Chapter 67: Childhood Friend
I felt a dull pain directly from the core of my head.
I pressed my temples with my fingers. But, there was no sign of pain. This dull pain came from inside my head, on my brain. In other to get rid of it, I’d have to break my skull.
I heard that Ann and the Saint woman came here to see me. Actually, it was unlikely that I would stand up from bed immediately. It seemed that I wasn’t ready to move freely. I wrinkled between the eyebrows while rolling on the bed at the second floor of a tavern.
I drank a little last night just because it was a good ale. I stuck out my tongue, as if I were seeking pure water. An unmixed ale seemed to be too much for this young body. I felt dizzy. It was like a severe sickness of the brain that made my blood boil throughout my whole body.
However, I didn’t drink enough ale that made such a dull ache in my head. I didn’t believe it at all. I thought that this dull pain was due to something in my head…
Finally, I managed to crawl out of bed to reach my bag. I placed some tobacco in my mouth and proceed to chew it. Then, I slowly raised my half body, while inhaling some fragrant smoke through my nose and mouth. I gritted the tobacco with my teeth and narrowed my eyes. An unmistakable person appeared in my mind.
…The beauty’s pale skin reflected under the sunlight. A smile that dyed my cheeks red just by looking at her. The person that came to my mind was Ariene.
So pathetic of me. How pitiful was I. Just by thinking of her, a hot twinge appeared in the outer corner of my eyes. I had the handkerchief from Ariene in my pocket. The handkerchief was the only thing that connected her to me.
The beauty that was staying under the Cathedral’s the supervision. I wished I could have a glimpse of her in the near future.
I was a mediocre man that managed to make my name notorious during the battle of the Heraldic Order.
Where and when could I contact her? It wasn’t easy to see Ariene just because my name became infamous. Rather, the directions for my next path were completely different from what I had originally planned. It was no longer just a collaboration or sporadic journey. I belonged to an entity that I never believed I’d belong to when I came to the past.
This was the result of moving with my superficial emotions, rather than my own fiery emotions.
Was this outcome the result of my actions? With that said, my heart wasn’t ready to give up on Ariene. However, it was hard. I wrinkled between my eyebrows because of the difficult route I was about to follow. A route that didn’t lead me to her, so how could I go to her?
Yet, I felt bittersweet about this. I shouldn’t be saying this, but I wasn’t regretful of my choice to join the Heraldic Order and participate in the battle against the city-state.
Of course, I worried about what happened. I twisted my head upon realizing it. Perhaps, these feelings didn’t reach deep into my heart just yet. Or maybe my small mind didn’t want to understand the current situation and was just trying to justify for itself.
Yet, still. No matter how doubtful or worried I felt about everything that happened, there was no regret in my heart.
Once upon a time, I valued “reason”.
At first, I tried to forge the path that only powerful people could walk on. These people lived with instinct and raw emotions. I desired such life. But, vulnerable and poor people like me didn’t have that kind freedom. Yes, the freedom to show one’s true emotions and live without the rules of the world. Therefore, I pushed my desires away and hid them permanently.
What was the result?
I gained nothing. However, after hiding my desires for a long time, I lost track of reality. I forgot the days of hope, the days of aspiration, and the days of wishing to pursuit a different life. Everything was lost and forgotten. I just lived an empty life.
Indeed. It was frustrating just by remembering it now. Instead, I felt a liberation of my soul. The heavy stone on my heart vanished immediately.
…It was so comfortable now. This time, I could live freely with my own emotions. I didn’t regret this even if this path led eventually to my ultimate death.
I awoke from the hangover and tried to reach the pot on the table. The pot was probably filled with water. Strangely, I was insanely thirsty.
During this time, suddenly, a doubtless question swirled in my head.
…The Cathedral. Ariene. Wait a second. Speaking of which. How did she join the Rescue Party in the first place?
Did my drunkenness upset my hands? My hands extended slightly from the bed and the pot slipped off the table.
Golden eyes opened widely at the chapel of the Cathedral. The color of those eyes were unmistakably glittering. They were stunning. A glass slipped from this woman’s hand to the floor. It didn’t crack, but it made a loud noise.
Her pale lips quivered a little that even her front teeth could’ve bit herself.
「Ah, what’s wrong, Miss Ariene? 」
A man dressed in a religious ceremonial garment reacted sensitively to the sound of the fallen glass. This man stared at Ariene’s face immediately. His eyes didn’t seem worried nor anxious. He just stared at Ariene with curiosity.
Ariene’s eyes winked.
Her startling eyes lost their surprised-like color, and reverted to her calm-looking gaze. Her trembling posture changed as well, and she regained her composed demeanor.
「No, it’s nothing. There’s nothing wrong. However, I must say that these people don’t know that eventually the wrath of God will fall upon them.」
Ariene spoke with a soft smile and a serene voice.
Many believers held on their hands a newspaper that circulated in the Cathedral. Whispering voices echoed in the surroundings.
