A pristine white building centered in the capital. The church standing in the center courtyard was enveloped in a solemn atmosphere.
As only believers would visit to pray, there weren’t much foot traffic, it felt like it was the only place separated from the busy capital.
However, anyone who is familiar with the church would realize the atmosphere surrounding the church is different today.
Although still solemn, it felt like the people in the church were busy and in a hurry.
「Sister Solte, are your preparations finished? 」
A priest with plump ears called out to one of the girl walking by in the corridor.
「Yes, priest-sama. 」
A sister at her prime age replied. It was a beautiful girl with light red pupils and pinkish hair. Although a little short, her lovely appearance would be able to captivate any men.
The sister whose name Solte was called stopped her tracks, and replied with a faint smile towards the priest.
「My preparation for the rite is completed. All that’s left are my belongings. 」
「I see. Then if you have time after that, can you help out Sister Julia? It seems like they’re lacking hands there. 」
The priest with the special characteristic of plump ears nodded after hearing Solte’s answer, before mentioning the name of another sister that needed help with the preparation.
「I understand. I will head over immediately after finishing. 」
「Sorry about it but, thank you. 」
「No. It’s a large-scale 『Cleansing Rite』after all. It’s natural that more preparation is needed. 」
The Cleansing Rite refers to the ritual where one visits various holy sites of the Goddess in order to rid impurities from their soul.
It was originally a voluntary expedition that believers would go on their own accord in order to obtain blessings from the Goddess.
However, the Cleansing Rite is also simplified after being spread among the nobles and citizens.
Now it is considered a practice that can elevate the 『Class』 of someone’s soul, those that had undergone a Cleansing Rite were thought to have a purer soul.
That is why for noble young ladies that have not married yet for certain reasons, it is seen as a method to raise their own value.
「Certainly the scale this time is unprecedented even in our records, at least for the last few ten years. 」
The one going for the Cleansing Rite this time is the lady of the Duke Nyrestia house, one of the most powerful nobles that is said to have royal blood.
The lady that is now fifteen years old was in recuperation for a year, and was rumored of 『being cursed』.
Although she was once seen as a powerful candidate for the future queen of the crown prince, now she’s even being shunned by the sons of other high peerage nobles.
The duke must’ve thought of this idea in order to raise the appraisal of his daughter. That is why he had requested the church to hold a Cleansing Rite that was unprecedented in scale in the last few ten years.
Because of that, the Cleansing Rite this time would involve five priests, eighteen monks, sixteen nuns, and on top of that, there will be escorts for the duke’s daughter, and also servants for other matters, tallying up to more than two hundred people in the expedition.
And that is why the preparation had been a disaster. The church in the capital was lacking hands, and even help from other churches in nearby towns or villages were called over.
「It’s just as expected from a house of duke. Even just the escorts is almost a hundred people including the private soldiers and mercenaries. It’s nothing short of an amazement. Though I think it might a little excessive in my opinion. 」
Although saying so, the plump eared priest didn’t seem to be disproving of it. After all, he is included as one of the five priests on the Cleansing Rite. As it was an exceedingly rare chance, even him who was known for his calm nature was excited at the honor.
「As for me, I can meet Ardis-san again since a while already, so I’m actually looking forward to it. 」
Solte’s expression softened a little while mentioning Ardis’s name. It had been almost six years since her first meeting with Ardis in her student’s days.
One side being a mercenary, and the other being a sister of the church, it’s rare for them to meet each other but, since Solte would request Ardis as a personal escort two or three times in a year, it can be said that they had a long relationship.
Although Ardis would turn soury whenever it’s about the Goddess, other than that, they have been maintaining a good relationship with each other.
「The 『Countless Swords Sorcerer』 huh……」
However, the plump-eared priest seemed to frown a little hearing Ardis’s name.
「Priest-sama, is there something? 」
「No……, it’s nothing. Since we will be going through demonic beings’ territory during the Cleansing Rite, I was hoping that nothing would happen. 」
As the priest tried to cover it up, Solte proclaimed proudly.
「I’m sure it will be fine. After all, Ardis-san is the Countless Swords Sorcerer who subjugated the Three Great Demons after all. I heard he had won in the Lotus Cup recently too. I’m sure no demonic beings will be a problem if Ardis-san is there. 」
「Is……, that so. 」
The plump-eared priest made a smile forcefully hearing such Solte.
Just about the same time, in Ardis’s house located in the Corsas Forest, the 『Countless Swords Sorcerer』 in question was having a troubled face as he looked at Nere for help.
「Noo, I will follow you! 」
「Please bring me too! 」
It was Fillia and Riana pulling at Ardis’s arm from both sides.
「It’s not something I shall interrupt, I say. 」
Although Ardis called out to Nere with a troubled face, the servant with sky-colored eyes declared her non-interference policy.
Why did something like this happen. That was because of the request that Ardis accepted this time.
In this request, Ardis will be serving as an escort for Duke Nyrestia’s daughter, Minerva, who will be undergoing a Cleansing Rite in three different locations in the Kingdom.
