Translator’s Note: Everything in this series is made up. There are references to violence due to past happenings in this chapter. Also, I am trying my best to understand the structure of Catholicism, if anything doesn’t make sense please feel free to leave a comment or ping me in discord, and I will try to fix it asap.
Translated by iseuli
The mountains and hills were covered in lush greenery, but the wind was still bone chilling. Father Daniel had worked up a sweat traveling up the mountain side and took off his coat, but then immediately put it back on due to the cold wind.
“I will pay five haas.” Father Daniel said to an old boatman that was leisurely smoking his pipe.
Upon hearing this, the boatman frowned as he thought it was a crude joke. However, he changed his mind seeing that the other party was an elder man with a Catholic Cross around his neck.
“What was it that you said, Father?”
“I will give you five haas.” Father Daniel repeated.
Haas was the silver coin issued by the Roam Empire, and held more value than the Pharen Kingdom’s silver coins. According to recent rumors, the silver coins sourced from Pharen’s had mixtures of bronze. Thus people of the Pharen’s border zone held the haas with more value.
“If you’re referring to the passage fare, one haas will be more than sufficient.” The old boatman said carefully.
Father Daniel was already aware that one haas was enough to be ferried to and fro more than three times over.
“I am indeed referring to the boat fare,” Father Daniel said while taking out five haas from his pocket.
“I would like it if you could wait here for me. I will probably return by midnight, or by daybreak tomorrow. This is extra for the additional services I’ve asked of you.”
The boatman suspiciously eyed Father Daniel once again.
Daniel removed his cloak’s hood to convey his sincerity and handed over the boat fare. The top center of his head was shaved bald as any dedicated monk wore their hair.
“Why do you need to cross the river at such a late hour?” asked the boatman.
“I have my own circumstances.”
“You don’t happen to believe the rumor that crossing the devil’s bridge at night will curse you?”
“Why should I fear such curses even if it’s true? It just takes much longer to travel across the bridge.” Daniel laughed and continued to speak.
“If you do not want to, please introduce me to a different boatman.”
The old boatman reached out with his hands.
“I’m not refusing your offer.”
Daniel dropped five silver coins onto the callused hands of the boatman.
“I will pay you five additional silver coins if you wait for me here.”
“Will you be coming alone?”
“I will have one more person with me.”
“Please do then.”
The boatman nodded, and Daniel briskly turned to leave.
The Zerba Monastery was about two miles away from this river and the road would be harsh.
Daniel wrapped his face with a bandana to hide his identity to his best ability. It would be a strange sight to see an old man briskly hiking up the harsh mountain terrains.
Daniel saw a youth carrying two sacks full of fruits just ahead near the gate of the monastery.
Daniel cleared his throat and let out a dry cough, to which the youth turned and looked back to the source of the sound. The youth appeared to be a male in his twenties and was wearing the uniform of soldiers, while his expression was heavy and dark.
He dropped the bags of fruit on the ground, and respectfully greeted Daniel.
“Where have you come from?”
“I am a Priest from the episcopal order of Roam. I’ve come to talk with Father Abbot Thomas.”
“My name is Poy. Ah, a priest from Roam, then by chance…?”
The youth continued after a pause with a worried expression.
“… Father Daniel?”
“If you’ve come here reading the letter, then you’re too late. Father Jade’s execution for tomorrow has already been decided and scheduled.” Poy said tearfully.
He was already aware of this, but Daniel reacted like this was his first time he heard the news. Poy looked with surprise when the old man easily lifted the heavy pouch of fruits with one hand.
Daniel rushed forward. “Let’s hurry in!”
Poy was quick in action, though he often times spoke with hesitation.
He guided the man to Father Abbot Thomas.
“Go bring us some wine.” Thomas said to Poy, and led Daniel to the dining hall.
Daniel looked to the cracked ceiling and spoke.
“The ceiling looks very worn out. It looks like it would crumble from a passing storm.”
“Can you tell? We really need a helping hand here.”
Thomas appeared as if he was waiting for those very words and began to trail on endlessly.
“I’ve never had the chance to express this, but the financial status of St. Antones Monastery is very dire. The laity(ordinary members) do not follow the Catholic doctrine and do away with their beliefs, still, we cannot do anything about it.”
Poy walked in and placed a wine bottle and two glasses of wine on the table.
“You can continue with your normal tasks.”
Poy looked like he wished to stay, but Thomas glared and sent the youth away.
