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Chapter: 496


Chapter 25: Days of Lies

Then came the morning of the 14th of Ice Crystal Month.

"I was thinking about taking a little break from Ursula’s training today, and having a mock battle with Reki. What do you girls think?"

While we were all having breakfast, I brought up the plan I had settled on for today, and the girls’ reaction was a little unexpected.

"Eeeh!?"

"Ah…"

Reki seemed surprised, while Ursula had a disappointed look on her face. Maybe I was a bit too reckless…?

"Don’t worry, it’ll be just a quick session. We’re still going to the festival just like we planned."

After hearing that, both of them sighed in relief. They’re still children after all. They’re looking forward to today’s festival.

That’s why, as planned, Reki and I would have a short mock battle in the morning after breakfast.

None of the members of the vigilante groups are here today, so Reki and I would have our one-on-one in the place behind the church, just like before.

"It’s been a long time since the last time I’ve sparred with someone like this."

"O-Okay!"

I was already familiar with seeing Reki holding that wooden sword I gave her, but she still seemed somewhat distant, as if she had become aware of something all of a sudden.

"Even though I haven’t been around much, you haven’t missed a single day of practice, right? I bet you’re thrilled to see what you can do."

"T-That’s not it…"

Sariel, who had been in charge of looking after the church in my absence, told me that Reki hadn’t slacked off a single day.

But not only that, she had also been sparring with the vigilantes, who had resumed their daily training after the recent goblin attacks.

In fact, Reki looks more like an accomplished vigilante trainee than an apprentice nun to me. Judging by the fact that she was able to defeat Dortos all by herself, she would be able to become a rank 3 adventurer from the get-go. The time when she merely used to carry and hold stuff for the vigilantes who attempted to subjugate Dortos seems like it’s been so long ago…

In any case, now’s not the time to be going down memory lane. Reki has already proven to be quite strong. I can’t be too lenient during our fight, or I could find myself being knocked to the ground.

We were going to fight with all our strength while banning the use of all magic, martial arts, and blessings.

"Show me the results of your training, Reki."

Reki must have felt my fighting spirit as I took up my own wooden sword, as the indecision she emanated up until now took a complete turn. Her facial expression tightened, and her movements began to flow naturally as she readied herself.

Her reaction alone told me that her intuition was very sharp. Reki’s talent as a fighter was the real deal.

"Come at me."

"…Here I go."

"…Look at you, all cheered up now."

"I-I am not!"

As soon as I returned from my mock battle with Priest Kuroe, I saw Ursula waiting for me, and she seemed fed up about something.

"You haven’t forgotten about our plan, right?"

"No, I haven’t!"

I actually had completely forgotten about it while I was fighting. Because whenever I spar with Priest Kuroe, I have to be completely focused on the fight in order to keep up with him.

Still, I can’t draw more power from Priest Kuroe like Ur can. I can’t use magic or martial arts. How much more training should I do before I’m strong enough to be able to use those…? I had a desperate desire to catch up with them, but… more than anything, I just enjoyed sparring with Priest Kuroe.

Sure enough, after fighting with all my might for the first time in a week, you bet I was feeling better.

"Just after noon, Priest Kuroe will be at church for the opening ceremony of the Valentinus Festival. It will be over in about an hour, and after that, he’ll be free."

After pulling herself together, Ur repeats today’s plan.

By staying in our room, Priest Kuroe wouldn’t hear us even if I were to raise my voice. Priest Nikolai wouldn’t hesitate to walk into our room whenever he needed something from us, but Priest Kuroe always knocks and waits till we say it’s okay to come in.

"We still have some time until the evening."

"We’re free to do whatever we want until then, but it would be best to be away from Priest Kuroe in order to avoid being too suspicious."

"But then, there’s a chance we won’t find Priest Kuroe when the time comes, right?"

"Right, then… We’ll have to watch him closely without him noticing us."

"Priest Kuroe is very sensitive. I don’t think he’ll be easily deceived."

"It’ll be fine, Priest Kuroe only cares about being spied on by people with hostile intent."

Ur said that as if it were common knowledge, but I still didn’t know that much about Priest Kuroe.

Despite it being a trivial detail, it still reminded me how much they had gotten to know each other during their entire week of training compared to our mock battle.

I resisted the urge to cry, and kept talking as if nothing had happened.

"Well then, we’d better keep a close watch on him."

"Ah, maybe Priest Kuroe and Sister Yuuri are planning to finally do some naughty things tonight, so we gotta be careful not to let them go to some dark, empty place all by themselves."

"W-What makes you think that!?"

"Priest Kuroe hasn’t done naughty things for at least two months."

"H-How do you know that?"

"I heard him say so through the door."

Why was she so obsessed with his… activities?

But what has aroused Ur’s interest in romance was none other than that romantic novel Priest Kuroe gave me, after all. Naturally, after reading it, she became more wary of Priest Kuroe and Sister Yuuri’s daily behavior, which led her to eavesdrop on them from the door of their bedroom at night.

Well, when I think about it that way, it kinda makes me curious about it too…

"Well, if that happens, Reki and Ur will do whatever is in their power to stop them!"

"Yeah, we’ll pretend we came across them by chance and just stick around."

Ur then let a wicked "Uhuhu~" laugh as a devilish expression appeared on her face.

"But all this kind of makes me feel a bit about Sister Yuuri…"

"Listen, Reki. Love is war. When it comes to war and love, we Ibrahimians do whatever it takes."

"Well, yes, but…"

"Don’t worry, I also like and respect Sister Yuuri very much. So I’ll admit her as a second wife."

"But a man can only have one wife!!"

