange creatures she raised, people couldn’t enter that forest. The witch’s appearance was as bizarre as the creatures she kept, but it seemed she could change her outward form since reports mentioned her appearance had changed from the past.

In the past, mages of the Magic Tower would have been called for such matters.

But now, unwilling to take responsibility for mages who had joined the rebellion, the Magic Tower had announced the closing of its gate, refusing involvement in any affairs for the time being.

‘Then, I’ll have to mobilize the knights to subdue her.’

Ervandas considered who would be most suitable for such a task. The answer came to him at once—himself.

It wasn’t just his skills as a knight. When he was part of the Temple Knights, he regularly received blessings from priests to fight against monsters, so naturally, divine power dwelled within him. Divine power and magic power repelled each other, so not only was it advantageous when fighting monsters but also block some spells cast by mages.

‘Although the divine power has weakened since leaving the temple, it’s still more advantageous compared to others.’

A month later, Ervandas headed to Erpin Forest alone. Though he had left the royal palace for a rural territory, people still flocked around him. On top of that, with the accumulated work continuing to be processed, his fatigue steadily mounted.

On the day he finally finished the piled-up work, Ervandas quietly set out to look around the territory.

The knights initially tried to dissuade Ervandas. No matter how strong he was, how could they let the prince and now lord go alone? But no one willingly volunteered to accompany Ervandas.

‘We’ll have to get up at dawn with you for breakfast before surveying around.’

‘You’ll frown if there’s a wrinkle on your clothes.’

‘Treating with hostility is normal when visiting a village, but you’ll probably forbid that too.’

‘We’ll definitely have to prevent any woman from glancing your way.’

No matter how they thought about it, accompanying Ervandas was close to ascetic training. Since he refused to move with them, Ervandas leisurely toured the territory alone.

The ledgers had already been roughly checked, so there was no problem leaving the position vacant for a while. Ervandas was also exhausted from the gossip and calculating glances of the people around him.

While investigating the witch was most critical, Ervandas yearned for the tranquility he’d known at the temple.

Before leaving the castle, he instructed his subordinates.

“I will check in regularly. If you don’t hear from me even after the designated date, track me down. But if contact arrives on time, that indicates I am safe, there is no need to follow.”

The clueless neighboring lords who couldn’t grasped the situation were a nuisance, clinging to him and questioning how the king’s brother could wander alone. What’s more, they would likely bring their daughters or female relatives trying to latch onto him.

“Stopping any who try to follow me is also your duty,” Ervandas emphasized repeatedly to his subordinates before finally setting out alone.

With the witch on his mind, he headed straight for the village said to have traces of her magic.

‘It wasn’t a lie.’

Ervandas’s expression froze as he examined the traces of the lightning strike at the village entrance. He surveyed the surrounding forest. But, unlike the prominent signs of powerful magic left in the village, there were no other notable traces within the forest.

‘If there had been frequent looting, she likely would have used magic more than once.’

Suddenly, a strange noise came from deep within the forest. Ervandas immediately held his breath, listening intently to the sound approaching.

‘What are these footsteps?’

It didn’t belong to any forest beast. Nor did it sound human either; it was like a stick hopping and jumping around by itself.

Ervandas drew his sword. Judging from the sound, the opponent didn’t seem particularly bulky. And it was clearly alone. In that case, he could subdue it easily on his own.

Shortly after, the owner of the sound appeared.

“……!”

Though accustomed to encountering bizarre things when fighting monsters, Ervandas was taken aback, choking on his breath by what had emerged.

‘A scarecrow?’

Rather, if a two-headed, horned bear or a snake with dozens of tails appeared, he wouldn’t have been so surprised. Bouncing joyfully and strangely through the forest bathed in moonlit was clearly a scarecrow. More precisely, a scarecrow with arms bent at odd angles, wearing a rag similar to a mop.

The scarecrow bounced high, spun around, and frolicked as it dashed through the forest.

Rustle.

Distracted by the bizarre sight, Ervandas accidentally stepped on a leaf, causing a sound. Immediately, the cracked head turned to the sound. The moment the scarecrow’s eyes met Ervandas…

Kiiiiiiiiiiii―!

It let out a bloodcurdling scream unlike any Ervandas had heard before. By instinct, he knew – that wicked creature was calling for its allies!

Without hesitation, he sprang up and sliced the scarecrow down. Just as he thought he had killed it in one blow, the forest witch burst out from the trees.

***

‘And now, it’s like this.’

Walking behind the witch, Ervandas tried to move his body. But his body only followed steadily behind hers, unable to take any action. He was still under the witch’s curse.

Ervandas gritted his teeth, or at least he wished he could.

‘Master, huh.’

Despite knowing the witch’s true nature, his mind was compelled to address her as ‘master.’ The curse forced his mouth to utter the word obediently.

As a prince and a knight of the temple, this situation was a profound humiliation for him. Bowing to someone other than the rightful king, serving an evil entity, and being forced to address that despicable witch as his master—all of it contradicted the principles he had held dear. He believed that only God was his true master.

The only solace for Ervandas was that these humiliating events occurred when no one witnessed them.

‘I must find a way to break this curse and take the witch with me.’

Author's Thoughts

I should have added a comedy tag Σ(▼□▼メ)

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Gumi

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Comments (5)

  1. He reminds me of Levi because of his obsession with cleanliness. 😂