Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“The cold is bad for your wounds.”
I climbed up a set of stairs and stepped out onto one of the watchtowers surrounding the fort, where I ran into the priest who was out for some fresh air, just like me.
The night breeze seeped deep into my fur, cooling down my warm body. This cold would be poison to a man with no fur that had lost a lot of blood.
Surprised, Tito turned around, while the priest showed no reaction.
“Oh, it’s you,” Tito said, sighing in relief. “I’m used to seeing wild beasts, but Beastfallen appearing out of nowhere still scares me. So what can I do for you? Is someone injured?”
“No, I just wanted some fresh air, and you happened to be here. Though actually, there is something I wanted to talk about.”
I shot a quick glance at the silent priest, and sat down on the crumbling railing of the balcony.
“Right. Well, then. I’ll go get something to eat. Can you look after him for me? Like you said, the cold is bad for his wounds. Please bring the bull-headed priest back to his room as soon as possible.”
“I will. I’ll beat him up if I have to.”
Tito laughed at my joke as he left. I waited until his footsteps were gone before speaking.
“So, what’s up?” I asked outright. The priest didn’t answer, but I continued anyway. “Did you finally organize your thoughts? You were almost killed by the saint you were sworn to protect, rescued by a lowly Beastfallen, and now you’re in Fort Lotus, the headquarters of the people who hate the saint.”
The priest frowned deeply. For the first time, emotion dawned on his expressionless face. He breathed a long, weak sigh.
“You don’t care if a man’s injured and grieving, do you?”
“Unfortunately, we Beastfallen aren’t really human.”
My sarcastic remark elicited an irritated tongue click from the priest. I thought he would ignore me after that, but then to my surprise, he continued.
“I was outwitted,” he said. “I shouldn’t have come out that time. I created an opening, but they got me instead.”
He was probably talking about the time I was running around the city, chased by soldiers. He was right. If he didn’t come out to kill me, he wouldn’t have been hit by the cannon.
“Outwitted, eh?” I said. “Very bold of them to attack an adjudicator. Must be some gutsy anti-Church fellows. Who would want to kill you that badly, and why?”
“I don’t know. I stepped out to let you escape, so I have no idea who ordered the shot.”
What did he just say? He came out so we could escape?
“That attack was carried out by the guards who saw us fighting in the backyard. Her Eminence could not stop them, as she’s not very good at giving orders. She said you didn’t do anything wrong. She was crying. She didn’t want you two killed. So I put on an act to get you two out safely. If I fought you, the other guards won’t be able to get close… Wait, you didn’t realize I was faking it?!”
“How the hell would I know?! You were clearly out to kill me!”
“Of course! I was up against a Beastfallen. If I held back, I’d get killed!”
True. Wait, but that means you seriously tried to kill me.
“Besides, I focused more on evading than attacking. I’m certain you could tell that much from my lack of aggressiveness.”
“I had no idea. You were oozing with bloodlust.”
“You sure are dull for a beast.”
I still wasn’t convinced, but I didn’t press the issue further, or we would be arguing forever. He did, in fact, serve as a temporary shield while we were fighting.
Turning his face to me a little, the priest continued. “The situation was this: Someone attempted to assassinate Her Eminence, throwing the whole city into chaos. If I went after the assassin and died, who do you think would have benefited from it?”
“I didn’t plan to assassinate anyone…”
“Facts don’t matter. It’s what the public witnessed. An adjudicator from Dea Ignis died protecting a candidate for sainthood. Do you know what would happen next?”
“Hmm… Oh, I see!”
“Yes.” The priest breathed an irritated sigh. “An adjudicator’s martyrdom would have effectively made her a saint. My dying to protect her would be synonymous to me formally recognizing her as a legitimate emissary of God. Once she was an official saint, no one would doubt her anymore. In other words, me going out back then and dying would be beneficial to Her Eminence.”
“You think the saint ordered them to attack us?!”
From what he said so far, it was Lia who sent the priest. She then tried to eliminate us both so she would be recognized as a legitimate saint. It made perfect sense.
“No, I don’t think that at all,” he denied quickly. “You should not jump to conclusions. And please don’t shout. My wounds are aching.”
“Anyone would come to that conclusion after what you just said.”
“Did you know? I’m a big liar.”
His words came out of the blue. Not something you’d expect to hear from a priest. His sudden confession left me confused for a moment.
“Wh-Where’d that come from? No way priests lie. If you do, outright declaring it doesn’t sound like a good idea.”
“Do you know how adjudicators for Dea Ignis are selected?”
“Nope. The Church is too secretive.”
“Let me rephrase the question, then. What’s the worst rumor you’ve heard about the way they are selected? You can give your honest answer. I will not cut you down.”
“I heard they’re convicts on death row pardoned by the Church, but in exchange, they have to do the Church’s dirty work.”
The priest smiled. One more reason for me to hate the Church. Ignoring the grim look on my face, the priest continued.
“These convicts picked up from the brink of death are given titles called Sins and undergo intense training. As I mentioned before, my Sin is “Secrecy.” In other words, I’m an adjudicator whose specialty is lying. I am actually a non-combatant. I mainly do covert operations, and I often don’t dress up as a priest.”
This guy is a non-combatant? How strong are combatant adjudicators, then?
Imagining it made me feel depressed.
“Are you sure you should be telling me all this?” I asked.
“It’s fine. I’m lying,” he said. “Did you believe me? How simple-minded.”
My head started to hurt. It made more sense if it was a lie, yet it also felt like he was telling the truth.
“What I’m saying is, liars can tell who are gullible. And Her Eminence, Lady Faelia, clearly looks like the gullible type. People can easily take advantage of her.”
“I suppose that’s true.”
I hate to say it, but “please exploit me” was written all over Faelia’s face.
“Gullible people don’t know how lies work. There is no way she could deceive and exploit so many people like this. That’s why I believe she is a virtuous saint with miraculous powers. She can’t be a witch.”
The priest would not call Lia a witch even if she was suspicious, even if people died around her, or an attempt was made on his life, as long as she was virtuous. Whether someone used Magic or Sorcery did not matter. The adjudicator judged her solely based on her morality.
“But as you can see in this fort, there are definitely victims, and their number will keep on increasing,” I said. “You can’t just ignore that, can you? Or do you think it wasn’t the saint who made them sick?”
“I have no intention of ignoring what’s happening. It’s also hard to believe that it’s not Her Eminence causing this. Miracles come with sacrifices, so I don’t find this situation surprising at all. However, there are too many victims this time. There is no doubt that there is someone pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Someone using Her Eminence’s miracles to oppress the masses.”