Senia returned to the two men, smiling brightly and Tess just greeted her calmly as if the little conversation he had with Carr was nothing of importance.
“Welcome back, Senia. So, when’s the ship depart?”
“Oh, that’s…. we’re in a little trouble.” Senia frowned slightly, “All the boats in the river belong to Lord of Serendipirel. He said that if we want to cross the river, we need to get the permission ourselves.”
Serendipirel was the name of the city next to Pirel River. Carr tilted his head to the side, looking at the city then at all the boats.
“What? There are many boats there. So, what are they all doing there?” Tess asked frustratedly.
“That’s…. it seems that all types of fishing boats, including the one to cross the river, are operated under the Lord’s command.”
Tess grumbled underneath his breath, wondering what kind of stupid policy that he had just heard. Carr just quietly sympathized as his eyes looked at the river. He knew that the Pirel River was always filled with fishing boats and it wasn’t suitable for luxury boats that carried customers until a few years ago.
“With this situation, I think we will need to go into the city and meet the Lord.”
“Well, I have an ominous feeling about this, but we can’t help it.”
“I was planning of taking a rest today anyway, so we can just take our time,” Senia smiled and started to make her way to the city.
Tess, who usually always quick to follow her, stayed back and tapped Carr’s shoulder.
“Oh, I wanted to ask you something.”
“What is it?”
“It is well known among us that the sun’s saint has been cursed by the devil and not able to restore her divinity. However, the great devil was sent to the underworld right after that, so no one knew the details of the curse.”
“Isn’t that too much a coincidence that Senia started her pilgrimage with a demon and at the same time she regained her powers? You know something about the curse, don’t you?”
“I don’t know. Even if I do, there’s no reason to tell you,” Carr lied and quickly followed after Senia.
Tess squinted his eyes and let out a small chuckle as he watched Carr’s back. The sun’s saint had only recently recovered her divinity. Tess clearly remembered about it because there was a luxury banquet in the main church to celebrate it.
However, that didn’t mean that the curse had been lifted. If she had been in perfect condition, the last city raid would have end easily. It made him wonder if Senia was only able to regain her power in some way but not truly breaking the curse.
Tess was not abandoning that possibility and if it true…. He might have a chance.
There would be a moment when the saint weakened and returned to a normal woman. That would be the moment he would attack.
The image of Senia’s silver hair soaked in blood was enough to make the innocent smile on his face turned into that of a stereotypical villain.
‘It would be fun like just tearing that fragile butterfly wings.’
Serendipirel, a magnificent and beautiful city. The streets were decorated with flowers that bloom only by the river. The tiled roofs were in various colours while the sidewalks were made from red bricks. Some tourists expressed their admiration as they strolled the city for the first time. Tess and Carr were no exception.
“Oh, it looks pretty good. Would there be an overpass city in this scale?”
“Don’t put your hand on other people’s shoulders pretending you’re close to them.”
“Eh? I don’t want to sound like Senia, but you know it’s normal. You’re not interested?”
Instead of answering, Carr just sighed. He was curious about the city, but not now.
“You’re no fun. I’ll just look around on my own,” Tess grumbled and looked around while Carr made his way to stand beside Senia who is a step ahead of him.
He was worried that she was being quiet for too long and when he looked at her expression, he wasn’t surprised to see that she had a cold look.
“Oh, Sir Carr…” Senia, who was torn as if she didn’t know where to put her eyes, soon lifted her head to look at Carr and grabbed his sleeve.
“I… I hope it’s just my feeling…. But I keep wondering if I’m getting a lot of attention.”
Carr looked around and noticed several pairs of eyes peeking through the curtains in the private house but quickly hid inside when their eyes met with Carr. There were even some people that stuck their heads out from the alley, and he can see their eyes were focused on Senia.
‘Did they know that she is a saint? No, that would be a little…’
It was only natural that Senia gains other people’s attention, but there was something different about the city. Especially as those eyes were not a gaze of respect and admiration, but more of distrust and vigilant ones.
Senia’s heart was beating faster, afraid that she might have done something wrong. She took deep breaths, trying to calm herself and not to speculate about the city but Carr quickly pulled her into his cloak.
He wrapped his arms around Senia’s shoulder, allowing his cloak into some sort of curtain to hide her. He took the lead as they walked so no one could see Senia from the left or even from behind. Senia looked up with surprise, she saw the brown eyes of Carr asking if the change of position was better for her.
It was Carr’s way to protect and make her comfortable and Senia blushed slightly. She was always grateful for Carr’s care and attention.
“Oh… thank you. It calmed me down.”
Carr nodded his head, ready to walk again when Senia tugged his sleeve gently.
“Err… you can put your arms down now. If you walk like this, it will be hard for you. And… my heart… can’t calm down…”
Her voice was small, almost like a whisper especially towards the end that Carr was having a hard time understanding. However, Carr moved his hand back to his side and Senia took a deep breath and started to walk again. This time she was calmer in receiving all the stares because Carr was by her side.
“What? If you have something you want to say, say it.”
“No, I just thought you wouldn’t be so bold to do something.”
“Are you not aware of anything? All right, then.”
Carr quietly titled his head when he saw Tess snorted and walked past him.
The three continued to walk along the street until they spotted the lord’s mansion. It was the tallest, most superb, and magnificent building in the city. The iron fence bars surrounding the mansion were painted green, so it did not feel like it was iron, and beyond the gate, there was a wide garden filled with flowers that had never been seen before.
Senia was slightly excited seeing that the lord enjoyed pretty things and even arranged for his residency to be managed beautifully. However, the pure excitement was quickly subsided upon hearing the ruckus in front of the gate.
