Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
The people that had been screaming for the saint to come out a moment ago were now scrambling towards the doctors. For the sick, it didn’t matter if it was a doctor or a saint, as long as they could be treated.
“I have left twice as many doctors at the foot of the bridge. This should calm the citizens down a little.”
“Great job. I thought these doctors abandoned this country. How’d you get them back?”
“I reminded them what would happen to them if they ignored a request from the Church. I also told them that Lord Torres of Ideaverna would offer his assistance.” The priest smiled.
Candy or whip, huh? I expected nothing less from the guy.
Torres, foreseeing the saint’s ailment, would once again win the support of the people for bringing the doctors. The fact was, the governor himself was involved in the plan to kidnap the saint, but outsiders wouldn’t be privy to such information.
“Even the hesitant doctors joined when Doctor Tito, pretending to know nothing about anything, came forward. It was mob psychology at work—I mean, God’s guidance.”
Heh. That’s the Church’s liar for you. He knew exactly how to trick people.
“So, what are you gonna do now? Delay the ruling some more and continue guarding the saint?”
“Do you think I’m a loafer? I received an order from the Church to return, so I’m going back. Rumors of Her Eminence’s miracle has made it to the higher-ups of the Church. They probably want to bring me back as soon as possible, as I have a record of killing a saint.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “After all the time you spent protecting Lia, they think you’re going to kill her? Man, the Church sure is—”
The priest suddenly brandished his staff, pointing its tip at my throat.
“I will not tolerate any verbal abuse against the Church. Also, you call Her Eminence by her nickname? You’re being overly familiar, you brute!”
I raised both my hands. With the usual arrogant air about him, the priest lowered his staff and walked into the inn.
“Hmm…” Zero watched him go. “It seems to me that recently, calling the saint by her name is a graver sin than insulting the Church. I find it a little strange. The priest was clearly angry at the former.” She looked puzzled.
“I have no idea.” I shrugged. “Maybe that’s what he thinks deep inside, at least.”
Zero and I followed the priest to Lia’s room.
“The Church has officially recognized Lady Faelia of Akdios as a saint,” the priest reported.
Lia didn’t even offer the faintest smile. She was sitting on the bed, her upper body leaning on a stack of pillows.
What she said next completely caught me off guard.
“Father, I was a witch.”
The air in the room froze for a moment.
Perhaps she wasn’t receiving enough sunlight, but she looked pale, and her cheeks were sunken, as if she had no appetite. The priest couldn’t see her, but he should know that she had grown weaker.
“I see,” the priest said. His voice was so gentle, it gave me the creeps. “Why do you think so?”
“Zero told me that my miracles were Magic. Sanare taught me Magic, saying it was a way to perform miracles. I was so happy to know I could heal people, and I didn’t even consider how it worked. I hurt a lot of people. If dying will cleanse me of my sins, then I want to be burned at the stake.”
“Lia!” Cal cut in.
She shook her head. “I mean it, Cal. There are probably a lot of people who hate me so much, they want to kill me.”
Cal couldn’t say anything back.
“Every day and night, I hear voices outside my window asking me to treat them. But I can no longer do anything. I simply… exist. I don’t want to live knowing that I’ve hurt so many, that I can’t even help others anymore. It’s too much. So please…”
She had completely lost the will to live. A sense of loss from betrayal and the emptiness of being powerless filled Lia’s heart.
Cal clenched his fists, frustrated that he couldn’t help her.
The priest exhaled slowly and gently. “Whether you are a saint or a witch is for me and the Church to decide,” he said. “Not even you yourself have the right to make that judgement.”
“Now that the Church has officially recognized you as a saint, you must continue to be one. No matter how many atrocities you commit in the future, no matter how many people you hurt, the Church will do its best to protect you. You can never be a witch. Do you understand?”
“I can’t possibly—”
“If you profess to be a witch and provide evidence of your claim, many of the people who testified that you are a saint will be convicted as a witch’s minions. Do you still think you’re a witch?”
Lia’s shoulders trembled in fear. A feeble scream escaped her tight mouth.
“That is all,” the priest said. “And this is just advice from me.” He traced his fingers gently across Lia’s eyelids. “Wearing an eye patch will ease the discomfort of being blind. Just a little something to hopefully make you feel better. May God bless you.” The priest planted a kiss on Lia’s forehead and quietly left the room.
“So you want me to live…” Lia muttered, and gave a weak laugh. “Why? For what? I can’t perform miracles anymore, and you won’t need a saint if there are doctors around. You want me to live so I could be called a useless saint who can’t save anyone? Or to be called a murderer?”
“Calm down, Lia!” Cal interjected. “Your miracle cured all the wounds and sicknesses of those who live around here. That’s why the Church recognized you as a saint!”
“I just didn’t want you to die! I don’t even remember what I did, and I can’t do it again, so why make me a saint?! I wish I didn’t wake up! If no one’s going to kill me, I’m going to do it myself!”
“How about I kill you, then?” Zero said out of the blue. Her tone was so relaxed, you would think she was just making tea.
I was about to yell at her, but she silenced me with a raise of her hand.
“Do you want to run away from your sins?” the witch continued. “Do you want to forget everything? Then I will seal your memories away and erase your existence from this world.”
“Yes.” Zero nodded. “All your memories from when you met the attendant and onwards. I can not erase the things that you have done, but it is not difficult to detach you from them. You will forget all the wrongs you have committed, and Hawk here will take you away to some distant place. I am certain he will bear all your sins for you.”
“I… I can’t do that!”
“Why not? It does not make any difference whether you run away or die. Are you worried about the grudge of those you leave behind? In that case, we can kill a scapegoat. That will reduce the pent-up resentment of those who have a grudge against the saint. Fortunately, we can gather as many corpses as we want.”
“No! I don’t want to run away! Why do you have to say it like that? I just..”
“What do you want to do?” Zero’s voice was low.
Covering her face with both hands, Lia fell quiet. After a long silence, she finally whispered faintly, “I want to be forgiven.”
By those whose lives she had taken. By those who were still waiting for the saint to heal them.
“I want to atone for my sins, but I can’t do anything! I’m powerless now!”
“You can not do anything? I have been watching you for the past few days. You do not seem to be doing anything but grieve.” Zero tilted her head.
Lia grabbed a pillow and threw it at as hard as she could. She probably meant to throw it at Zero, but the pillow was off the mark. It dropped to the floor without even hitting the wall.
“Everything I do is pointless! A lot of people died. How am I supposed to atone for that? I can’t do anything without Sanare!”
“How can you say you cannot do anything when you have not even tried to do something? You can only wallow in regret after you have done everything you could. Are you going to keep grieving over those you killed and forsake those who you can still save?”
It was lip service from a witch, yet it sounded like the words of a priest.
But I knew that the only thing in Zero’s head was numbers. The number of people she had killed, the number of people she saved, and the number of people she could still save. After taking all that into account, which choice was more beneficial? Zero was simply making calculations in her mind.