Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
The lake was indeed tremendously large, and the island quite big as well, but the city seemed smaller than I imagined, probably because there was not much land for humans to inhabit. The tax revenue it generated was probably insignificant. Still it felt like an appropriate land to offer to the saint to get close to her.
“To get to the island, we have to cross the only suspension bridge that runs from the cliffs. It’s narrow, so we can’t go by carriage. We’ll have to walk.”
“Isn’t that rather inconvenient?”
“I’m fine with it, but it’s a little difficult for those who are injured or sick. We employ people to carry them, though.”
“That’s very thoughtful of you.”
I was genuinely praising her, but Lia puffed out her cheeks and hit me lightly. Then Zero followed it up with a powerful punch to my solar plexus.
“What was that for?! That actually hurts!”
“I thought you liked getting hit. Apparently I was wrong.”
How’d you even get that assumption? If you’re going to imitate Lia, then be more gentle.
“A-Are you okay?” Lia asked.
“I’m fine! Stay back. Your kindness only brings me misfortune right now.”
I could feel the priest’s intense glare. Unable to comprehend the situation, Lia’s eyes teared up. She thought I just spurned her for no reason.
“Wow. A catfight! I’ve never seen one before!” Theo was peeking out the window, upside down.
“No, it’s not! Stop laughing, Theo, and get down here!”
The boy quickly pulled his head back.
I’ll tear that kid to pieces!
While we were yelling at each other back and forth, the carriage stopped in front of the suspension bridge.
Upon closer look, the bridge was much steeper than I thought it would be. Since the suspension bridge was going from the cliff to the island, it made sense that it sloped downwards, but the bridge looked so fragile that it took courage to take the first step.
On top of that, there were a lot of damaged wooden panels. They could easily fall off if I put my weight on them. Lia looked embarrassed when she saw my face stiffen.
“We were thinking of doing repairs soon,” she said. “Some panels broke when a slightly overweight person came through before. It happened right before they crossed over, so they were fine. Oh, but when I talked about the repairs the other day, we quickly found people who were willing to help!”
“Of course,” I replied. “There are many people who’d want the saint to owe them.”
“There you go again! Why are you so mean?”
I wondered that myself. Probably because of my poor upbringing.
“Does the priest not require someone to carry him?” Zero asked. “He cannot see in the daytime. It is dangerous.”
The priest quickly shook his head. “I can tell which panels are rotting with my staff. I am trained as well, so I’ll b—”
“That’s what I’ve been saying!” Lia cut the priest off. “I always tell Father to use a carrier, but he never listens, saying he’ll be fine. He says something about being an adjudicator of Dea Ignis. But it doesn’t matter if he’s an adjudicator or not. It’s still dangerous.”
“I cannot agree more. Arrogance can lead to fatal blunders. If a danger can be eliminated, the right choice is take it seriously and eliminate it beforehand. Am I wrong, priest?”
“Uh, you’re right, but…”
“Most of all, if you fall, the saint will panic. With unstable footing, what do you think would happen to this severely uncoordinated woman then? She will fall for certain.”
No one denied it. The priest could accidentally step through a panel and still make it out safe, but Lia would be in danger. I had learned that much about her from our journey so far.
“If that happens, there will be trouble on our hands, and I despise trouble. Therefore, Mercenary.”
“What?” Why me? Oh, shit. I have a bad feeling about this.
“You carry the priest.”
Before I could even refuse, the priest shouted, “No, thank you!”
Seeing the goosebumps all over his body, he must really hate the idea. Okay. I changed my mind. I lifted the priest’s slender body.
“Nooo! Put me down! Put me down, you animal! I can walk on my own!”
“Stop struggling, o’ handsome priest beloved by God. If you swing your blade here, you’ll cut the rope and Her Eminence will be going to heaven.”
“Why, you… embodiment of corruption!”
Man, this feels awesome.
As we crossed the long suspension bridge, I listened to the priest’s stream of insults, which were like music to my ears.
There was a stone scaffolding at the end of the bridge, built much higher than the ground, perhaps to make the slope as gentle as possible. There must have been more than twenty steps to descend from the scaffolding.
A pair of statues of the guardian gods stood between the steps. According to the Church, there were seven guardian deities that protected God. That’s why seven was regarded as a sacred number. The number six was considered incomplete and the Church avoided it.
I wasn’t familiar with the Church’s teachings, but I knew what the guardian deities here stood for.
The statue to my right held a sword, while the one to my left held a shield. The guardian deities of offense and defense during wartime, they were popular on the battlefield. Soldiers always offered prayers to places of worship that housed them.
It was quite strange finding them on the entrance to the Holy City.
“Well this is a rather grave welcome,” I muttered, looking up at the statues. “It’s like I’m being threatened.”
“That is, in fact, their purpose,” the usually-silent attendant said. “They were given by the Church before Akdios became the Holy City. Akdios was originally built by a king to protect himself from invading enemies.”
“I see. So these statues glared at invading soldiers, eh?”
The priest was desperate to get off of me, so I tossed him aside. I practically dropped him, but he didn’t roll hopelessly on the ground. Instead he landed gracefully. He had pretty good reflexes.
“There’s a church here in Akdios,” the priest added, brushing his body with his hand. “You can see the spire from here, can’t you?”
I directed my gaze towards the town and saw the spire of an old church. Built near the suspension bridge, it towered menacingly behind the statues.
“So even a small city like this has a church,” Zero said in admiration, squinting at the spire.
I narrowed my eyes and nodded. “There doesn’t seem to be any other towns around here. It’ll be difficult for the followers if there wasn’t one nearby.”
Church bells told time. People of the Church were very particular about time. They were eager to know the exact time by any means possible: sundials, hourglasses, water clocks, among others.
They rang the bell at certain times of the day to let the people know what time it was. Personally I didn’t think it was necessary, since you could still live your life even without knowing the time. But for people in high places, knowing the time was important.
“To receive protection from the Church, the king built a church in Akdios,” the priest continued. “The church itself is magnificent, but due to the small population, deployment of clergymen had ceased, and now the building is practically desolate. It’s unfortunate. Headquarters should cherish followers in the far-off regions more. Population or distance from the capital is not enough reason to stop sending people.”
Half of his commentary were complaints. Apparently even priests had grievances about the Church.
“But once an adjudicator from Dea Ignis officially pronounces that the saint’s healing is a miracle, life will return to church.” The attendant smiled.
“You’re right,” the priest said.
The attendant’s expression suddenly clouded over. “But you’re leaving the Holy City after you finish your work, aren’t you?”
The priest nodded somewhat apologetically. His job was to decide whether Lia was a saint or a witch; he was only guarding her on the side. Once his job was done, he would probably leave.
The attendant let out a sigh of disappointment. “We’ll have to find a reliable escort to protect Her Eminence after you’re gone. It won’t be easy finding someone more dependable than you.”
Right before we made it to the bottom of the stairs, I turned to look at the pair of statues glowering straight at the suspension bridge. I could see the cuts around their waists. The upper and lower halves must’ve been created separately then assembled together.
A city built so a lone king could defend himself, huh? This is why I don’t like powerful people.
“What is the matter, Mercenary?” Zero stopped and called out to me.
“It’s nothing,” I replied, then followed the group.