Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
It was almost supper when we made it back to the saint’s residence. Naturally, the waiters turned pale when they saw a Beastfallen sitting at the dining table, but they couldn’t defy Lia when she happily introduced me as someone she owed her life to.
To be honest, I felt extremely uncomfortable. I couldn’t blame normal humans for being afraid of me. If anything, telling them to not be scared was unreasnoable and torture.
I appreciated the meat dishes that were rarely served in Akdios, but I couldn’t even get a good taste of the food, and ended up retiring to my room early.
It wasn’t just the atmosphere of the dinner that made me lose my appetite. It was also the stench of death.
I could only smell the faintest trace of it during daytime, but at night, the stench suddenly became stronger. The putrid smell mixed in with the smell of the sea from the lake was too much for my lungs.
“Damn it. Where’s this stench coming from?!”
Unable to bear the smell, I covered my nose with my cloak and left the room. Even if I found the source of the smell, I might not be able to do something about it. If it came from a gravesite, digging all the corpses up and setting them on fire would be impossible.
But identifying the source would give me some peace of mind. The smell of death could make people feel uneasy. Those who didn’t recognize the smell would probably just wonder if something was rotting somewhere. But it was tough for someone like me who knew exactly what it was.
Anyway, let’s find out where the stench is coming from. I’ll do something about it as well, if possible. Bury it, burn it, or throw it into the water.
“Oh, where are you headed?”
As I turned the corner, I bumped into the saint’s attendant. She must’ve grown accustomed to my presence as she didn’t look scared of me anymore.
“Her Eminence wishes to speak with you,” she said. “You seemed unwell during dinner. She’s worried if she did something to offend you.”
“It’s not her fault. It just stinks.”
“What stinks?” she asked curiously.
I quickly shook my head. Normal people probably couldn’t smell it. It was also possible that their noses had gone haywire after growing accustomed to it. If I said I couldn’t relax because the smell of death was too strong, she might give me a funny look.
“Uh, it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it. Sorry, but my employer called for me. I’ve gotta see her.”
“But Lady Zero’s room is over there.” The attendant looked past my shoulder.
“She told me to meet her in the backyard.”
“In the backyard?” The attendant raised her eyebrows.
Yeah, it does sound extremely suspicious. Still the competent attendant knew better than to pry too deeply into their guests’ affairs.
“I will tell her that, then.” She bowed slightly.
I walked past the hallway, but couldn’t find the exit, so I climbed out a window to get out of the mansion. The stench subsided around the front entrance. To the back it is.
I went around the back of the mansion, climbed over the iron fence and out into a thicket. Lamp in hand, I proceeded towards the direction of the smell.
The tide had receded, exposing a wet rocky area. The odor grew stronger and stronger as I made my way through the mossy terrain and onto the water’s edge.
A small fish that failed to escape with the tide was flapping about on a tidepool. It would’ve been a pleasant sight at daytime, but in the darkness of the night, with the smell of death hanging thick in the air, it all seemed sinister.
I grabbed the fish and threw it into the water. As though waiting for this exact moment, a huge fish jumped out and swallowed it whole.
My bad. Shouldn’t have done that. Then again, if I just left it there, it would have died anyway. For a small fish, there was no better death than to get eaten by a bigger fish. I think.
Anyway, back to the stench.
“Did someone toss a corpse into the water?”
In purely physical terms, a corpse was just a heavy lump of immobile flesh and bone; they couldn’t walk on their own. It would not be surprising if someone having trouble disposing of one just threw it into the lake.
I went around a huge rock that blocked my view, and dropped my lamp in horror. It rolled on the ground, illuminating the source of the rancid smell.
A pile of corpses.
“What the hell is this?!”
I often heard the phrase “mountain of corpses”, but this was more than that. It was practically a landform, except with dead bodies for earth.
Fresh corpses—pale, swelling, and foul-smelling—peeked out of the undulating water surface. Underneath them were countless corpses nibbled on by fish and turning into skeletons.
The stench became stronger at night because the tide receded, leaving the corpses exposed.
All the corpses had the mark of a goat—the ones that still had skin left on them, at least. Some even had two or three of the same brand.
The moment I saw a flatworm crawl out of a corpse, I backed away. This was clearly out of the ordinary, both the number of corpses and the way they were disposed of. The goat mark looked at me with vacant eyes.
Proof of sacrifice and devotion. The emblem of the saint.
Covering my nose, I left the place, climbing up the rocks and onto the meadow to flee from the stench.
What was that? What the hell did I just see?
Corpses. I knew that much. Corpses that were thrown into the water like trash as if to hide them, feeding them to the fishes.
Was it some kind of a custom of laying the dead to rest by submerging them into water? No. A serial killer’s dumping ground? That wasn’t it either.
Humans were ritualistic creatures. If that was a type of funeral, there would have been at least a single ceremonial trinket. Above all, there was no way that a pagan funeral would be held in the dominion of a saint waiting for the Church’s judgment.
There were too many corpses for a single killer. Anyone who’d notice the smell and see the pile would no doubt cause an uproar. If that happened, they would not just leave them unattended.
I realized now that the bodies were simply dumped without a shred of concern. Everyone knew there were dead bodies there. Everyone went there to dispose of corpses. The place was nothing but a garbage dump for the dead.
I’d seen such things in the battlefield. Gather up the dead bodies of the enemy, count them, and set them on fire.
Could you really call a city that just tossed corpses aside a Holy City? Could you call a person who didn’t mourn the dead a saint?
As I clumsily climbed over the fence and back into the mansion grounds, I felt a cold stick on my neck. The adjudicator.
I finally understood why the priest was so adamant about keeping me away from the Holy City. If a traveling mercenary like me told merchants and mercenaries about the pile of corpses, word of it would spread far and wide in no time at all, damaging the saint’s reputation.
A strained laugh escaped my lips. Yeah, I don’t think I’m fit to be the saint’s bodyguard.
I couldn’t fight to protect the saint’s reputation while ignoring those bodies. It was all too absurd. Good-natured and timid, Lia was a woman who only wished to save others. But a saint who couldn’t deal with the problems caused by their own existence would eventually turn into someone who must be eliminated.
Unfortunately, the priest and I had differing opinions on the matter.