My schedule continued to be full, and it was around the middle of summer when I was finally able to take a day off. The peak of the social season, the Descension Festival, was just around the corner and the nobles will refrain from going out for a short time to prepare for the festival. This was a breather from the traditional society gatherings.
Sadly, however, being an apprentice feudal lord has been ingrained into my bones over the past year, so I can’t seem to stop thinking about the fief, despite it being a long awaited day off. As I sank into the living room sofa and slowly sipping my tea, I thought about education in the fief, ――― that is, the connection between the fief and the church.
The teachings of Ar Xia church in Arxia Kingdom was so influential that it affected everyone from commoners to livestock. It would not be an exaggeration to say that those teachings were the norms and morals within the kingdom. It was more than just a religion established by the kingdom, it was closely related to the law, the founding of the kingdom, the social structure and administration of the kingdom, the important ceremonies for commoners, as well as agriculture and livestock.
I thought I was well aware of this since I began studying the law as a feudal lord, but I was reminded of its importance when I began to attend the temple’s Sacred Code readings and spoke with the bishop who had been invited to Kaldia.
The churches in Kaldia had been demolished soon after my father took over as feudal lord, and the bishops had been driven out. Therefore, the people in the fief hadn’t even received the minimum education from the church for nearly thirty years.
Education that indoctrinated the universal rules of society, or morality, was closely related to religion. The schools that noble children had to attend were originally monasteries, and there were many educational institutions whose origins were derived from religion in my previous life too.
I suppose this was a bit of an odd characteristic, but the Ar Xia church had little funding and was mostly ran through the national budget. As such, most of the costs of running a church in the fief were paid for by the feudal lord. We were finally able to invite a priest to the fief, but it was far from enough to spread education throughout the fief.
… The loss caused by my father isn’t going to be filled at all. It truly is disappointing.
“――― Ah, hey, are you listening?”
I looked up in surprise when my shoulder was grabbed and Radka was staring at me without me noticing. I’m not sure if I had been distracted by my many emotional thoughts, but I blinked and returned to the present.
“… Are you unwell?”
“No, I was just dazed from thinking.”
I couldn’t help but laugh a little at the caring expression on the face of the child in front of me. Radka found this insulting and raised his eyebrows slightly.
“Get a grip. What will happen to me if you get assassinated because you’re spacing out?”
“There still hasn’t been an attempt on my life in the royal capital.”
“Hmph… will there be!?”
I don’t intend on picking fights with everyone, but that kind of danger would naturally appear since the fief was being rebuilt and was now counted as part of the border defence line. After all, there are many who will take hostile actions towards me just because the national defence budget had been shuffled a little.
Still, I looked at Radka again.
“What is it?”
“I was wondering if you would be troubled if I died. You were screaming about killing me a year ago.”
“Y… you! There’s a limit to how mean one can be!”
Radka let out a dumbfounded voice and was distracted. This straightforward way of expressing feelings was somewhat relieving. I also felt relief and anxiety from the fact that I couldn’t feel bloodthirst from him.
“… Sorry, I’ve said too much even though I was joking.”
“You did… Oh, yes. I wanted to tell you that you got a letter from the temple.”
I took the envelope that Radka had given me and turned it around to find an unfamiliar sealing wax on it. There was an unfamiliar seal on top of the temple seal which I was used to seeing. ――― The only person that the F on the seal reminded me of right now was Faris-dono.
When I turned the envelope around, I could clearly see that it was addressed ‘To Eliza Kaldia-dono’ on the front. Apparently, this hadn’t been misdelivered to me.
“Please get me a paper knife.”
A letter arrived from a priestess who I wasn’t close to. I leaned my back against the chair while glaring at the letter in my hand, wondering what the hell Faris-dono wanted.
I looked up at the magnificent white walls of the temple and tapped Radka’s back as he slumped his shoulders in exhaustion next to me.
Sheen Temple, ――― a pure white temple which stood right next to the royal palace, was more elegant and fastidious than the Great Temple of Misorua, which was located a little further away from the noble district. Although commoners also visited the Great Temple, the main visitors of this temple, which stood at the heart of the noble district, were nobles or royals.
“… It hurts, though?”
I ignored the glare that was coming from my side, and could hear Claudia, who was dressed as a maid and standing several steps behind me, chuckle lowly.
I have been taking Claudia and Radka out with me lately, but Faris-dono asked them to come with me today, for some reason.
“Why us three…?”
I stepped into the dazzling, marble temple and muttered to myself. I didn’t even tell that priestess about Radka. I don’t know from where and since when she knew, but I can guess that she had probably found out from Earl Thelesia, since she was close with him.
“It’s said that Priestess Faris-dono has the eyes of god.”
Did I hear her mutter this because my ears are good? Claudia, who knew more about the royal capital than I, began to talk about the mysterious priestess.
