With nothing particular of event happening during the journey, they had made it to the first site without any troubles. Although they’re heading towards a holy site, it’s in reality just a remote place.
There wasn’t any people of the church living around nor any grand building. Although there was periodic cleaning, it’s a place that people would visit only once in many months.
The expedition was heading towards northwest, near the Kingdom’s border with the coalition. Resting a night at a nearby village after five days of journey, they departed on the next morning.
Arriving at the destination before the sun completely rose, the monks and nuns were cleaning the surroundings in order to prepare for the ritual.
Eventually, the preparation were finished at right after noon, and the Cleansing Rite were carried out in a solemn atmosphere.
「It’s the first time for me to experience such a large scale Cleansing Rite. What about you, Priest Dret? 」
While looking at the people already moving onto preparation of leaving and cleaning up, the plump-eared priest asked the other priest beside him.
「That’s right. Although I had been in several Cleansing Rites already, it’s the first large-scale one I had. As expected from the duke’s house I guess. 」
The priest whose name is Dret recalled his experiences with Cleansing Rite and replied.
Although it was a Cleansing Rite for the duke’s daughter, she didn’t have to do much actually. It only took her a few minutes to cite the ritual incantations and pray on the altar that the monks had prepared.
The only thing troublesome was the preparation for that and the travelling process. Originally, monks that go on a Cleansing Rite are responsible for their own safety, but with a duke’s daughter here, that’s not possible.
That’s why, there were a bunch of escorts and servants surrounding the carriages when they travelled, and the preparation work are all left up to them.
There are voices within the church condemning about what is the point of a Cleansing Rite if everything was done by others. However, a Cleansing Rite for any noble young lady is usually a very good deal for the church, so there aren’t actually many who would make a big deal of it.
After all, the people from the church also needs to eat. Just like how an outfit store sell dresses, the church earns its living by selling the product, Cleansing Rite.
The Cleansing Rite this time was paid in a grand sum by the Duke’s house. The amount is enough to run the church in the capital for almost a year.
It just meant how much the Duke valued the Cleansing Rite for his daughter. Even if it meant having troubles with mobilizing that many priests and monks, there was no reason for the church to decline.
「Is the withdrawal preparation going well? 」
「Yes. Although it is large scale, there are also many people with us. The Duke’s house is lending their manpower too, so it’s going well. 」
Satisfied by the answer from the plump-eared priest, Priest Dret continued.
「If there’s still time, we should give a chance to the escorts to offer their prayers too. 」
「Yeah, that’s a good idea. I’m sure the escorts would be pleased too. 」
For the usual common folk, Cleansing Rite is not something they consider at all. After all, there’s no reason to take rests from their job and go for a dangerous expedition for a Cleansing Rite.
Although for mercenaries, it wouldn’t be much of a problem if they’re with their parties, but it would still mean a loss of their potential income. So there aren’t many who are willing to do it voluntarily unless they’re really devout.
However, it’s decided that the escorts and private soldiers will be visiting all three holy sites as part of their job. While earning, they can undergo the Cleansing Rite as well, there’s no mistake that they would be gracious with the chance.
Thanks to Priest Dret’s generosity, while the withdrawal preparation were being carried out, the escorts were given a chance to offer their prayers in a small group at a time.
However, among all the happy members who were offering their prayers, there was only one mercenary escort who didn’t leave the duke’s daughter’s side. Black hair and eyes, a young man dressed in a short purple robe.
He’s the magician who had won in the Lotus Cup recently, known as the 『Countless Swords Sorcerer』 in the capital. The plump-eared priest hid his frown immediately, and walked towards the magician who was conversing with the duke’s daughter with a smile.
「Ardis-san, was it? 」
「Yeah……. You’re? 」
The magician who turned around and faced the plump-eared priest threw him a question.
「I’m a priest of the church in the capital. It’s quite a while already but, we’ve met when you took an escort request for Sister Solte. 」
「……Sorry, I don’t recall you. 」
It seems like he didn’t remember the plump-eared priest.
