10. The Fake Saint’s Evolution into a Genuine One
The villager side moved about in a flutter as they made a mountain of mud balls as according to my instructions.
As for my side… the knight leader carried a lot of mud and made mud balls at the speed of light, so there was no problem.
While the others were still busy making mud balls, I mercilessly bombed them with mine.
“W, wait—! Just how many did you make—!?”
“I won’t wait for anyone! Alright, I will withdraw temporarily after I finish throwing!”
“Dammit—! Hey, we need to fight back—!”
I thought it’d be advantageous to take the lead, but perhaps because the villagers were skilled in field work, their throwing strength was impeccable. By the way, all the hits were taken by the sturdy knight leader.
Despite being covered in mud, rather than angry, the knight leader seemed… happy.
What, does he enjoy playing with mud that much?
“Lady Saint—! Don’t hesitate to throw some mud at me, too—! I will be your stepping stone—!”
“Why is the knight leader actively trying to get stepped on by me? Just stay as a shield, please.”
Although we had a somewhat strange conversation, as expected, we were taking the lead. It got to the point where we dug up some trenches. Gradually, the mud fight had become a full-fledged battle.
As the villager’s side felt that they were at an extreme disadvantage, they called out to other villagers and increased their numbers. It seemed that they wanted to win through quantity.
Not wanting to lose, I also forced some passerby to join. Before I noticed it, a tremendous number of people were covered in mud. It had become a literal mud match. The priest, who seemed tired, declared that it was a draw.
…How nostalgic. It’s as if I’ve returned to my childhood…
As I squeezed out the muddy water out of my veil, the children, who were also the first villagers I had met, approached me. The three looked like mud dolls. After they stared at each other, they bowed to me with bitter smiles.
“At first, we were trying to harass you… Well, it escalated to something weird. All in all, I just want to say sorry.”
“You look amazing! Covered from the top of your head to your toes with mud—are you truly the saint!?”
“Well… I’m sorry to destroy your image of a saint. It seems that as a saint, I’m not decent enough.”
“Huh? That isn’t what I’m talking about. It was fun and nice. Ugh, I got mud in my ears, do you have an earpick?”
People often apologized to me that day. I wondered, for what?
However, I had a vague inkling that the lords despised me from the start. But, wasn’t the saint an object to worship? I wasn’t sure anymore, so I was planning to ask the priest later.
It seemed that he was planning to stay at the lord’s mansion that day. But the knights and the others, myself included, we were all covered in mud. In the end, we decided to stay at the church.
I was allowed to take a bath in a room in the church, while the knights set up a number of large barrels in the church yard. Afterwards, they prepared some hot water and created an instant open-air bath. Everyone was bathing outdoors. It did change the impression I had of those noble knights.
The villagers brought food and bedding one after another. Before I knew it, the church garden became like a large banquet hall.
I wore the casual attire I had brought with me, erased my presence, and ate with the villagers.
Because I had pulled the hood of my jacket as deeply as I could, no one noticed me. So, I ate as much as I could.
When my stomach was full, I was struck by intense drowsiness. After all that exercise, I had taken a bath. I couldn’t help but be sleepy.
I was planning to secretly retire, but then I saw some dessert being served at the end.
Someone sat down in front of me.
“Are you tired? You worked hard today. Thanks to you, our pilgrimage to this village was a great success. Thank you very much.”
The priest showed a flawless smile like usual.
“…A great success? No, wasn’t it a complete failure? I went overboard and ended up starting a mud fight… I’m terribly sorry.”
“No, this is as successful as it could get. There’s a lot of opposition to the Goddess’ faith in this area. Hadn’t it for your improvisation, we wouldn’t have been allowed to remain and would have been kicked out instead.”
“By the way, something has been on my mind… Why is the saint hated? Isn’t it weird? The Goddess religion is a country religion, isn’t it?”
“Is Ceylan familiar with the origin of this kingdom?”
Suddenly called by my real name, I was shocked. What if someone heard him?
“Yes, there were many demons all over the world, it was chaos—or so I’ve learned. The Goddess, Asera, descended onto this kingdom to purify the demons. As such, numerous saints appeared. Although they were disjointed at first, they united as one kingdom.”
“Indeed. That’s what the churches and schools usually teach. But that’s merely a story the kingdom is trying to spread. In order to expand the territory, our kingdom has ruled over the neighboring countries by force in the name of a holy war. That myth is spread to justify it.
“The small nations that were forced to submit to our rule are believed to have been ostensibly and peacefully integrated, but in reality, they are in jeopardy.
“The central government is making effort to unify education and religion as a unified kingdom, but many of the other countries had their own culture and religions—as such, the movement itself spurred anger.
“The reason why the saint has to go on a pilgrimage to the churches of various places is to encourage conversion. As of the present, the kingdom prohibits belief in anything other than the Goddess.”
What the priest told me was shocking. It was different from what the church had taught me.
Certainly, in our kingdom, religions other than the Goddess’ were considered heretical in nature. As such, not only were they prohibited, the people were also forced to worship the Goddess.
For them to suddenly be told to abandon their faith… I understood why people would object to that.
I finally understood what the villagers were saying. It was no wonder that the church was full of dust, and that no one was attending it service.
It felt fair for a saint who advocate the Goddess’ religion to be criticized…
“As you can see, you’re scheduled to travel to ‘difficult’ areas. This time, neither pebbles nor fire arrows were sent your way. It’s kind of fortunate, don’t you think? Territories with greater feelings of repulsion towards us might resort to more radical actions. Hence, to avoid the worst-case scenario, the knight leader and his elites are tasked to accompany you.”
“Wait a minute, that’s simply too much to process at once. Could it be, the real saint already knew that this pilgrimage was riddled with dangers? What if that’s the reason she left?”
“Yes, she knew. That’s also the reason why her supporters helped her proceed with the honeymoon, saying they couldn’t put her in danger. It seems that they’ve been secretly planning for that, but it was a rough plan, and I sniffed it out from the start. That’s why I’ve spent so long looking for a substitute—but I couldn’t find one. For you to have taken on the role at the last minute, that was a great help.”
“Wait a minute! If you knew from the beginning that the saint would run away, why didn’t you stop her!? Why did she still go on a honeymoon!?”
“The real saint is… difficult. If she were to have reached this place by horse-carriage, there’s no saying her dissatisfaction wouldn’t have exploded. She’d just desecrate this entire place. Not to mention, if the real saint were to be harassed like before, her devout followers might get angry to the point of massacring all the villagers—I didn’t want to take the chance.”
The priest revealed his black plan with a smile.
Although the job description sounded simple—which was to go on a pilgrimage to various churches, the destinations were extreme. The reward was exceptional because the job was dangerous.
…Basically, is my life in danger, or is it already forfeit…?
***T/N: …Wow, so the real saint is an actual danger to her surroundings… Priest, pls tell me searching for a substitute and making that substitute suffers malicious threats in the real saint’s stead isn’t the best you can do…
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