Thomas spoke as he poured some wine for Daniel.
“We newly opened a fresh wine cask, please try some.”
Daniel took a sip and nodded.
“It’s very good. I heard the grape harvest last year went well, this should be the wine from the recent harvest, correct?”
Thomas smiled brightly and spoke.
“This is my favorite wine from all the wine we’ve made in this monastery. I’m thinking of gifting some for Bishop David, what do you think brother?”
“He will be happy. I will put in a word for you, so please feel free to send some. Rather, where is Jade?”
Daniel unnaturally turned the topic of conversation.
Thomas uncomfortably took a few sips from his wine glass.
Daniel felt restless, but he waited for the other to continue the conversation.
“Jade brought this misfortune upon himself by sharing blasphemous stories. I’ve warned him many times, but he never learned.”
Daniel had received letters of complaint from Abbot Thomas about three times thus far.
He requested for Jade to be sent to a different monastery in all his letters. There was a time when the other had suggested for Jade to be sent to work in a prison. He had claimed Jade would be treated much better in prisons than the monastery.
Daniel was faintly aware all this time, but turned a blind eye to it all.
“Jade twists the interpretation of the Catholic Doctrine, and falsely spreads the words of God to the people.”
“It was more than once. One time a fisherman came to find us. He came to make a confession and seek forgiveness for beating his wife. He thought his wife cheated on him, but it turned out to be his own misunderstanding. This could happen to anyone, and many people make the mistake and beat their wives, but he had come forth to seek forgiveness with God. Don’t you think this man is so sincere and faithful?”
Abbot Thomas let out a sigh and continued his story.
“However, Jade spoke with anger. ‘Did you ever apologize to your wife?’ The fisherman answered ‘By seeking forgiveness with God, I am seeking forgiveness with my wife, is this not correct?’ The fisherman was more knowledgeable with our Doctrine than Jade! Jade came forth and said, ‘Repent and apologize to your wife first. If your wife forgives you, then God will forgive you.’ Oh my heavens, is this what a priest should be saying?”
Daniel laughed inwardly, but outwardly maintained his serious expression as he nodded.
Thomas’ story did not stop here.
“I can continue these stories without end. Last year, he dug a ditch to make a water irrigation system in our garden.”
“Jade did? Isn’t that a good thing?”
“No, brother how could you be saying this? We must practice asceticism through physical labor to purify our souls. The task of traveling back and forth more than ten times with our watering pails is an important part of nurturing our grapes. He dared to finish this important task by stepping on a pedal with his feet! I’ve never witnessed such insincerity in a person, so I spoke a word with him about it. He answered that it was more, ‘efficient.’”
“Have you ever thought that the wine quality improved due to the efficiency?”
“It is because of our strong religious belief and the donations of the people all these past two years. This year was different and the grapes for the wine did not properly grow.”
‘Isn’t it because you got rid of the water irrigation system just this year?’
Daniel wished to point it out, however it seems their discussion would be extensively drawn out and endured talking back any more than this.
“It seems Jade does not fit well in this monastery. I heard he will be burned to death tomorrow.”
“The judge will arrive tomorrow.”
“I heard the execution is tomorrow though? How could the judgement be passed without a judge present?”
“That is because…”
Thomas mumbled his words confused why such an obvious thing should be questioned.
Daniel laughed and placed his wine glass down.
“Anyway, Jade should be imprisoned in the castle of Lord Balticon, correct?”
“I must hurry then. Excuse me I will be off.” Daniel said getting up from his seat.
“Ah, please send me two bottles of wine as well, won’t you? It seems it would be a waste for only Bishop David to enjoy this alone.”
“Bishop David doesn’t know how to enjoy alcohol, and becomes a drunkard very quickly, you see.”
Thomas appeared shocked as if he was in the presence of another blasphemous human.
“I’ve never heard of someone referring to wine as alcohol. The reason humans become drunk from wine is due to its sacred holy properties. It’s different from alcohol. By chance…”
Thomas appeared suspicious.
“…were you the Priest to have guided and taught Jade?”
“I’ve never taught him anything strange. I’ve just conveyed several stories to him.”
Daniel didn’t look back and left the dining hall.
As soon as he left the monastery gate, Poy came running.
“Excuse me, Father Daniel.”
Daniel decided he didn’t have much time, and roughly answered without listening to the other’s question.
