「Hold up. Thirty years ago? You said thirty years? 」
Ardis almost stood up from the time span that he didn’t expect.
「Yes. I certainly said that. 」
「Does it implies that the Angel-sama that you met was, a previous generation, or something like that? 」
「No. She is the same person that you’ve met too. 」
Not understanding what Elma had just said, Ardis had a stupefied voice.
「I can’t blame you to be surprised. Angel-sama’s appearance had not changed since thirty years ago after all. 」
「……Has not changed? 」
「Yes. The day that I was saved, and guided to this land, I have experienced thirty years. However, after all this time, her beauty has not faded a single bit, as if she isn’t bound by the flow of time. 」
Unintentionally, Ardis and Rona looked at each other. His eyes similarly showed his difficulty in understanding.
Then, Ardis turned around. The self-proclaimed servant who had her eyes shut sitting had not changed a single bit from the day they met.
He thought it was strange instinctively before. Seven years had passed since his days started in Thoria. However, till now, Nere’s appearance still looked like a woman in her seventeen or eighteen.
Although Ardis himself had complication with his age as well but, his body is definitely still aging. Leaving aside people that are old already, Ardis felt suspicion at a young girl that hasn’t changed in appearance in her youth for the past seven years.
Then his gaze landed on the twins sitting beside him.
「What’s the matter? 」
Riana asked with a slight tilt of her head. Fillia and Riana is fourteen this year.
Their height that hasn’t even reached his waist when they first met had now grown to shoulder height. That’s a normal growth.
Even leaving aside Ardis whose body had special circumstances, Nere’s unchanging appearance was an abnormal point.
However, since coming here, there’re points even more abnormal than that. With the same appearance as Nere, the existence of Sera that hasn’t changed her appearance in thirty years.
Normally, it’ll be an unbelievable story but, on the other hand, Ardis had Nere beside who could ascertain the abnormality of Sera as a fact.
「Something like that is……」
「Is impossible for a mortal human I suppose. 」
Elma answered for Ardis who was confused. From his voice, Ardis didn’t catch that he was afraid.
「Afraid, you don’t feel like that? 」
「No way, let me clarify. Whether personally or for the village, we are all indebted to that person. Her presence is a miracle for all of us, her hands wrap us in kindness. Do you know why this village can survive even in a land infested with demonic beings? It’s because Angel-sama had put a barrier centering this village. All dangerous demonic beings and beasts couldn’t enter the barrier, but herbivores that would be our food can. Something like that couldn’t be done by a human. If so, it can only be a god or a demon―― 」
In front of an existence that exceeds human’s comprehension, a normal person could not rationalize. Some would accept it, giving up thinking, or some would refuse the idea outright and be offensive.
That would be the existence of god and demon.
「However, at the very least, there’s no one in this village who thinks that person is a demon.」
In Elma’s words, rather than the debate of god or demon, Ardis questioned the thing he knew.
「Yes. I’m not entirely sure either because I can’t use magic but, within an hour of walking distance, it’s impossible to encounter any dangerous creatures. Exactly because of Angel-sama’s divine protection, we can live in peace in this land infested with demonic beings. Though, the effects weaken the further you go, two hours of walk and its effect fully disperses.」
An enormous barrier that filters out creatures with evil intentions. That itself is something Ardis can do too.
However, leaving aside a temporary one, a permanent one that encompasses the entire village is difficult for Ardis to maintain.
Moreover, if it’s in a radius of one hour walking distance, even Ardis couldn’t do it. Maybe the genius magician that was once his ally could do it without breaking a sweat but, someone like him doesn’t exist in this world.
If someone like that existed, his name would be known throughout the continent. If so, who else can do this kind of things.
Ardis gave his thoughts albeit unwillingly.
「Is she…… the Goddess? 」
Hearing that, Elma smiled bitterly.
「Even if that’s the case, I wouldn’t be surprised but, that person is denying it so……. To still be respectful of her, we’re calling her 『Angel-sama』. 」
Hearing Elma’s answer, Ardis felt a little relieved. It seemed like he was quite devoted to Sera but, at the very least, it didn’t seem like he is one of those crazy believers. For Ardis, it doesn’t matter whether Sera is the real Goddess or not.
But, even if his nemesis woman general is not actually the Goddess, Ardis who had felt disgusted by the people that believed blindly for the past seven years has no reason to change his view.
「So that’s why the statue is based on her looks huh. 」
「When we made the statue, Angel-sama said 『Suit yourself』, so we did, and borrowed her appearance as a base. For the other villagers and me, we can’t think of any other appearance other than Angel-sama. In that sense, it’s better to say that our wish of 『Having it like that』 took form. 」
After that, the story moved to the establishment of the village. From Elma’s story, the village formed from people that Sera brought over.
People that are branded heretics and expelled like Elma. People that had twins in their family escaping from church. Slaves that had given up hope in life.
It is a gathering of people who were forced to leave their hometown. Sera would sometimes reach out her hand to people like that.
