Translated by iseuli
Jade was awoken early morning by loud noises from outside his sleeping quarters.
‘It’s cold today as well. This place is so cold.’
This was the third winter since he had first arrived at this monastery. He suffered a terrible cold again this year, like all the previous years. It was Spring but the morning was still very chilly.
‘Why is it so noisy? Did I oversleep?’
Jade peered out through his small window that was less than two palms wide. It was still dark out because the morning sun had not risen. The monks of this monastery never idled around to chat as they usually had many morning tasks.
He assumed that a guest arrived early this morning, and his gut feelings told him the guest was most probably looking for him.
Jade didn’t rush, and instead slowly made his bed. He took his time washing his face with the water he prepared the day before. The other monks washed their faces with the icy water from outside every morning. He, on the other hand, didn’t want to go to such extremes every morning.
Father Abbot Thomas wasn’t satisfied with Jade’s course of action. Traditionally, monks led simple ascetetic lives and tempered themselves to freely accept all sorts of pain, however Jade was always sly and took every opportunity to avoid pain if he could.
Father Abbot’s thoughts were true. He had only contemplated the methods to make his own life easier through his entire stay all these three years.
While washing his face, he heard his own name being mentioned every now and then from outside. The loud shouting didn’t die down even when Jade finished washing his face.
‘It’s related to me as I thought. About what? There are too many things that come to mind…’
Jade lit the candle in his room and sat down.
‘This is my last candle. They probably won’t give me any candles even if I asked them. How could I get more candles?’
The loud shout from outside approached closer to his room and their voices became clearer.
“If you don’t kick out the brute, Jade, I’ll burn down this monastery.”
Jade watched his flickering candle.
‘It looks like I won’t need to worry about candles anymore. I probably won’t have any more chances to read late evenings any longer.’
Jade opened the last page of his book.
He had already memorized every word of each page, and he could read the book with his eyes closed. Still, he just felt like reading through it one more time within the next couple of days.
Someone knocked on his door, it was Father Abbot Thomas.
“Father Jade, would you please come out for a moment?”
Jade put down his book and sighed.
‘I wish they could have taken their time finding me.’
Jade opened his door. Father Abbot Thomas, a man well past his sixties, stood waiting anxiously.
He was usually a calm man, though easily frightened. Today, he appeared much worse than the time a fox had eaten from the monestary’s grape vines.
He put on a consoling smile for Father Abbot.
“Who has come to find me?”
Jade instantly understood the source of Father Abbot’s fearful expression.
‘A worse savage than the fox who stole our grapes.’
Father Abbot Thomas asked a question very seriously.
“Do you know why he would be looking for you?”
“He doesn’t look like he’s here for any trivial matter. He even brought along his lancers. He had them surround the monestary, and then entered.”
“If it’s to this degree…, he must be here because of Ricardo.”
“Ricardo? The Balticon Young Lord?”
Father Abbot’s expression crumpled darkly.
Jade smiled and continued to speak.
“Please do not worry so much, Father Abbot. He is probably here to just give me a warning. He will probably tell me not to say strange things to his son.”
Jade pat Father Abbot’s back.
‘I was the one who said it, but I can’t even believe myself. I don’t think he would leave with just a light warning.’
The Livador Balticon Lord was waiting inside accompanied by two of his lancers. They had forced their way into the monastery dining hall. He couldn’t be sure how many more soldiers were on standby just outside.
The Balticon Lord should know that a single sword was enough to scare all the monks here. Still, the Lord went out of his way to bring many of his lancers who carried giant weapons to express his wrath.
Many monks gathered just outside murmuring amongst themselves, blocking the entrance of the dining hall. It was almost as if they were trying to hide a secret door or something.
Now that he thought about it, the monastery morning bell didn’t even ring, and nobody was preparing for the morning prayer. The morning practice had never been missed for even a single day for the last three years, and in turn it caused mass panic throughout the entire monastery.
When the two entered the dining hall, Balticon glared deathly at Jade with all his might.
Jade, a priest of the Zerba Monastery courteously greeted the Lord. The Lord ruled over the five counties which surrounded this monastery. He greeted the Lord amicably in hopes to settle this peacefully, though he was slightly fearful that it would cause the opposite effect.