“Do not worry for Jade. I will use any means necessary so that he will not need to go through a trial”
Poy was shocked upon the unexpected response. It seems the other had already long given up.
Daniel spoke as he laughed.
“Isn’t this what you wished to ask?”
Poy nodded once then shook his head side to side.
“I have a question regarding Father Jade.”
“He is not human, is he?”
“….What do you mean?”
“He always talks of angels, and he is a priest but speaks of ideas outside the Catholic Doctrine….”
Poy’s voice gradually grew softer.
“Rather than ideas outside of the Catholic Doctrine, his words are much deeper than what is normally spoken. Monks normally view him as the devil and enemy, however somehow I feel like that person could be an angel…”
Daniel held the other’s shoulder and stopped him from speaking.
“Poy! Do not dare to speak such ideas- ever. The reason why he does not seem to follow through the Catholic Doctrine is because he had not gone through formal studies. He didn’t formally learn theology at all. The reason why he tells stories of angels often, is because he likes fairy tales.”
“There was another episode I can’t help but remember.”
Poy looked around the surrounding areas of the monastery and when he saw nobody was around, he continued to speak in a very hushed voice.
“About 18 months ago, five people happened to be killed in Zerba. The corpses were cut apart and hung all around the road. It was a horrifying sight. Some said it was the devil’s deeds, while others said they had received divine punishment because all the victims had been prostitutes.”
“The incident is known in Roam as well. I heard the perpetrator was never caught, but how is this related to Jade?”
“The only person aware of this from here on, is me.”
Poy lowered his voice another few degrees.
Daniel took a few steps closer to hear properly.
“It was a rainy night in fall. A mysterious man visited our monastery. I was guarding the gates that day, and this person insisted he needed to make a confession. I said our monastery did not perform Sacraments of Penance. However, Jade opened the door to his room and let the man in.”
“Jade accepted hearing someone’s confession?”
“He usually does not. People of Zerba love Father Jade, and many find him to make confessions, and he usually rejects them all. However, he accepted the request that day. It was very strange. Sacraments of Penance is not a simple thing that anyone could do with validity.”
Poy appeared terrified.
Daniel could guess how the rest of the story unfolded. He also knew why Jade had never informed him of this huge incident.
“People have been murdered, and the air that day was very chilling. I knew I shouldn’t have, but decided to eavesdrop into their conversation. I heard Father Jade and the man talking. I couldn’t make out what they were saying and I don’t know what they were talking about. The man laughed. The laugh… was the laugh of a killer.”
Poy gripped his shirt.
“I am sure of it. The serial killer must have come to our monastery! However, he was making a confession and I couldn’t barge in. So I waited, and even prepared myself to fight at a moment’s notice.”
Poy gripped his pole very tightly as if he was living through the night once again.
“However, any sound from the room suddenly stopped. I thought something happened, and I ran in without thinking of the consequences. However, I found that Father Jade was alone in his room. That man was gone. Father Jade appeared slightly surprised. I asked where the man went. Father Jade just said he made a confession and left.”
Poy increasingly became worked up and his voice gradually grew louder.
“I’ve never seen Father Jade lie, but I knew that he was lying that day. I was guarding his door, so how could the man go anywhere? His window is too small and impossible for a person to pass through. Also, the chair in front of Father Jade…, was full of white ash.”
Poy spoke as if reliving through the very day not leaving out a single detail.
“Someone had been sitting in that place a moment ago, and had burned to ash. I believe a miracle of God occurred and the man’s flesh had burned out of nowhere. I’m not sure if it is the miracle of God, or a devil’s black magic, but he is most definitely…”
Poy looked like he was having trouble finding the right word.
Daniel wished to listen to his story to the end, however it looked like Poy would really fall apart and start sobbing at this rate, and decided to stop him early on.
“Stop there. Poy, you’ve never spoken this to anyone, right?”
“No, never. I will take this to my grave.”
“Good. It was dangerous that you decided to tell this to me. From now on, do not tell this to anyone, erase it from your mind. If at all possible, erase the person Jade from your memories. It seems Jade had a bad influence on you.”
Daniel felt bad for leaving Poy behind like this so he left a single message for him.
“If you cannot stop your nightmares due to the confession that night, then find me at Roam. I will help you.”
Poy quietly nodded.
Daniel turned around and continued down the mountain in a sprint. It was already deep into the night.
‘Jade, I left you in this monastery in hopes nothing happens, how could you stir havoc in this place as well?’