Because of that, for the villagers, Sera is an existence like the Goddess, even if her appearance doesn’t change after several tens of years, she would still be respected.
「Even me and the village chief have no idea since when the village was established. Half of the villagers still here are born in this land. Those that know about the outside world are people that were brought here by Angel-sama, or those that would leave the village to buy supplies. 」
It seems like they aren’t completely severed from the outside world, as they would send villagers out to buy supplies periodically.
There seems to be mercenaries that coincidentally arrived albeit few, as long as they aren’t people with overly narrow mindset, they are generally accepted.
「Even if the church knows about the existence of this village, it’s impossible they would come here. 」
Elma answered so to the question of fear of the mercenaries exposing the existence of the village after coincidentally discovering it.
As Elma’s story finished, Ardis returned to the house they were provided, and Sera was standing at the entrance waiting.
Seeing Ardis, she spoke casually, 「Now then, shall we pick up what we left off yesterday? 」.
「……Can we talk just by ourselves? 」
「I don’t mind. 」
Leaving the role of looking after the twins to Rona, he went for a walk together with Sera outside the village. Verifying that there’re indeed no one else in the vicinity, Ardis called out to Sera who was up ahead.
「Here is fine. I will notice anyone getting closer anyways. 」
「I see. 」
Sera turned around. Unlike Ardis who looked still on guard, she had a gentle looking expression.
Facing Ardis, her gaze was as if a mother being kind towards her child. Even though it felt strangely discomforting for him, Ardis started asking questions to quell his confusion.
「I know why you’re called 『Angel-sama』 now. Also, your position in this village. 」
「Great. As expected, having it explained myself would be embarrassing, I’m glad Elma was able to do it instead. 」
With one hand on her cheek, Sera had a bitter smile.
「What is your feeling of having crowned as the Goddess? 」
「Ara, you’re unexpected meany. 」
Only a smile towards the question that had slight malice, Sera answered without any change in her expression.
「Isn’t it decided that it’s embarrassing? But Elma and the villagers is insisting so, and it’s not like it’s entirely……」
「Entirely what? 」
「No, it’s nothing……. It’s not bothering anyone, and isn’t it fine if it doesn’t bother me too. 」
Ardis stepped in further towards Sera who was answering vaguely.
「So what’s the truth? 」
「The truth, regarding? 」
「Whether…… you’re really the Goddess or not? 」
Sera showed a face of understanding, then in the next moment burst out in snickers.
「There’s no way right. Do you think I look like a Goddess at all? 」
At that response, Ardis was instead hit with irritation.
「There’s no way a god exists. If something like that exists and is willing to help us, there’s no need to have so much trouble. 」
Seeing Sera who denied so outright, Ardis suddenly recalled similar words from Nere.
『Not just limited to the goddess. They don’t exist, what you all call gods. At the very least, they don’t exist in this planet. 』
『Planet? What is that? 』
『The earth, sea and the skies. It means everything this world encompasses. And there’re no gods living in them. They might’ve been here countless millennia ago, but in this age of humans, they’re long gone. 』
Seven years ago, Ardis hit Nere with the same question just now.
「Then, what is the Goddess that the church believes in? 」
「Won’t you know if you ask the people themselves? 」
「It’s like you’re completely not interested in it. 」
「I mean, I really don’t. 」
Her reddish brown hair slid off her shoulders as she shrugged.
「Strong people gathering faith and naming themselves as god, there’re people like that throughout any age. There’re too many precedences to count. 」
Sera said so with fed-up face, and started a long narration.
「Of course, having a greater existence be a mental support isn’t a bad thing. Not just a God, having something to believe in can help someone to get through their troubles. However, something like that shouldn’t be forced on by someone else. And moreover not used for causing misfortune for someone else. That’s why, no matter who you believe in, Elma and the villagers, we don’t care as long as you don’t force it to someone else and use it as a tool. 」
「From that logic, isn’t the current church using the doctrines of the Goddess as a pretense to cause many misfortunes? 」
「That’s true, it’s a troubling matter. 」
A short sigh, as Sera showed an expression like a mother worrying over her misbehaving child.
It doesn’t seem like she has any animosity towards the Goddess like Ardis but, at the very least she’s not on the side of the church as well.
Although it’s still dangerous to believe her entirely now, Ardis judged that it’s unlikely that she would become an enemy, but nonetheless drove a nail in just in case.
「I don’t care if Gods exist or not. However, I don’t intend to retreat even if my opponent names themselves a God or not for the sake of my purpose. If you intend to be an obstacle to my purpose……」
His last words dropped off as he sent a sharp gaze to Sera.
「Your purpose being, looking after the twins? 」
「……It includes that. 」
Ardis replied after a short period of silence at Sera’s question.
「Rest assured, as my role is to only 『Oversee』. It’s unlikely that I will ever be an obstacle to you. 」
「Then good. 」
Satisfied with Sera’s answer for the time being, Ardis lowered his guard against her.