It was late at night, the moon that shone high in the sky reminded him of Lu’s gaze as he continued to run back to his inn. His heart gradually calmed down as he entered the building and greeted by the faint artificial light. The whole experience felt like a nightmare.
As he opened the door, his eyes met with the inn owner who welcomed him with a warm smile. Carr gave a quick awkward nod and watched as the owner’s head pointed to the other side of the wall. Carr turned his head and spotted Senia sleeping on a small sofa in the corner of the room.
Around her, a thin blanket was draped. It seems to have been placed by the owner. It was covering her small body while her hand was holding a book. Her chest was moving steadily, deeply asleep.
Carr pointed at her as he looked at the owner, curious about the current state of Senia.
“She has been waiting for you. She said she wanted to greet you first when you got back.”
The owner chuckled.
“I’m not even a child, I’m a grown man… and she is worrying a lot,” Carr mumbled.
He looked adorable making an awkward gesture towards Senia and explaining his side to the inn owner.
“Well, even the famous saint of the sun is still an ordinary lady at the end of the day, should I call someone if you are tired?”
“No, thank you. I will take care of her, myself,” Carr answered as he carefully carried Senia still wrapped in a blanket.
Senia automatically leaned against Carr’s chest, her silver hair fell framing her face, shining under the light.
The sight of Senia, snuggling comfortably against his chest, warmed his heart. It stole his breath away as he watched her melted against his arms. Carr cleared his throat as he started to climb the stairs, he couldn’t look away from Senia’s adorable sleeping face.
On the way up the stairs, Senia groaned, her eyelids fluttered opening slightly revealing her blue eyes.
“Oh, you have arrived,”
She mumbled, blushing slightly as her sleepy eyes found Carr.
It only made her looked even more adorable that Carr wondered if she could hear how fast his heartbeat for her.
‘Yes, I’m back.’
Carr wished he could answer the greeting, it was something trivial, but he felt frustrated for not being able to do so. The longer he had Senia in his arms, the more he realized that he didn’t want to leave her side.
In the end, Carr settled for a kiss on Senia’s forehead as his answer. It was different from the kiss he gave her amid their thirst.
This kiss was purely full of his affection toward Senia.
“It seemed that last night I couldn’t fight against my fatigue anymore,” Senia blushed as she tried to explain about her condition last night while they walked along the street to just enjoy the day with Carr.
Performing miracles didn’t just drain her divinity but it also requires physical and mental strength. When she uses divine blessings, the greater the miracle is, the more tired she became. It would accumulate like how snow falls in an avalanche that by the end of the day she was completely drained.
“Actually, I have never felt so safe that I ended up sleeping outside like last night. Is it because I’m outside of the church? Or perhaps is it because of Sir Carr?”
Carr mulled over the question before he shrugged his shoulders lightly which caused Senia to smile joyfully at him.
“I heard you came back late in the evening. Did you finish your business well?” Senia asked.
She quickly added when she saw the frown on Carr’s face, “was that a tough question?”
Carr shook his head with a sigh when he remembered the fateful meeting. It was something that he wanted to forget.
Senia tilted her head slightly, wondering about the uneasy expression.
“Oh! Saint Lady! Sir Carr!”
They both quickly turned around, spotting Dan running towards them with a bright face. The boy gasped for breath once he managed to catch up to them.
“I-I’ve been looking around for you two! Well, I’m glad to see you now.”
“Is there a problem?”
Carr asked the boy as Senia took a handkerchief out of her pocket and Dan shook his head at the offer, blushing slightly.
“Oh, no, no, no. I’m all right. The wind is cool, so I will be fine.”
“Oh, is that so?”
Senia laughed slightly while Carr cleared his throat, gaining Dan’s attention to the matter at hand.
“Is there anything you want to talk to us about?”
Dan, who was smiling quickly turned serious as he remembered about his matter.
“There was an accident while rebuilding the building in the west. There is no immediate danger because of the immediate aid, but we still need your help.”
“Oh, I understand. We will make our way there,”
Senia replied, quite surprised that she was asked as small injuries miracle could have been done even by regular priests.
Although she was overwhelmed with how many miracles she had done, as she was already staying in the village, she thought that it was the least she could do.
“Ermm, Sir Carr are you available? Because of the accident, we are a bit short on manpower. You’re very strong, so it will be of great help!”
“Is that so,”
Carr scratched the back of his head, mulling over the situation before he glanced at Senia.