The two priests was not sure which was the right approach to greeting the Lord and simply wore an uncomfortably forced smile.
Father Abbot Thomas sat down first, and Jade followed suit just besides him.
They sat at a table about five feet wide, ontop of the table was a single empty reed basket. The Balticon Lord crossed his arms and glared. The Lord was wearing a pair of well oiled leather gloves and simple chainmail vest. He even had a sword on his hip belt.
‘Even if anyone dared to attack the Balticon Lord with swords, the Lancers outside won’t need to do anything’
Jade waited for the Lord to speak.
“Do you know why I am here looking for you today, Father Jade?”
Thankfully, the Lord didn’t ask for a fight right off the bat.
Jade calmly returned an answer.
“Are you here because of Young Lord Ricardo Balticon?”
“So you are aware of your own faults?”
“I am not.”
The Lord narrowed his eyes.
“You just said you did.”
“I was just guessing. If you are really here for that reason, then I am not sure that I did anything wrong.”
The Lord laughed through his nose. He endured his anger from blowing up.
Father Abbot Thomas looked like he was sitting on pin cushions upon the Lord’s anger.
“Father, you should be aware of your own faults. Do I need to explain it to you? Didn’t you say strange things to my son?”
“I’ve said too many things to the Young Lord so I’m not sure which words you are referring to. We mostly conversed about past happenings.”
“The conversations were blasphemous, I heard that you discussed cult theologies defying the Catholic religion?”
“I don’t believe so. I just reiterated the words that my Lord had spoken to me, to the Young Lord”
“My son is nine years old. He is at the age where he could remember stories told to him without mistake!”
The Lord looked to Father Abbot in fury.
“Father Jade has polluted my son’s pure heart of the Catholic faith with blasphemous stories. Father Abbot, don’t you think you should be held responsible for this as well?”
Father Abbot Thomas always strictly followed the Catholic Doctrine. He even made sure to collect the ten percent monetary tithe from poor fisherman families, still he was not one to force obedience with brute force like the Balticon Lord.
“Lord, please calm your anger. Father Jade is not an inner priest of this monastery, and he had never received any of my direct teachings. I hold no responsibility to this.”
Father Abbot let out a dry cough making himself look sickly and weak.
“I have no idea what you are talking about. I’ve been listening to my Lord’s words since the beginning, but I can’t follow what you are saying at all. What exactly are the ‘strange things’ that have been spoken…..?”
“Please share the make believe words of St. Antones, Father Jade!”
The Balticon Lord shouted as soon as Father Abbot finished his words
‘As I thought.’
Jade nodded and spoke.
“You must be talking about the Devil’s Bridge. I had retold the story verbatim.”
Lord Balticon gripped his hands together tightly and then released his hands.
“Please tell us your crazy story that Father believes so much- verbatim”
This legend was directly related to the bridge of the deep valley in the east side of Zerba
The construction of the bridge did not progress well due to the harsh geographic challenges of the valley landscape, so laborers complained, ‘we will need to borrow the power of the devil if we want to ever complete the construction of this bridge.’ Just then a real devil appeared before them.
The devil offered a deal, ‘I will make the bridge for you within three days time. In trade, let me consume the soul of the first person who crosses this bridge.’
The laborers agreed. As promised, the devil built the bridge within three days time.
Seeing that the bridge was complete, the laborers began to worry. So, they slyly offered the soul of a goat instead of a person to the devil. The devil had to accept the soul of the goat.
The devil was angered and planned to destroy the bridge. However, a monk named Antones was able to suppress the devil, and even forced the devil to build a monastery by the bridge. The devil constructed the monastery, however feeling upset it built the monastery facing north.
This place was the monastery of the legends. This was why people referred to Zerba’s bridge as the devil’s bridge, while some preferred to call this place St. Antones’ bridge. This monastery was also often referred as Zerba’s Monastery or St. Antones’ Monastery….
Jade contemplated whether to tell this story once again or not. Anyone who lived in Zerba would have heard this story more than a hundred times, so there was no real reason to retell this story again to these two people.
He decided to sum up the story and only retell the conclusion of the story.
“I said that the bridge of Zerba was not made by a devil, but constructed by humans.”
