The next morning, Ardis and co guided by the siblings visited the person known as Elma. Deen at the front brought them to a big building in the middle of the village.
Its design seemed to have a little more care put into it than the other houses, it was a tall and simple building. As Deen and Karina opened the door, the outside sunlight invaded the building.
「Is Elma-san in? 」
「Oya, this voice is Deen’s. Why a visit? 」
A male voice came from inside the building at Deen’s question.
「Good morning, Elma-san. The guests that want to hear about the story are here. 」
「Alright. Please come in. 」
Getting a reply, Deen entered as is. Prompted by Karina, Ardis and co as well followed behind.
「By guests, do you mean the ones that arrived yesterday? 」
The owner of the voice appeared.
It was a short elderly. With a round face full of wrinkles with eyes that would disappear whenever he smiles, he wore a plain-looking long robe that looked suitable for ritual-use.
His impression was similar to a clergyman.
「That’s right. They’re the mercenaries Karina and I brought yesterday. 」
After Deen, Ardis said.
「I’m Ardis. 『Go hear from Elma』, Sera said so, are you the Elma in question? 」
「Yes, as you said, I’m Elma. I can see that there’re twins with you, are you Sieg’s friend? 」
「No, it seems like they’re not related with Sieg-niichan. 」
Deen answered Elma’s question from the sidelines.
「Well that is……」
Following that, the words that came from the old man was something Ardis couldn’t ignore.
「For sure the guidance of Goddess-sama. 」
Suddenly, Ardis’s expression changed greatly. Despite under a glare from Ardis, the old man had a calm and composed expression.
「Hohoho. Please don’t look so scary. 」
Treating Ardis’s intimidation like it’s nothing with a gentle tone, he nodded as if convinced by himself.
「I see, I understand what Angel-sama wants me to do. There’s no need to be on guard, as I have no bad intentions. I understand well what you’re feeling, but I’m sure the misunderstanding will be cleared once we talk. Here, please come in. 」
Saying so, the old man walked inwards of the building. Deen followed behind the old man, and Karina who was following too suddenly stopped.
With a confused face, she called out to Ardis who was still standing there.
「Are you not coming? 」
「……I’m coming. 」
With a short reply, Ardis together with Karina followed Elma and Deen. And behind them is Fillia, Riana, Nere, Sharu, and Rona.
Although a larger building, it’s still in a remote village. It wasn’t that deep, as a wall could be immediately seen. The center of the room is a continuous passage leading from the entrance, with poor chairs lining up both sides.
The deepest middle part was one step higher, and the wall there had a slightly larger than a human-sized statue.
「Welcome, please take a seat wherever you like. 」
Elma who stood in front of the statue turned around, and said so, but it was unknown whether Ardis heard it or not. After all, Ardis’s eyes were looking at the statue behind Elma.
「Nere……, no it’s Sera? 」
The statue reflected in Ardis’s eyes are exactly the same as Nere and Sera. Suddenly, Ardis turned towards Nere.
However, Nere’s eyes were shut and silent, it didn’t seem like she had the intentions to explain about this matter.
「It will be a long story. Please take a seat. 」
「Just sit down first. 」
「Ah, that chair over there are dirty, so it’s probably better to not use those. 」
Once again, Elma prompted, and even the siblings did too, as Ardis finally sat on a chair nearby. Beside him, Fillia and Riana took formation, with Nere behind him at an angle, while Sharu was sitting a little closer to the entrance and Rona taking a spot on the ground curling up, Ardis who had no more patience asked the first question.
「That statue is? 」
Regarding that, Elma’s answer was simple.
「It’s Goddess-sama. 」
「That’s…… the Goddess? 」
The statue of the goddess that was placed in the churches of the capital or Thoria had the face of Ardis’s nemesis.
If not because of the circumstances with the request, he would’ve been driven by the urge to smash every statue he sees in the church.
「It’s what I like to say but……, in reality, the person herself denies it, so it’s only me and the villagers who believe so. Please rest easy as I have no intentions to push our beliefs on you. 」
「The person herself, meaning Sera? 」
「Yes, Angel-sama. 」
At Elma’s non-hesitant answer, Ardis recalled Sera’s face from yesterday after seeing the statue again.
「She’s the Goddess? The Goddess I know is completely different though. 」
「To dispel that question, there’s a lot to talk about first. 」
Facing the confused Ardis, Elma himself took a chair as well and started, 「Let’s start from the church. 」
「It’s unknown that how long the belief in Goddess-sama has been around. However, the establishment of the organization known as the church is said to be about seven hundred years ago. Records from that era are too few, there’re no methods to verify the truth as almost all of it is passed down by mouth but, the current doctrines of the church is quite different. 」
「Hmm……. For example, the legend of the war of Gods between Goddess Eisera and the Evil God Greihs. 」
Hearing the names, Ardis’s expression turned a little sour.