Sensing the gaze, Senia closed her eyes slightly, not wanting to push him to take the offer. She knew that he didn’t have to accept it, but some people expected his help.
“Well, I can lend a hand for a short while.”
“Thank you both!”
“Thank you for doing this, Sir Carr,”
He shook his head at Senia.
He knew she didn’t have to thank him, as it was Dan who asked for their help. The three made their way to the site, pleasant conversation flowed freely between Dan and Senia while Carr was walking behind them. He was afraid to accidentally answer Senia in the midst of talking to Dan and he noticed that she talked more when there was someone else. After all, Carr couldn’t properly respond to her, so it was natural.
“What’s the main church like? I want to visit there someday.”
“Well, it’s a bright and shiny building. There always a long line of people who came to pray at the church. It’s a place where everyone smiles and without any sickness.”
“Was it really like that?”
Carr mumbled as he tried to remember about the main church.
The only thing that came to mind was the sight of the large building that he saw when he was captured and dragged inside. Since then, he lived in a solitary cell with no natural sunlight and when he walked out of the place, he didn’t have the time to look around.
“Right, I didn’t show you around properly,” Senia mumbled with a bitter smile.
Although her gaze was fixed on Dan, Carr knew that she was talking to him.
‘It is not your responsibility.’
Dan, who didn’t notice the subtle exchange between the two, was excited about the image of the main church in his mind,
“Wow! When are you returning then? The next time I’m able to visit, please show me around. Oh! I should not be asking this to the saint, should I? I’m sorry!”
“It’s all right. I don’t know much about the city because I’ve only been inside the church all the time.”
As she is bound by the rules and her duties, Senia never steps outside to look around. The festival a few days ago was the first time she able to go out and enjoyed herself just like any ordinary lady.
Dan looked like he was about to cry when he realized the situation of her life. He couldn’t imagine how she could bear the burden of being a saint who always live-in high pedestal and all the expectations they have of her.
“Isn’t that hard?”
Senia snapped at the question before she averted her eyes from Dan to the sky. For a moment, the clear blue eyes blurred slightly as if she was reminiscing.
“I think it was hard,” a tired sigh followed the answer.
Senia’s voice turned clear again, “But, it’s what I have to do. Tiredness is part of my duty, so I didn’t want to complain about it or show any of my distress.”
“But you’re still having a hard time, right? Are you trying to hold it in?”
“That’s not the case,” Senia smiled softly at Dan.
“Healing people is rewarding enough for me. And this year, I was able to see the festival because of the two of you, and now there’s a place for me to lean on. It’s not as hard as it used to be. However, thank you for your concern, Deacon Dan.”
Dan blushed slightly seeing her sincere smile. He almost looked like an excited puppy with how his whole body was shaking. Listening to Senia’s answer only made his respect for Senia grew tremendously.
“Ah, come to think of it, the captain of the guard asked me to send a message to you when I meet you,” Dan suddenly said, glancing at Carr.
“What’s the message?”
“Did you have fun last night?”
“Tell him I thought I was going to die.”
Carr sighed and shuddered to remember the eventful night. He opened his mouth, hesitant about answering the unspoken question when he remembered the conversation toward the end of the meeting.
“Erm, I want to ask a question.”
“Do I look harmful to her?”
Dan blinked his eyes, not understanding Carr’s question.
“I don’t know how to prove that I have no intention of harming her,” Carr sighed deeply as he further explained his question.
Dan tilted his head, thinking if he was the right person to be asked that question. However, he listened to Carr’s worries and thought seriously.
“Well, I’m not sure. Do you need proof for something like that? She looks happy after all.”
“She looks happy?”
“How do I put this in words? I can’t give you a detailed explanation, but she looks so much brighter now than we first met. She looks more comfortable when talking to you than toward anyone else. Besides, from the previous conversation, she said that Sir Carr is the person that she is grateful for and I can understand why. Isn’t that enough?”
“No… that’s all I need,” Carr turned awkwardly as his heartache even more as he listened to Dan’s answer.
He was somewhat pleased to hear what Senia thought about him from someone else’s mouth. He should attend the meeting again tonight. He’s still worried, but he was determined to correct the moon’s saint corrupted view of him.
“When a saint was born, they always have this birthmark on their body. It’s the mark of the chosen one which is why they usually raised it inside the church since they are born. Although it is not the case with Senia.”