Father Abbot Thomas quietly sighed, and Lord Balticon snorted out loudly.
“Are you denying the story that many citizens of Zerba are aware of?”
“I would have said nothing if Ricardo was a normal child. However, Ricardo isn’t a normal child, but Balticon’s Young Lord. I felt that it was necessary that he understand just how many people were mobilized to construct the bridge, the number of people who died due to the harsh conditions, how long, and how costly the construction of the bridge was.”
“That is not for you to decide. The only person who decides what to teach to Ricardo is me, you have no authority to decide that. The only teachings you’re allowed to speak are the words of the Holy Bible and the Catholic Doctrine.”
“Yes, you’re right. I’ve overstepped my boundaries.”
Upon Jade’s apology, the Balticon Lord’s temper died down to a degree.
“St. Antones’ Bridge was constructed by the devil so there were no laborers who died!” Lord Balticon angrily shouted.
Jade shook his head.
“The monastery account book records that the Zerba’s bridge was constructed about 250 years ago, and at that time St. Antones was not even born. The bridge was not completely built within three days. The construction of this monastery in fact began before the bridge. Also, the reason this monastery was built facing north was because the wind from the south blew too strongly…”
Jade paused his explanation mid sentence. Lord Balticon’s appeared absolutely red in anger, and Father Abbot Thomas held onto the Lord’s shoulders.
“I apologize. When this topic arises, I can’t help myself from talking endlessly…”
Jade was about to apolgoize in deep regret, but Lord Balticon cut him off.
“Then how about that story about the angel without wings?”
“The angel without wings?”
Abbot Father Thomas quirked his head and asked in confusion.
“The story about dwarfs making some kind of bet and locking up an angel or something. I’ve never heard something so blasphemous and heathenish!” Lord Balticon shouted.
Jade let out an awkward laugh.
“Was it really such a wicked story? I thought it was just an amusing fairy tale.”
“An amusing fairy tale? Angels deploying armies to catch a single child and dwarfs making bets is a fun story? It’s sacrilegious!”
The door opened and the soldiers of Balticon marched in.
Lord Balticon paused his words and looked at them. The soldiers stood behind the Lord and whispered something quietly.
‘It should be related to something to my past, I won’t have any need to talk with these people any longer.’
The man who whispered quietly to the Lord took a few steps back, and the Lord stared at Jade with a rigid expression. It seems his anger was appeased.
“I understand it all now, Jade.”
He no longer referred to the other as a Father.
“You’re not even a priest. Three years ago, you were excommunicated for murder, and instead of going to jail you’re hiding in this monastery. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
“I don’t, my Lord.”
“It seems you’ve murdered a 14 year old youth in daylight, is this true?”
The youth was 13, but there was no need to correct this.
“It’s the truth.”
Lord Balticon’s gaze turned to Father Abbot.
“So you’ve been hiding this criminal in this monastery, Father Abbot Thomas?”
“I was not hiding him. It had not been ruled as murder but…”
“I don’t want to hear anymore! During the time of the Holy War, I donated a grand amount of money and my troops for the sake of this monastery, and was faithful to the teachings of Zerba. The gratitude that I get is letting a criminal meet my son to teach him the ways of a cult?”
Father Abbot spoke with a trembling voice.
“This is a misunderstanding. I know my lord’s achievements very well, how can I not? However my lord, this is Father Jade’s own deeds, and I’ve never instructed him to do so, and is not of our monastery’s policies. I don’t even know of the story of this angel. I hope you can appease your anger.”
The Lord stood up. He gripped the sword hung on his belt, and Father Abbot shrunk his neck like a turtle.
“There is only one way my anger would be appeased. We will use due process to kick that man out of this monastery since I cannot commit murder in this monastery!”
Jade couldn’t speak out for himself, and simply looked to Father Abbot with bitter eyes, and spoke.
“Will there be a need for due process? I will follow my Lord out.”
The Lord nodded like it was a matter of course.
“You don’t have any devotion, but you have a conscience. Then I will be merciful and let you go through a religious trial.”
Jade had deep regrets.
‘It should be better to resist and die from his sword in one sweep.’
According to Jade’s knowledge, Zerba had never held any religious trials. The Balticon Lord had been angered to this degree.