“Her mother is from the Merleart family, and I heard that she’s the daughter of a duke. Others say that she was Earl Thelesia’s former fiancée or wife.”
It was surprising to hear that the name of the Merleart House, which was connected to the royal family, but Faris-dono’s age was even more unexpected. A lady from a Duke House, and also the former fiancée of Earl Thelesia? This meant that there should be only a 10 year difference between them. She’s over 70 years old even though she looks that young…?
“Oh, that’s a curious background. She’s not the kind of person who would join a monastery, is she?”
“Apparently, she distances herself from the world, so much so that people state that she has the eyes of god. She might really have divine powers and joined the church.”
Apparently, I was the only one who had seen Priestess Faris in person, and Radka and Claudia weren’t shock by the age of the priestess who they were about to meet.
Radka wouldn’t have met her before, but if Claudia hadn’t met her before either, then the priestess might actually not show herself to others much… Well, only a small percentage of monks and priests appear in high society, and most of the clergy were secluded in churches or temples.
――― Even so, the eyes of god?
I recalled the scales that the priestess had presented to me on my sixth birthday celebration.
My everything was exposed then, even though no one should have known. The other two people who were there, Earl Thelesia and Kamil, probably didn’t know what the things on the scale meant.
Kamil pretended not to know that I had laid the blame on his father even at the time of his death.
As for the Earl, I also think that he might know everything. If I think about it carefully, there was no one else who could have prepared the parchment and other items that were placed on the scales but him. He hasn’t said anything about it so far, but he could probably have guessed at least some of what had happened back then from what had happened at the ceremony.
The rest of the way to the temple, where we were instructed to come, was walked in silence. I strangely didn’t feel the same fear that I had last year about being vulnerable, even though I was nervous about what she was going to say to me.
“You’re early. I thought you might get a little lost.”
A small sanctuary was located at the far end of the temple, which was usually not open to outsiders. The priestess Faris-dono, who was waiting there, welcomed us with a voice that was undistinguishable.
The interior of the sanctuary was more complex than any other building that I had ever seen. The reason why we didn’t get lost was surprisingly because Claudia had led us here.
“… We have someone with wild intuition.”
I felt Claudia smile slightly behind me. It wasn’t a compliment.
“That’s excellent. Well, sit down and relax. I invited you here today to listen to an old woman’s tale.”
Faris smiled charmingly in an ambiguous way and pointed at the chairs. Claudia, who was playing the role of a maid, stepped forward and pulled out a chair, and I sat down.
When Radka and Claudia sat down on the sofa at the end of the room, Faris finally stopped smiling eerily.
――― Is she tired? When she looked expressionless, it didn’t feel strange to be told that she’s the same age as Earl Thelesia, and she looked old.
No, if what Claudia had said earlier is true, then that’s her real age.
“This is the third time I’ve met you?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
I agreed when she asked this in confirmation, and she stared into my eyes. What? I couldn’t help but shrink back. She’s being very creepy today.
Faris squinted for a while and seemed to be looking at something; she looked as if she was searching deep within me as I remained silent.
Then, she suddenly muttered.
“… You’re assimilating fast. I can barely see it. Did it speed up?”
“――― Excuse me?”
I didn’t understand what she was speaking about, so I asked her about it, but Faris pretended that she hadn’t muttered anything at all. She slowly leaned back, put a calm smile on her face like the one she had on when I had first met her, then looked straight at me.
As she did so, the old age that I thought I could see earlier disappeared somewhere. In the blink of an eye, her impression changed into someone whose age and gender were unknown and was so otherworldly that it was irrational.
“How is Sigmund? I’ve heard that he’s suddenly been rash lately.”
Faris began to speak as if nothing had happened, flat sound leaked out from my throat.
“He still seems to be unwell. I hope that he’ll get better soon.”
“You can’t beat age, as long as you’re a human, that is. And, he’s still pushing himself too hard. He’s not going to get better.”
Faris hummed at the back of her throat, causing her lips to curve cynically. I don’t know if this priestess is Earl Thelesia’s ex-wife or ex-fiancée, but it seemed like they were still tied together in an inseparable relationship.
“Because work keeps piling up. I’d like him to make a full recovery and get back to work as soon as possible.”
“Well, we’ll see how that goes… We’ve already lived until an age where it wouldn’t be strange for us to die at any time.”
It was an earnest way of putting it. I exhaled air from my lungs when she said the word ‘we’.
This priestess must be prepared to die. No matter how young she looked, she was aware of how old she is, and accepted the fact, along with death.
“Are you tired?”
“No. I’m just satisfied. Well, I am. As for that guy, he still seems to have too many things he’s worried about.”
“I’ll be troubled if he suddenly went to sleep for eternity all of a sudden with no regrets.”
It wasn’t funny or heart-breaking, I think we were just having a serious conversation. We were talking about death, yet strangely, it didn’t feel gloomy, probably because of this priestess.