Instead of wine, tonight they were having tea and snacks. Lu’s clothes were not as thin and not as revealing as yesterday, but it was still something that couldn’t be called a priest’s standard uniform. Nevertheless, it was hard for Carr because, just like yesterday, Lu still opted for a dress that shows off her collar bone.
He was curious about the sudden change of attitude, but right now Carr couldn’t help but focus on the tale that Lu was telling.
“Senia only was revealed as a saint when she was five years and only after her parents were killed by demons. That’s when her grandfather, Arte, took over as her guardian and he found out that she was a saint. Until then, even the fact that she was born was still hidden.”
“Well, maybe her parents didn’t want her to live as a saint. If she could hear the voice of God, she would have left home on her own, but she didn’t, and frankly, the life of a saint is quite boring and tedious.”
Carr knew that Lu meant more than just a boring and tedious lifestyle. After all, living like a saint is to sacrifice everything for the greater good.
“It’s quite stupid that when I think about it. There’s no woman more suitable for being a saint than she is. if she had entered the church much earlier, she would have been perfect.”
“Still, that sounds a bit not right.”
“Are you saying I’m wrong?”
Carr crossed his arms, expression still judging the woman in front of him. That was enough of an answer to her question.
“I don’t particularly care if you understand the situation. The fact that she was my salvation by being a saint remains the same,” Lu mumbled as she took a mouthful of the small cookie.
The atmosphere between the two was more relaxed and comfortable than yesterday. Even Carr was not as wary as before and Lu’s mood was even more relaxed.
Lu hesitated when she heard the question. Everyone knew about the story and yet this man before seemed not aware of it. Lu sighed after the long silence hangs between them.
It should be all right now, after all, it’s all in the past.
“The origin is a common ritual for all denominations, however, there are some rituals that are only passed down from one saint to another.”
“Wait. Come to think of it, you didn’t attend to your duty as a saint with the origin prayer, did you?”
“I was supposed to do it, but I bailed out. I didn’t even tell people that I was in town in the first place. I mean it is annoying that a saint should stay inside the temple and pray while everyone is enjoying themselves, don’t you agree?”
Carr couldn’t help but agree with her and he could see how Lu was entirely different from Senia.
“Anyway, back to what I am saying if a volcano erupts when the fire’s saint exists, it was because of the saint’s immorality, so she had to cut off her arm as a sacrifice to the god. It’s not a problem since you can recover your severed arm through a miracle. That’s how faith and miracles work,” Lu explained as she sipped her black tea.
“On the first full moon when the saint of the moon reached adulthood, she will mate with the archbishop for passing her divinity to the next generation.”
For a moment Carr doubted his ears but Lu continued.
“Except for this generation, all seven saints have never coexisted. Sometimes, one or two denominations won’t have a saint, however, the Moon church is an exception. It is the blessing of Lumar – the mating between the previous generation of the saint with the archbishop can lead to the birth of the next generation of saints.”
“That’s… What the hell is that…”
“I don’t have much faith in the first place, and I didn’t want to give my first time to an old man over 70 years old, so I slept with someone. A sacred act they say?”
Lu scoffed at her question, “They could say that because they didn’t have to do it themselves.”
Lu closed her eyes as her tone turned into a sneer, “I still remember that night, under the ghastly bright moonlight, the touch that made me wanted to crawl away, the face of the old man when he found out I wasn’t a virgin…. and the sight of the sun saint who was waiting for me outside.”
Carr listened to Lu as she recalled the scene of that night. The act that was done to her, how the ‘sacred act’ was not done in the main temple but a separate building in the middle of the garden, and how after such a terrible experience there was only one person that welcome Lu who had escaped from the sleeping archbishop.
Until that day, Lu had never cared about Senia, after all, they only met during services and ceremonies of the saints. Lu only saw her as a quiet and adorable kid. However, Senia, who saw Lu coming out after her ritual with the archbishop, didn’t say anything and just stayed still. Her pure eyes that seemed to know what had happened only made Lu despised herself more. As soon as that thought entered her mind, all reasoning and control she had left finally broke and Lu directed all swear words toward Senia.
She asked whether Senia came to pity her. There were more insults that she said, she didn’t remember the content, but she screamed at Senia, wondering why she had to be the only person to be dirty and went through the ritual. She even prayed for Senia to suffer the same way as she and Senia only stood there and received all her anger before she answered calmly,
“Will that ease the sorrow of saint Lu?”