“Please! I have begged you like this! The medicine… please give me some medicine for a little bit!”
“There’s nothing I can give to someone who doesn’t take the test! Don’t get in the way. Go back!”
The loud noises coming back and forth at the entrance of the mansion. The three of them looked back between the security guard who was shouting and a middle-aged woman that was on her knee, clinging to the guard and begging. At first glance, the guard ignored the woman’s desperate cry but if one is looking closely, he was kicking the beseeching woman, but she continued to cling to him.
“If it’s money, I will pay for it! Please help me just once!”
“Tests are mandatory! Get away from me if you don’t want to get hit!” The guard raised his spear high and the woman quickly curled on the ground.
However, after a few seconds, the weapon didn’t swing down at her.
“A-Are… you, all right?”
Senia had moved to cover the woman. The woman’s arms were bruised and her lips a little torn which made Senia’s heart clenched tightly.
“W-Who… are you?” The woman asked in a trembling voice as Senia helped her to get up.
“I am a priest who is travelling. I’ll look at your wounds, so we should move.”
“What is this—?! Don’t interfere with public affairs! Are you going to disobey the lord’s order?!” The guard who was held back by Carr shouting at him.
Carr had moved quickly to subdue the guard when he noticed Senia moving to protect eh woman. If he hadn’t stopped him, Senia could have been hit, not the woman.
“I apologize,” Carr murmured and released the guard once he saw both Senia and the woman were already out of harm’s way.
“I’ll let you go this time. You’d better get out of here as soon as you’re done, scammers.”
The guard turned his back, ignoring Carr’s question.
“Isn’t he talking about Senia?” Tess, who had been watching silently from behind, answered Carr’s question instead.
“Well… didn’t you notice the stares? Even the way that woman reacts is weird, right?”
That made sense. There was no reason to treat a simple traveller as a scammer, so if something caught the people’s eyes that would be Senia’s uniform as a priest.
“Well, why don’t we just hear the detail from that woman?” Tess tilted his head toward the two women sitting on the bench.
Carr nodded his head and made his way toward Senia and the woman.
“Is your body all right?”
“Ah, yes. It’s okay. I’m fine.”
“I wish I could see the wound so I can heal the, but…” Senia reached out toward the woman but in an instant, the woman tensed and backed away.
Her eyes trembled as she watches Senia anxiously and vigilantly.
“It will be all right if I let it be for now.”
“Thank you for helping me but I have to buy medicine. You, travellers, don’t have to be bothered about it.”
The woman quickly got up speaking strictly and refused Senia’s helped. However, her body couldn’t bear the pain as her legs gave up easily. Tess immediately caught her before she almost fell.
“Come on. You don’t have to be in such a hurry, do you, ma’am? I think you are curious too, so let’s talk a little bit more.” Tess, who lightly embraced her, gave of a benign smile. “She saved your life; can you give us that much time?”
“She didn’t do anything.”
“Let’s not be so mean about my companion.”
The middle-aged woman blushed slightly seeing Tess’s smile. She hesitated slightly but she knew that he wasn’t wrong, but in the end, she sat back on the bench.
“….what are you curious about?”
Tess winked at Senia. Understanding that he handed over the right to question back to Senia, she gave him a small nod.
“Well… I want to know why the priests called scammers.”
“That’s because you ridicule people with those miracles nonsense.” The woman, as expected, answered with displeasure, very different from how she acted with Tess.
“What? What do you mean….?”
“Those ‘miracles’ are just eye tricks to gain donations, aren’t they? There is no single temple here because the Lord disapproved of it and has driven out all the gods.”
It happened ten years ago when there was a change in the lord of Serendipirel. The newly inaugurated young lord was the first one that ever speaks out about the needlessness of the temple and the incompetence of priests. The miracles that had healed many people in the past were branded as tricks. This was also backed up by the fact that at that the time there was no powerful priest in Serendipirel.
‘Because they never saw it, they didn’t believe in miracles.’
Carr poked Tess’s side after he muttered how the new lord was ‘great man’. Fortunately, the woman did not hear him.
“….so, it would be beneficial for you to get out of this city quickly and not stay a minute longer.”
“Oh, I see. Thank you for your explanation.” Senia was a bit taken aback but nodded her head.
It’s difficult to achieve strong divinity power and even then, the probability that miracle-working is not always 100 percent. She had heard from Arte that the farther away from the priest from the saints, the weaker their faith became, but Serendipirel was part of the extreme group.
“Do you have any more questions?”
“Yes, I think you need some medication. I might be able to help you if you explain to me what’s happening around the city.”
Despite being called a scammer, Senia’s faith didn’t falter. She still believed that she needed to help those that needed it. Her smile on her eyes and the way she folded her hands-on top of her lap just show kindness that even the middle-aged woman was reluctant to reject her.
“That…. I see. If you are travellers, maybe you have the medicine I need…”
The middle-aged woman introduced herself as Moz and invited the three to her house.
“I’ll talk to you as we make our way.”
“Sir Carr, Sir Tess, will that be all right?”
Tess briefly clicked his tongue while Carr nodded gently.
“We have come this first; wouldn’t it be better to meet with the lord first? It’s good to ask about the boat service in advance.”
“Ah yes. We came here to ask the Lord’s permission for a boat to cross the Pirel River.”
After hearing that, Moz’s expression became hard like a stone.
“You guys should take the exam. It would be better to hear my story first then.”
From her words, they could tell that there was something hidden in the city. If they think about it, it was not normal the way the guard treated someone who had come to buy medicine like earlier. The three exchanged glances among each other before eventually decided to follow the woman Moz.