"That’s a rule of the Cross Church. In Ibrahim, you can marry as many people as you want. It’s a wonderful system that shows true tolerance when it comes to love."

Ur, you should probably not be saying that while wearing a Cross Church nun’s garments, you know?

Still, those beliefs are the reason why Ur isn’t so reluctant to "steal" Priest Kuroe from Sister Yuuri.

"But I never thought that Ur was so concerned about the Ibrahim way."

"I’m not particularly concerned with it, but Priest Kuroe hansn’t said anything like ‘I’ll become a Sinclairian’ or ‘I’ll become an exclusive follower of the Cross Church’. I’m sure he’ll accept me despite me being an Ibrahimian and being subject to a terrible curse, which is why…"

Then, with a mysterious smile on her face, Ur declared something that caught me completely by surprise.

"…I love him."

"…And from the letter Saint Valentinus sent to the priest, who was one of his disciples, we can see his strong determination."

And with that, I successfully managed to survive the opening ceremony, which had me telling the legend to a bunch of people with nonchalant looks on their faces.

My preparations had been perfect. I had already read the parts of the Holy Scriptures I had to read aloud in advance, and Sariel had helped me with the reciting and lecturing. Thankfully, this village’s believers just listened quietly to my sermon and didn’t ask any strange questions.

"Well then, I don’t have to do anything else from now on, so maybe I’ll head to the festival now."

It’s probably around 3:00 PM right now. I can already hear the noisy voices of the villagers coming from the central square. Many of them had already started drinking.

"I don’t mind staying here and looking after the church."

"Come on, that’s not the attitude of someone who’s going to go have fun."

I tied my expressionless (fake) younger sister –who doesn’t seem to be too excited about the festival– to my back. I was already a natural at it, too. I started noticing that as my hand reached for the handle of the church’s front door as I carried her limbless body on my back.

"By the way, where are Reki and Ursula?"

"It seems that they have already gone to the festival."

Gone so early? But I guess it’s okay for kids to be this excited about the festival. I gave them some pocket money in advance as well.

Thinking about it, they’re normally here all day doing their jobs as apprentice nuns, plus housework, with the occasional mock battle for Reki and Ursula’s training giving them an even tighter schedule than before, so I should just let them have as much fun as they like.

And with that thought in mind, I headed to the festival without worrying where they were.

The moment I took a step outside, I could see the hustle and bustle happening in the central square. Almost all the villagers are meeting here today, so when I looked in that direction, it seemed to be considerably full of people.

Due to the nature of this colony, its villagers were relatively young. Probably because of that, it seemed to be more lively than usual for the actual number of people present.

They hadn’t lit a huge campfire in the middle of the square yet, but several people had brought their own instruments and were playing cheerful tunes of their own accord. One was playing something that looked like a transverse flute, another one was playing something similar to a guitar, while others simply held a bottle of liquor in one hand, men and women alike embracing each other in cheerful song.

To resent people who enjoy this kind of social activities would have been a mistake. After all, I felt a slight regret to realize that, under other circumstances, I would’ve actually wanted to enjoy a festival like this together with Lily and Fiona.

"Oh, but if it isn’t Priest Kuroe! Good day!"

As I basked in my subtle feelings, a young Barbadian with blond hair and red eyes called out to me.

"Hello, Ted. Oh, who do we have here…?"

"She’s cute, isn’t she? My daughter is probably the cutest one in the whole village! Hey Eva, this is Priest Kuroe…"

With a slightly unpleasant grin, Ted showed me that he was holding a baby, warmly wrapped in a white cloth.

This baby, named Eva, was the one that was born after Ted had come bashing on the church’s front door in the middle of the night and yelling "Our baby is born!".

This was about two months ago. Eva had red eyes just like her father, but her brown hair seemed to have been inherited from her mother, a slender brown-haired woman who was standing right next to Ted.

"She seems to be in good health."

I had been asked to be present at the moment of birth, or should I say, right after Eva was born, so that I could perform the Cross Church’s birth ritual.

It’s a simple ritual that consists of a priest pouring a few drops of hot water –which I can only assume it’s regarded as holy water– as they read a few passages from the Holy Scriptures and say a few congratulatory words. This ritual, however, was also seen as a serious rite of passage in the Cross Church.

I think that more than Ted, who had converted from his Barbadian roots, it was his wife who took this initiative, considering she was a Sinclairian from the beginning.

Of course, these kinds of things are completely unknown to a newborn baby.

Eva was more interested in Sariel’s hair, which had been turned to a flax color thanks to the Magic Items Randolph had given to us.

Meanwhile, Sariel was also poking on Eva’s stretched out round hand with the fingertips of her remaining left hand, probably because she too had been present in her birth ritual.

"…So, how was it?"

After Eva suddenly started crying –perhaps she needed to have her diapers changed–, the couple parted ways with us, so I asked Sariel that question.

"How was what?"

"Though it was just a formal ritual, you were still involved in her birth. Didn’t you feel anything at that time?"

"I don’t know. I can’t emotionally understand the feelings of a newborn baby or the joy of a couple with a child."

It may not be possible for this girl, who was created merely as a slaughter machine, to properly grasp the phenomenon of birth –which is the opposite of that– like a human would.

"But it didn’t feel bad."

"I see. Well, that’s fine."

Recently, I’ve been having this thought… That if Sariel were to live as a normal girl in the future, she may be able to understand her own feelings a little… But maybe that thought is too naive of me.

Did I start wishing for Sariel to be happy? Have I really fallen so low?

The disgust I feel at the bottom of my heart for being struck by these emotions never stops. So even now, my relationship with Sariel remains ambiguous.

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