The newspaper described one fact and selected a few words to embellish the villains that caused a great ruckus in the neighboring city-state.
“…The walled city-state of Garoua Maria fell into the hands of the wicked. The masterminds were the evil witch Matia, and their criminal collaborator Lugis.”
Ariene’s lips continued to quiver slightly upon reading the newspaper. Inside of her brain swirled this man’s name. It disappeared and reappeared in her mind repeatedly.
She doubted the information. She thought that this Lugis wasn’t her acquaintance. Of course, her acquaintance was an ordinary human being. This was impossible. An unreasonable information. A criminal involved in a large assault against a famous city-state? He wasn’t such a person to begin with.
However, the newspaper had a detailed record of this man named Lugis. It described his looks and height. Based on her memory, most of these details corresponded with her childhood friend named Lugis. Ariene felt a little dizzy as she bit her lips.
Weaknesses mustn’t be shown. Ariene learnt that wisdom in the Cathedral.
Many of the children from the upper classes or wealthy merchants were put into the Cathedral to work as nuns or receive an education in holy sorcery. They always had backing and privileges. They had their family name, large wealth, and many academic achievements. All of these honors were implemented since childhood.
However, the orphan Ariene had nothing.
Ariene arrived at the upper-level of the Cathedral in hopes of learning magical skills. Nonetheless, her arrival wasn’t met with much expectation. The ones at the higher level of the Cathedral probably didn’t find her appealing.
She didn’t have a family name. She didn’t own any property. She had no academic achievements. She was a mere little girl with nothing to her name. On the contrary, her magic skills were outstanding.
In a closed society, that was enough to become a target for persecution.
She repeatedly gritted her back teeth to suppress the pain that dwelled in her chest. She tried to reset the emotions that engulfed her brain because of the humiliation she felt. For many times her stomach felt heavy for receiving bad treatment. For many times she wanted to disappear.
At this time, that bitter taste revived in her mouth.
Before joining the Cathedral, she gave Lugis her handkerchief. It was the only belonging that she had that wasn’t cheap. It was in fact, a little bit expensive. Yet, it was the only precious memoir of her childhood. And Lugis belonged to that precious memoir as well.
Every time she felt a bitter taste, she remembered that day. She decided that she wouldn’t break down. She had an absolute resolve. She vowed that she would never show weakness nor would she never bow to anyone. She was sure of her will.
In the beginning, Ariene, who had no knowledge of magic yet, showed her ability with practical skills and took an austere attitude. Everyone began to keep a slight fear of her in their hearts.
She was determined not to show her flaws to anyone. Not even her true face. By doing so, Ariene won the right to live in the Cathedral.
Therefore, even if a person who seemed to be her acquaintance appeared somehow, she wouldn’t show her true feelings.
Ariene’s expression was no longer the same as before. However, there was one puzzling thing that stayed loosely in her chest.
“…Hey, Lugis. Why are you on that side?”
The edge of Ariene’s cheek moved slightly to the point that no one noticed. Strangely, she felt some sticky emotions that crawled inside of her heart.
Lugis knew that Ariene would go to the Cathedral. After all, this was the main branch of the religion of this kingdom. It was strange to think that he wouldn’t be part of the Great Holy Church. He knew about it. Rather, he should know about it. Ariene knew that they spoke directly before she went to the Cathedral. Besides, he told her that he would come back one day. That’s right.
She couldn’t imagine that he would take sides with the enemy and become a member of the rebellious Heraldic Order.
「…Indeed. I saw many military carriages these days. But, I didn’t expect these events to actually happen in the end.」
After she spoke, the man who stood next to her replied in agreement. She nodded slightly upon hearing his response.
During these events, everybody in the Cathedral heard the opening gate quite often along with the sound of horses near the entrance. During the last few days, Ariene narrowed her eyes when she saw several people of famous houses coming to the Cathedral. These distinguished families evacuated from Garoua Maria to this kingdom. They searched for help. Others left their daughters on the Cathedral because they relied on the great saints of the Great Holy Church.
For a very long time, religious facilities such as cathedrals had been used as temporary shelters and sanctuaries for people caught in wars.
Of course, this role didn’t change this time. In particular, after the damage caused by the Heraldic Order. The Cathedral decided to show their generosity by proclaiming the Heraldic Order as a vile and corrupt society.
However, in this case, the Cathedral wasn’t enough. The damage was too large. The Gharast Kingdom, along with other nations, recognized the Heraldic Order as the highest order of threat for their foundations. They proclaimed aloud that these people were the real enemies. That they were the form of the evil. Ariene blinked her eyes. Her golden eyes seemed to shimmer slightly, but constantly.
Ariene thought deeply. “Enemies. That’s right, they are enemies. I am on the great sacred side. Therefore, the Heraldic Order is the enemy. Then, what about Lugis? What if the man described in the newspaper is my childhood friend Lugis?”.
Ariene’s cheeks distorted once again.
I think the next time Ariene meets Lugis she will not believe her eyes 🙂
Thank you to the Patrons for the continued support!