23. The Fake Saint’s Evolution into a Genuine One (Another Perspective)
- The Priest’s POV
“The saint is missing?”
“Yes, I haven’t seen her since evening. The knights are unconscious in their room. Their food seems to have been tampered with. Also, one knight is missing—a commoner. Darren should’ve done a background check beforehand. The other knights claim that he sometimes made remarks unlike those of a commoner. That person may have been concealing his identity since the beginning.”
A defect was found in the wheels of the carriage that I had sent for inspection. As a result, we stayed in town longer than planned for the repair. Finally, we were ready to leave, and I was busy preparing for it that day.
Each of us had gone out to prepare. Several knights and Darren had been entrusted with protecting the saint. But upon returning to the inn that evening, the twins were quarreling with Darren.
The saint had vanished from the inn.
Because they had some business, the twins had also gone out. Just in case, they had placed a simple protection spell on the saint. However, amidst their trip, said spell got destroyed. As such, they returned in a hurry. Afterwards, they had discovered that not only was the saint missing, the knights, who were supposed to be protecting her, were unconscious in an unnatural manner.
Darren had been tricked into go to inspect the repair of the carriage. Thus, no one knew where the saint had disappeared to.
“Are you sure the missing knight kidnapped the saint? Let’s block all the exits in town. I’m sure it hasn’t been long since she disappeared.”
Darren tried to go find the saint, but I stopped him. If my assumption was correct, it would probably be difficult to find her that way. Rather, they might escape as the blockade was being enacted.
“…If he has collaborators in this town, a blockade would be useless. If the captor is a person with high authority, the more time that passes, the more we’ll be at a disadvantage. If possible, it’d be better for us to uncover where they are and take her back by surprise…”
“There’s no way I can guess who the mastermind is or what purpose the surprise attack serves—or, Luka, have you figured everything out already!?”
“Since this is the town where we happened to be staying, it isn’t likely that the culprit is acting alone. Therefore, we can narrow down the list of potential culprits to church hands and church officials of this town.”
The twins and Darren found it difficult to believe that the kidnapper was collaborating with someone else—but I didn’t think so.
Perhaps, the one who had kidnapped Ceylan was a devout follower of the actual saint.
The true saint had gone on a voyage. I expected she would try to learn what the rest of us would do about the pilgrimage.
Her followers would likely tell her if we were in trouble. Thus, I told the members of the church to keep an eye on the movements of her followers remaining in the kingdom. During my travel, I received regular notifications.
I considered the possibility of being watched, but I never expected for there to be a mole. Despite my careful background checks, the perpetrator created a fake identity that was so foolproof, it tricked even Darren.
The spy must had relayed to the true saint how we were proceeding with the pilgrimage using a fake saint.
…This is my fault.
We should’ve given Ceylan better security.
I didn’t know what the saint’s followers were going to do to Ceylan. One thing was certain—they wouldn’t return her safely. After all, to them, she was a commoner who dared to parade herself as the saint. Those who’ve devoted themselves to saints were obsessed with the idea of supremacy.
There’s no time to waste…
If we didn’t start our search right away, her life would be in danger. For the search, it was necessary for the three of us to cooperate, but…
…I expected that when the real saint returned, Ceylan would be condemned. I alone wanted to take the fall, to confess that everything was my plan—that neither the church nor my pilgrim companions had anything to do with it.
However, once the real saint was displeased with something, she’d make sure it was eradicated. Surely, she’d want to behead everyone involved…
Even though I alone was responsible for that crime.
…If I wanted Darren, Will, and Farril to help, I’d need to be honest with them about the fake saint.
However, when I was about to do that, I realized that such knowledge might get them in trouble in the future.
…If I were to ask for their cooperation, they’d be convicted along with me…
Yet, despite being aware of that, I had no other choice.
“I believe that the followers of the saint abducted her. The woman they abducted is someone I prepared to stand in for the saint… in other words, she is a fake. Hadn’t there be a mix up amongst the knights, no such thing would have happened. To not be easily caught, the culprit might have left the town.”
I looked at the three of them to see how they’d react, but they took it very casually.
“Oh, I see.”
“…The saint’s followers? Certainly, it sounds possible. There are a lot of fanatics among them.”
“First she ruined the pilgrimage, now this? Her personality is still as distasteful as ever.”
“Did she tell her followers to kidnap Ceylan to get rid of her? Well, since they’re her followers, they probably aren’t too bright.”
Judging from the responses I had received, they seemed to have been aware that Ceylan was a fake for a long time. Due to my silence, they probably decided to not ask me anything.
“…I realize how late this is. I’m sorry for not telling any of you before. She may be a substitute, but I really want to save her. I need your help.”
“It should be obvious by now that she’s different from the actual saint. Therefore, Luka doesn’t need to apologize. Besides, she isn’t a fake, is she? She’s the true saint.”
“I think so, too. No matter what anyone says, that woman is our sister. We must protect her.”
“I didn’t think Luka intended to hide that fact from us. I thought you want us to reach that conclusion ourselves…”
I was relieved to hear that we could go find her soon.
“This town usually conducts trade with the royal capital. We might have to separate to in order to determine if a church hand or a saint’s follower is hiding in the town church. You’re the only ones I can trust, so please…”
The three nodded. The twins magically visualized Ceylan’s footprints, and followed them. Part way, they were interrupted by an obstructive spell.
Darren said that he’d investigate, while the twins wanted to examine the area where the protection spell was destroyed. Therefore, we split up.
I continued along the canal and searched for signs of Ceylan with my mediocre search magic.
Considering they were the saint’s devout followers, it’d be more likely for them to torture Ceylan. Therefore, they shouldn’t have killed her.
If the followers were to hold a mock trial, or a purge ceremony, they’d move to a secluded place. Then, they’d most likely leave the town by boat.
As I looked on for traces of Ceylan, I reached the docks.
They might had gone to the river by boat from there… It was a gamble, but the three of us had split up for the sake of the search. I decided to go down the river. I left a mark at that place just in case. Will and Farrill would surely understand it.
When I followed the path along the river and left town, I saw the light of a small ship in the distance.
A ship to moving at night was unnatural.
I approached the ship carefully so as to not make any sound.
Then, I saw something thrown into the water from the top of the ship. When I looked closely, I saw Ceylan coming to the surface—
The moment I almost cried out, I saw a harpoon thrown at her back, and then I saw red.
***T/N: Gosh, whenever this kind of thing needs to happen, even the strongest, most eccentric, knight captain is somewhere else so he can’t prevent it from happening.