On the second day of my birthday celebration, a priest from the church would perform a ceremony to receive blessings. As soon as their plain horse-drawn carriage arrived in the morning, just like yesterday, today’s plans went out the window.
“This is…… Faris-dono……”
As soon as he saw the priest get off the horse-drawn carriage, Earl Terejia raised his voice questioningly. Faris? The priest that was coming today should have been named Almenes. Even more surprising, was how shocked Earl Terejia had sounded at seeing Faris and the earl respectfully lowering his head. They must be quite a high-ranking priest.
Just before the priest bowed, our eyes met for an instant. The priest’s pupils were absolute pure black, it raised goosebumps on my flesh.
The priest was dressed in white priest robes and a veil, with a black shawl on the shoulders, and was holding a sword and staff taller than their body in their hands, both age and gender were difficult to determine.
The head of the staff was decorated with a triangular symbol that represented balance scales, and the circlet that was holding their veil had an ornament that resembled having a third eye on the forehead. The balance scales were meant to judge a person’s good deeds against their bad deeds, the eye was a symbol of how the Xia church could see through one’s sins, and the sword represented punishment and order, and the god Misorua would give blessings.
“Siegmund. It’s been a while.”
The voice seems a little too low for a woman, but slightly too high for a man. The gender is getting even harder to determine. When Kamil took the person’s shawl for them, although he made a mockery of what a page was supposed to do, even though I could see the priest’s shoulder line, as expected I still couldn’t determine their gender.
“What happened to Almenes-dono?”
“Around this time of year, he’s been busy everywhere helping pray for the success of the spring festivities. Because of his accumulated fatigue, I’m replacing him today.”
Their skin and face still seemed young like a teenager’s, but their tone and attitude seemed like that of an old person. But why is it that there seems to be no sense of incongruity.
The two of them walked towards the mansion in silence. The priest named Faris had closed their eyes right after getting off the horse-drawn carriage and greeting the earl, without paying attention to me. Since even the earl is allowing this, I wonder just how high-ranking this priest is.
There were distinctions between priests, monks, and other clergymen. Priests are given their positions by the king, and would carry out various rituals for both the royal palace and temples, they belong to both the royal palace and the church. Since the earl is ignoring the fact that this priest didn’t even deign to greet me, a Viscountess, the priest must be at least at the level of a temple head or chief priest…… Comparing it with noble ranks, at least a senior earl in rank. I wonder why such an important person would take the place of their subordinate and come all the way out here.
“When will the ceremony be?”
“It’s planned for noon.”
Faris walked with long strides, at a fast pace. It’s impressive how fast the priest’s walking considering the difficulty of doing so with the length of the robe’s hems, and that they’re not walking so fast to the extent of being rude. Since I’m a child, sometimes people forget about that and I can’t keep up.
“Until then, is it alright if I take a look at the garden?”
Earl Terejia glanced at me. He probably wants me to return to the mansion first. If the priest wants to see the garden, it might mean that they have something to talk about. Otherwise, since the earl probably has more preparations to finish, it might be better though if somebody else had guided the priest.
Because of his status, Kamil hadn’t said a single word this entire time, and we saw off the two of them to the garden.
In the Mansion of Golden Hills, there is no prayer room. Normally, it should be found in every domain lord’s residence, but…… Several generations ago the Kaldia family head seems to have destroyed it, but because records of that time were few, no details remained. Because such a thing happened, I’m also interested in knowing why we haven’t been excommunicated from the church yet.
Since there wasn’t enough money to construct a new church here, the ceremony this time would be performed in a small church that’s in the area under direct control.
The servants in the mansion had worked on cleaning here, so the church was nice and tidy. Inside, it resembled the chapels in my previous world…… I think. It felt a bit western and religious somehow, is all I knew.
Although I feel like it resembles a chapel, I actually don’t remember most of the features in detail. After having spent six years already in a completely different world and culture, my previous life’s memories were becoming vague.
In the innermost part of the church was an altar. The altar was also decorated with a large sword and scales, and the symbol of the Ar Xia church, the third eye, was drawn on the tiles of the walls.
To me who had almost nothing to do with anything religious in both my previous life and this one, I couldn’t help but feel like this was all very strange. Or maybe it’s simply because the distorted light coming down from the stained glass skylight was too dazzling for me.
White cloth had been used generously for my own vestments. Since it had been made especially for this ceremony, there were no decorations and it wasn’t ornate, and the length of my skirt and veil were just long enough to drag on the ground. I did my best to put up with the weight while progressing to the altar. There, the priest Faris was waiting for me with a staff and sword in each of their hands.
This ceremony was attended by very few people as most didn’t know the details, it was just the presiding priest, the person that would receive the blessing, the person’s guardian if they were a minor, and a non family member as a “witness,” were all that were considered necessary for the good of the ceremony.
Because it was considered necessary for a person to eliminate their sins in order to receive the blessings of the gods, the ceremony also included a ritual where the sins of the person being blessed would be judged. That’s why this ceremony was highly confidential compared to the others.
The state church of Arxia is the Ar Xia church. The sects belonging to this religion, are collectively considered part of the Xia religion. A millennium ago, St. Ahar had created the Ar Xia Holy Kingdom, creating the Xia religion’s largest faction, the Ar Xia church, and since St. Ahar had been a direct descendant of the Xia church’s founder, the shrine maiden Xia Fema, it seems that they often called themselves the orthodox church.
Common between all of the Xia sects, were the concepts of sin, punishment, and law. In all the Xia sects, the holy words that the founder Xia Fema had left behind, the “Sacred Code,” was treated as the holy scriptures of the church. This book had contained an advanced law system that’s being used even today, and keeping order in society and living life with reason and ration is what Xia emphasizes.
The priest tapped me on my feet, shoulders, and forehead.
“And now I shall begin the ceremony of blessing. Daughter of Kaldia, Eliza, raise your face and know your sins.”
I raised my head according to Faris’s directions. The dishes of the scales on the altar, the left one indicated sins, and the right side represented virtues, it was customary for the nobility with their own territories to put the “Sacred Code” on the left side, and grains on the right side.
……That’s why, when I saw what was actually there, my breath stopped for a moment.
On top of a piece of parchment in the left dish, was a sprig of poisonous hemlock. On top of the bundle of golden wheat in the right dish, was another sprig of poisonous hemlock for some reason. As if hiding in its shadow, a withered, tiny flower was there as well.
My heart was beating so hard it was painful. I suddenly choked, because I had forgotten to breathe. I felt a shock as if I had been hit in the head.
“The scales are tilted to the right. This makes up for your sins. Confronting your own sins shall be your punishment.”
My brain felt completely numb, and Faris’s voice swirled dully around me. Earl Terejia softly tapped me on my back as I just kept staring at the scales in a daze, and finally I was able to breathe again after having my breath caught in my throat.
A sprig of poisonous hemlock had been placed on both dishes. Its bright green color attracted my gaze.
Since when was it known? Why was it known? Was it Earl Terejia who knew? Or was it the priest Faris that knew somehow?
At the fact that somebody definitely knew about my major crime, my body trembled. As if my heart was filled with ice water, I felt my hands and feet turning ice cold first instead of my head which was still numb.
“Never shall you forget your own sins. – Now then, you shall receive Misorua’s blessings.”