Jade was well aware of the process, the experiences, and the theory of religious trials from both party’s perspectives.
Offenders would be interrogated for at least a few weeks and sometimes the interrogations were dragged out for months, then in the end the defendant will be told to make a ‘confession.’ He had never heard of a case where an offender endured the interrogation, other than when the offender was cleared of charges due to outside incidents.
Usually, after a confession of their crimes, one would march a large circle around the main village roads and city plazas until one reached a large pit of fire. The offender’s sentence would be announced, and would be tied to a stake and burned alive.
In Jade’s point of view, religious trials allowed for strong devotional uplift. It could be that the Lord of Balticon wanted to experience this for himself
“I need to make some preparations before leaving, so would it be alright to wait a moment?” Jade asked.
Lord Balticon stared questioningly, ‘Why would you need to bring anything?’
“Would it be alright to bring one book with me?”
“The only thing you will be allowed to bring with you is either a Catholic Cross or the Holy bible.”
“It’s a Holy Bible.”
Balticon watched the other with suspicious eyes for a long while and spoke.
“Do not dare to escape from this place.”
“I am not good at running.”
Jade quickly returned to his room.
He heard someone trailing behind him, he looked over his shoulder to see it was one of the soldiers. The soldier was 17, six years younger than himself, and was wearing a cynical smile. He was one of the few people in this place that had befriended him.
The soldier looked to be close to tears.
“A religious trial? Di-did I hear it correctly, Father Jade?”
“It seems my offence was heavier than I originally thought.”
The soldier followed Jade into his private quarters and began to talk once more.
“This can’t be happening. I was next to Father when you were telling the story of the angel and devil’s bridge.”
The soldier sniffled and wiped his tears with his sleeve.
“The children and mothers were always smiling because of you, everyone became so happy. You fast and abstain from consuming meat. You taught us happiness through the words of the Bible and blessed us with your prayer. You were the one who taught me all that is to my life through faith of God. But how can it be true that you’re a heretic? I will give testimony for you. I will help to prove your innocence.”
The soldier decided firmly, even going as far as risking his own life.
“That is not necessary. Your living situation will become very dangerous.”
“It doesn’t matter!”
“Please do not. Instead, I have a different request.”
“I will listen to any request.”
“Please deliver a letter to Father Rome and Father Daniel for me. You should already know who they are, right?”
“Of course. What message would you like me to relay?”
Jade picked up the book that he left on top of the table.
The soldier carefully looked at the book that Jade held.
“Jade will be going through a religious trial…. Just this will be enough. You must not include any other message in the letter. If you are not careful, your life may fall into danger. It must be a brief matter of factly letter no matter who ends up reading it.”
The soldier nodded and asked another question.
“You speak as if someone else will end up reading the letter.”
“Can I ask you one more question?”
The soldier had a feeling that this would be the last time he would be able to talk with Father Jade.
“That Holy Bible.”
The soldier pointed with his chin.
“I have been curious since some time now. What paper and ink material was this derived from that it remains in perfect condition even after it becomes soaked with water?”
Jade was shocked.
“How did you know?”
“I happened to witness the time when Young Lord Ricardo dropped your Bible into a pond of water. The Young Lord had apologized while crying. But Father, you simply laid out the book in the sun to dry and then carried it around like usual. I was curious and snuck a glance, and the pages looked to be in pristine condition. I’ve never seen such smooth thin sheets of paper in my life. I’ve never seen one as small as yours either.”
The Holy Bible just barely fit into one palm.
“This was passed down to me, so I’m not sure what it’s made of either. Maybe the fairies were the ones who made it.”
Jade gave a vague answer and absent mindedly bowed. It didn’t seem to be the real truth.
“Please be well. If you were not here, I would have had a very tough time living my days in this monastery.”
“Would I ever get to meet you again, Father?”
“I’m not sure. That chance is probably not very likely.”
Jade answered honestly and then left.
The Lord’s lancers were on standby just outside his quarters.
Jade already predicted such actions, but the lancers jumped in shock.
“This is what I want to bring.”
Jade let the lancer observe his Holy Bible.
The lancer nodded.
Jade glanced at the soldier behind him one last time in earnesty for his request.
The soldier slowly nodded many times.