The question snapped Lu back to her senses and she couldn’t help but think whether the sun’s saint was a normal person to be able to ask that. She thought that Senia was crazy. Senia continued to say that she would sacrifice herself if that would bring peace to Lu and at that moment, Lu was shaken by the sincerity of her words.
“….No… Actually, I didn’t want that…!”
Just like Pandora’s box, at that moment all sorrow that Lu buried beneath, and the hidden anger burst out because of how Senia accepted her. Senia was the only person that wanted to know how she felt amid people who only applauded her for being a saint.
Under the bright moonlight, Lu was sobbing in the arms of a much younger saint as Senia cried with her while patting her back. The sun saint, who shared her pain, was a much bigger salvation for Lu than the god whom she was supposed to worship. And later, Lu heard how the sun’s saint had comforted the other saints through their hardships and suffering.
“I can’t help but think about how she was more than a human. Her smile was always beautiful – always bring peace to others, albeit it was short and empty. It was something that no human could make,” Lu smiled faintly while her eyes glistened with so much hero worship for the person that had saved her life from the anguish of being a saint.
It was evident how much respect she had for Senia.
Lu cleared her throat when she realized that she had shown too much of herself to Carr.
“Anyway, now you know what kind of woman you’re escorting right?”
“I know,” Carr laughed in vain.
The story wasn’t much of a surprise when Senia had given her body to a demon to gain her power back. However, the more he thought about Senia’s situation and the story that Lu just told him, he couldn’t help but feel sick.
“Just in case, does she have such a special ritual?”
“I don’t know much about the sun church, but they dance and pray to the sun at the first sunrise every year.”
“Is that all?”
Carr asked while on the inside he sighed in relief.
It wasn’t something difficult to do and now that he imagined Senia dancing under the first sunrise, he wanted to see her once. She must look even more angelic.
Lu who saw Carr’s soft expression smirked.
“There’s no way you can’t stop thinking darkly about her when you two are only travelling alone. Senia couldn’t defend herself, just make her sympathize with you and she won’t be able to refuse your request. Don’t tell me you already lay your hand on her? If I found out you touched her, I will kill you. I don’t care if I have to die because of it.”
Compared to the people that chasing him out of the village with farming tools, Lu’s threat wasn’t that scary. However, the threat that Lu gave to him wasn’t even because he was a demon but if he had touched the sun’s saint.
Fortunately, Lu could not see the cold sweat running his neck. After all, if the saint in front of him knew the truth, he would be dead instantly.
“Well, why don’t you tell me all the excuses you have prepared?” Lu asked as she elegantly raised the cup of tea and sipped it quietly.
“There is no excuse, I wanted to travel with her because I want to stay by her side.”
“Huh? Then are you giving up?”
“Why don’t you talk to her about this rather than to me?”
Lu tensed at the sudden ambush question while Carr just stared at her seriously. He knew that it could be a dangerous gamble, but he decided to believe in Dan’s words and Senia’s choice. She trusted him.
“You don’t want to hear what I say since the moment you summoned me, right? If that’s the case, why not talking to her about this yourself?”
“If Saint Senia hears me, will she just walk away?”
“If she wants that. Yes, she will.”
Carr knew that Senia wouldn’t just walk away because she needed him. However, she would need to explain to the other saints if she decided to stay by his side and ignored Lu’s request. He thought that this would be the best course of action. He had his faith in Senia, she had told him how she was glad that she could have someone that she could lean on.
‘If I end up losing this job… I’ll just think about it later.’
The thought of leaving Senia’s side was quite heartbreaking but he didn’t have any other solution to make Lu believed him. It seemed that Lu was determined to see him as someone who is going to attack Senia, thus this was his only option.
“Talking to Senia,” Lu mumbled, hesitant about the suggestion but after mulling about it she nodded briefly.
“Good. Finally, I can finish this conversation with you.”
“You know, yesterday’s offer is still on the table, just let me know if you change your mind.”
Lu lifted the bottom of her robe to her thigh, revealing her white creamy leg to Carr.
Carr groaned as he turned his head away, “I told you to stop this. Won’t this just bring out a painful memory?”
“I don’t like it, but I’m already dirty anyway because I’ve had a lot of fun with other men.”
“God’s going to be angry…”
Lu smiled faintly at Carr without realizing it who is blatantly turning her down again for the second time. It eased the wound inside her without even realizing it.