「It’s alright. It’s only the second time I’m meeting you here, it was also a short period after all. 」
「So, you have anything with me? If it’s about the escorts, then you should find someone from the private soldiers――」
「No, it’s nothing important. Did you hear that the escorts are also given a chance to offer their prayers to Goddess-sama? 」
While the Countless Swords Sorcerer visually pointed over at the captain of the private soldiers, the plump-eared priest stated his business briefly.
「Yeah, I heard it from Solte just now. 」
「Ardis-san wouldn’t be offering a prayer? 」
Although other escorts were moving in conjunction to take advantage of the chance given, only the Countless Swords Sorcerer didn’t show any signs of doing so.
「……I have to be beside Minerva. 」
Although the Countless Swords Sorcerer answered with an excuse of protecting the duke’s daughter, it was evident from his face that he was displeased.
「There’re other escorts too. There’s no problem if it’s just a few minutes right? 」
「Nope, I will refrain. 」
However, the Countless Swords Sorcerer declined without even considering the words from the priest.
「Why is that. It is a rare chance to offer appreciation to the Goddess-sama right? 」
「Shishou, please don’t be mindful of me. Rona will be accompanying me after all. 」
Although the duke’s daughter offered a compromise hearing that, the person himself seemed even more displeased.
「It’s not like everyone worships the same figure. Sorry but I’m――」
While the Countless Swords Sorcerer seemed really irritated, the golden beast at his legs barked and covered his words. The Countless Swords Sorcerer met eyes with the beast, and after a short while of silence, he once again refused the offer from the priest.
「……No. I will refrain after all. Don’t be mindful of me. 」
「……Is that so. I understand, I apologize to have been rude. I will be excusing myself then. 」
The plump-eared priest caught on that any more persuading is useless as he backed off.
「What happened? Did you find something interesting?」
The plump-eared priest must’ve showed on his face after returning to Priest Dret after excusing himself from the duke’s daughter. Priest Dret seemed to notice it as he called out to him.
「No, it wasn’t anything actually……」
「You certainly don’t seem like that. I will be listening if there’s something bothering you. 」
「Thank you. ……It’s quite difficult to have everyone understand the benevolence of Goddess-sama. 」
Speaking of his experience with the Countless Swords Sorcerer, Dret seemed a little troubled as well as he consoled.
「That’s true. It’s sad to think but there’re also people who don’t understand the heart of our Goddess-sama. However, they shall one day surely come to realize it too. In the end, we can only preach the teachings of Goddess-sama. It’s alright, I’m sure the day he understands would eventually come.」
「Yes……, I can only hope so. 」
However, unlike his words, the cloud in the plump-eared priest’s mind didn’t clear up. The tone and the anger that the Countless Swords Sorcerer showed when he spoke of the Goddess.
It’s evident that he does not like the Goddess at all. It’s not only the conversation he had just now that he felt something.
A few years before, the Countless Swords Sorcerer seemed to look at the people praying and the murals on the church’s wall with hatred.
That was like a gaze going against the Goddess. While the plump-eared priest’s thoughts continued to wander around there, Dret’s words suddenly made him realize something.
「However, 『It’s not like everyone worships the same figure』 huh……. It sounds like he’s worshipping someone else other than the Goddess-sama…… 」
The plump-eared priest felt a shock going through his body. The unorganized pieces of discomfort fell together, and led to a single answer.
At the same time, he felt cold sweat down his back.
There is only one god in this world. In other words, Goddess Eisera is the mother and the root of all.
However, the plump-eared priest also knew of the existence of another god besides the Goddess. In the ancient times, the evil god, Greihs who was defeated by the Goddess in the war of gods.
At the same time, he thought of the believers of the evil god, the existence of evil beings who are brought chaos onto the world.
「What is it? You don’t look well. 」
「N-No……. I’m fine. 」
Putting more strength into supporting his fumbling self, the plump-eared pries forcefully directed a smile towards Dret, and decided to keep the scary thought to himself. The thought that the Countless Swords Sorcerer is one of the evil god’s believers.