Shanak Temple – this white temple standing adjacent to the royal palace gave this street of nobles an even more elegant and refined impression than the Grand Temple of Misorua just a little bit further down the street. Commoners also use the Grand Temple though, while this is the center of the street of nobles, so it’s mainly nobles, and in particular royals, that use Shanak Temple.
“That was fast. I thought you’d get lost.”
In the deepest part of the temple, there was a small church that usually wasn’t open to outsiders. Priest Faris who was waiting for us there, greeted us with the same inscrutable, androgynous voice that I remembered.
The temple has the most complex interior structure that I’ve ever seen. We didn’t get lost though, astonishingly enough because Claudia led the way.
“……Is it some sort of wild natural instinct?”
I heard Claudia chuckling slightly from beside me. Although I wasn’t exactly praising her just now.
“Yes, her instincts are excellent. Alright, come over here and relax. Today, I just wanted you to have a long talk with the elderly person that I am.”
A suspicious smile that I couldn’t read appeared on Priest Faris’s face, as she indicated towards a chair for me to sit in. Since Claudia is playing the role of my maid today, she pulled it forward for me, and I sat down. Claudia and Ratoka sat down on a sofa placed by the wall, and Faris finally stopped smiling that creepy smile of hers.
– I wonder if she’s tired? She’s expressionless, and I really can’t tell that Faris is around the same age as Earl Terejia. No wait, that’s only assuming that Claudia’s earlier story about Faris’s background was accurate.
“This is to be our third meeting now, young one?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
Faris stared right into my eyes as I answered her without any hesitation. What is this, I couldn’t help but draw myself back a little. She seems even more evidently eerie than before. Faris squinted at me, as if she was probing the depths of my eyes for something in silence.
“……You’ve absorbed and synchronized fast. I can barely see her anymore. Has it accelerated?”
Faris suddenly muttered something under her breath.
It was so unexpected that I had no idea what she was talking about, but Faris ignored my reaction of surprise and continued as if she hadn’t muttered anything at all just now. It seemed like she’d returned to the state she was in the first time we met, with that composed smile of hers as she stared directly into my eyes. Then, the feeling I had earlier that she may be elderly suddenly vanished. Faris really does have an inscrutable gender and age, it gives her an otherworldly, mysterious feeling.
“How’s Siegmund been doing lately? I heard that he’s been getting quite a lot more wrinkles on his face recently.”
Faris started the conversation as if it was a perfectly ordinary one, and I felt myself expelling my breath that I was holding.
“He still hasn’t fully recovered yet. It would be nice if he would get healthy again.”
“Well, humans have limits, it’s only natural that they can’t win against old age. And he’s always been one to push himself unreasonably. Even though that’s not good for him.”
Faris seemed to chuckle from the back of her throat, and her lips curved slightly upwards in the faintest hint of a smile. I don’t know if the story about her once being Earl Terejia’s fiancee is true or not, but it definitely does seem that they have some sort of connection.
“Work is just piling up so much. I would really like for him to make a full recovery and return as well, but……”
“Well, how will it turn out, I wonder. ……We’ve already reached an age where it wouldn’t be strange for either of us to die at any moment.”
That seems to be a rather deep statement. I couldn’t help but take a deep breath at her use of the word “we.” I’m sure that Faris is prepared for death at any moment. Regardless of how mysteriously young she may look on the outside, she’s accepted her old age – along with death.
“Are you feeling tired?”
“No. However, I’m satisfied in life, I am. As for Siegmund, he worries over too many things.”
“If Earl Terejia suddenly passed away, I’m sure he would have many regrets.”
It’s nothing to laugh over, but it’s also nothing to get shaken over, this is just a solemn story, I think. Even though we’re talking about death, the atmosphere doesn’t seem all that heavy, I wonder if that’s thanks to Faris.
“……The gods will definitely bestow upon my soul the gift of eternal sleep. It will be a pleasure.”
Faris’s eyes once again seemed to probe into mine. Those words passed through my ear canals and reached my brain, without tugging on any emotions, and settled down within my heart.
“If…… Just hypothetically speaking. If your soul wasn’t allowed to rest after death, and was sent back to this world…… What does Faris-dono think of such a thing?”
Before I realized it, the question had already spilled from my mouth. Faris had a child’s look of innocence on her face for an instant, then the smile returned as if to brush away my question. It was a smile of loving kindness, while simultaneously being a smile of pity. It was a beautiful smile just like that of Saint Shanak’s, I was shocked inside that Faris could make such a smile as well.
“The god Misorua does not have the power to revive a soul for a second life. There’s no good luck, bad luck, or destiny, everything is all coincidence. Use your own power to carve your path in life, grab what you deserve, and struggle, that’s all. To your life’s utmost limits.”
These words from an elderly person, they’re so heavy. However, I did obediently calm down. I nodded, and Faris’s saint-like smile changed instantly again. Even though it was just the slight inscrutable smile again from earlier, the change in expression was so abrupt that it left me stunned for a short moment. From behind me, I heard Ratoka who had been silent until now moaning faintly.
“Well then, let’s cut to the chase and get to the main topic. I didn’t invite you here today to deepen your faith in the church, or to hear about how Siegmund has been doing recently.”
“Yes, of course.”
Probably neither of us have that much free time. There must be some sort of reason that she called me out here today, some sort of use she had for me.
“In every organization, when lots of people gather, there will be differences in opinion, and even factions that appear. The larger the organization, the more apparent the differences will become. Well, it’s said that factions appear whenever three or more people gather together.”
……Is she talking about the House of Lords, I wonder. There’s still some small ongoing conflicts about the matter of the crown prince. Strangely enough, she felt like Earl Terejia whenever he was teaching me something, so I couldn’t help but change my attitude and prepare myself to listen.
“It’s the same within the church.”
However, Faris’s statement was so earth shattering and shocking that I was left mouth wide agape and frozen solid.