Since there will be many priests, monks and nuns, people related to the church, it’s a job that Ardis personally didn’t want to accept.
However, since it was Minerva that he would be escorting, and also because of a request from Duke Nyrestia and Moore, even the person herself asked with a 『Please』 with an anxious expression, Ardis became unable to refuse.
At the same time, he heard that Solte was also one of the nuns joining, so that had affected his decision a little as well.
In the end, Ardis accepted the request of being an escort for Minerva for the whole period of the Cleansing Rite.
But the problem lies with the period. The three different locations in the Kingdom for the Cleansing Rite is not exactly far from each other.
However, it still needs time to visit all of them. On top of that, there will be a large gathering of more than two hundred people taking part.
It’s a route that would probably only take ten days for a party consisting only of mercenaries but, the more people tag along, the slower their pace would be, also, lodging for everyone would naturally be limited as well.
That is why it is expected to last a month this time as Ardis signed the escort request. Fillia and Riana who heard that suddenly changed in face colors.
It would be the first long absence that Ardis will have after returning from the other world.
Although it hadn’t been a problem with his short absence so far, hearing that it would be an absence of a month, the twins insisted themselves following as well.
「I can fight already! 」
「Please, I won’t be a baggage! 」
It’s true that the twins has strength to back them up. In the year that Ardis wasn’t around, the twins showed immense growth.
They had learned how to cast arts without chanting, and after training in the forest with actual combat, they had been able to win against Twin Swords already.
Although they aren’t as powerful as Kyrill yet but, the two are probably unmatched as sorcerers at their age.
By the way, Kyrill had gotten stronger to the point that he can win against three Ractors in the past year.
Although Kyrill is in his third year in the academy, soon to graduate, he can be said unmatched in the academy. In terms of actual combat experience, it might be that his experience even exceeds the lecturers.
Returning to the main problem, Ardis compromised with the twins pulling at his arm from both sides.
「I know about that too but……」
Ardis had seen the two’s growth as well.
However, no matter how strong they are despite their age, Ardis couldn’t afford to let them tag along in the escort request this time.
They are seen as children in normal eyes. Ardis is supposed to be an escort here but, if he brought them, he would be criticized of bringing more people to escort.
However, it’s only Ardis who understands that the twins no longer requires any escort as they have their own strength.
The other mercenaries and escorts would naturally be displeased.
「But in the first place, tagging along will be……」
Ardis muttered softly while his body shook being pulled from both sides. The most problematic factor is that there will be many priests and church-related figures there, which are all the Goddess’s believers who think the existence of twins are preposterous.
Ardis already had to take care of the twins’ safety, there’s no need for him to toss them into a bunch of people who thinks twins aren’t human.
No matter how Fillia and Riana complained, no matter how inflated their cheeks would be, Ardis is hard on his decision that they wouldn’t be following this time.
However, him just saying no probably wouldn’t convince them.
「Well, it’s about time I thought to bring you two to the outside world. 」
That’s why Ardis appeared to compromise.
「However, that’s after you two can defeat a Ractor. 」
「Eeeeh――! That’s impossible――! 」
「Ractors are, a little……. At least let it be a Twin Swords…… 」
「No. You two able to defeat a Ractor will be the condition that I will bring you two outside the forest. Even for Kyrill, I looked after him until he could defeat a Ractor on his own. After Kyrill can do it on his own, only then I allowed him to travel in the forest by himself. 」
Kyrill’s strength is now leagues beyond then. If he didn’t step into the deepest part, Kyrill probably wouldn’t be in danger strolling in the Corsas Forest.
「Though in Kyrill’s case, he defeated the Ractor on his own, you two will be defeating a Ractor together. This is the most I can compromise, is it okay? 」
It seems like their memories had faded, now the twins would act spoiled in front of Ardis and Nere. However, it seems like they still know when to back down.
They wouldn’t be pestering forever unlike other spoiled children. Knowing that Ardis wouldn’t agree, it seems like they learnt when to back down too.
「Just endure this time okay. I promise I will bring you two together once you can defeat a Ractor. 」
The two nodded a little reluctantly.
「No need to be disappointed. 」
Nere who was watching from the sidelines comforted the twins.
「The Twin Swords are no longer foes you two fear. I am confident that a Ractor would not be one soon. Let’s see……, it will probably take just about a month, about the time Master returns that you two will achieve it. 」
「Really, Nere? 」
「We can win too? 」
「Fumu. It will be a little strict, but it will be a fact if you are willing. 」
Fillia and Riana as well became motivated suddenly as they proclaimed.
「Yes, I will try! 」
「I will make sure to defeat a Ractor before Ardis returns! 」
「Umu. That’s the spirit. 」
Seeing them like that, Ardis was relieved.
It’s no longer possible to describe them as childish as the twins are close to their age of becoming.
Their height had already reached Ardis’s shoulders, and they had already grown feminine curves.
Although they might still be a little active despite their age, thanks to Kyrill, their common sense and speech are good.
Ardis thought that it is probably about time that they be independent.
The same tine when Ardis felt happy at their growth, a sensation similar to loneliness spread within himself as he closed his eyes.