「He’s said to be the Evil God but, his name only started showing up quite recently. Older records doesn’t have the name Greihs at all, and in the first place, there wasn’t any war of Gods. And naturally――. 」
Elma directed his gaze towards Fillia and Riana.
「There wasn’t any records of the twins demons as a pawn of the Evil God hurting Goddess-sama. 」
The platinum blonde hair on Ardis both sides moved a little. Feeling anxious, the twins drew closer to Ardis.
「And so, there was no tendency to despise twins, and as per my investigations, there were even prior cases that the church took in twins that lost their parents. 」
「It’s an unbelievable story from the current doctrine but, why do you know that? 」
「Despite like this, I was once a priest of the church. Just that I was also a failure that drove off the career path because of a small mistake. Being sent to a remote village in the cold regions from the central church, it is a so-called demotion. Only myself, with no other clergyman other than myself, I moved to a place that’s mostly forgotten by the central church. Well, it was a remote village on the outskirts but, it was a good place. Although poor, the people were honest and earnest, they were devout and were compassion for others. Preaching the Goddess’s teachings to such people, sometimes supporting and sometimes being supported, it was a time of happiness hard to be replaced―― 」
Elma who was having a nostalgic gaze suddenly realized something.
「Oops, my story got derailed. It seems like my mouth becomes more uncontrollable the older I get……」
Having an apologetic smile, he returned to the main topic.
「Within the days of praying to Goddess-sama in the building too old and decayed to the point that it’s unlikely to be a church any more, what I found in there was a document written about six hundred years ago. 」
「Yes. There was a passage written in it. 『The hair of Eisera-sama shines like the moon』. 」
Ardis had questions at Elma’s story. The appearance of the Goddess that is told in the church now completely matches the woman that Ardis hates the most.
Her hair should be deep red. It was a color that could never be associated with the color of the moon.
「Yes, it’s the moon. Don’t you feel strange? I too felt so at that time. Since then, while working as a priest, I investigated old documents, and visited places that wasn’t so influenced by the church and heard stories. And there were things I came to know after doing so. 」
After taking a breath in, Elma continued the story.
「It was about five hundred years ago, the doctrines and the appearance of the Goddess-sama passed down by the church changed drastically. And the Evil God I mentioned just now together with the concept of twins being despicable also started to be recorded at this time. As for five hundred years ago, it matched the period when the Goddess-sama that the current church idolizes descended upon the earth. Do you understand what this means? 」
Certainly, if the Goddess herself actually descended and preached her teachings, the churches that were fragmented at that point would think that the teachings and the Goddess statues were all mistaken, and all of them would unify into one.
However, Ardis knew about the truth. That Goddess is a child born of the same other world as himself, she is no more than a mere human.
That’s why, Ardis didn’t answer 『The Goddess corrected the mistakes till then』, but――.
「The Goddess that appeared five hundred years ago…… was not the real Goddess. 」
Elma nodded slowly.
「Good thinking that you can find such an answer. Even myself had finally gotten that answer after four years of research. 」
With a bitter smile, he continued to narrate his thoughts.
「Depending on individual, they might think that the Goddess-sama that descended five hundred years ago was there to correct the mistakes. But according to my own investigation, there wasn’t a single record older than five hundred years that described Goddess-sama having red hair. Though, it’s not like there are many old documents remaining……」
Elma stood up.
「At that time, I also felt something was wrong. And after a lot of thinking, I came to the same conclusion as yours. The Goddess-sama that the people believed in the olden days is not the same Goddess-sama that the current church believes in. 」
He said so while facing the Goddess statue placed in the room.
「Of course, the Goddess-sama that the current church believes in is probably still an existence beyond the human’s knowledge. There were records of divine miracles performed after all. However, even if there was an Evil God and his pawns, the twins demons, to despise the twins of humans are too void of benevolence. Goddess-sama should not have such narrow mind. She is an existence that encompasses everything, and be benevolent of them. Isn’t that the natural being an existence above this world? After realizing this, I could only see the doctrines as fakes. ……Though, there was also the past me who followed the doctrine of despising twins without any questions in the past. 」
Adding on a self-deprecating comment at the end, he faced towards Ardis and co again.
「However, having my thoughts being known was problematic for the church. After that, I was expelled by the central church, and was branded a heretic. Having chased by the church, I had nowhere to go. With no way of obtaining proper food, it was Angel-sama that had reached out to me when I was stuck in a wasteland. It was a story already thirty years ago. 」