News and the young priestess
Silver mug’s members specialized in gathering information.
They listened carefully to every rumor in the city and then reported everything to me.
Each of the twelve adventurer guilds had some sort of intelligence department, except for the top guild White Goat. They didn’t place much importance on information gathering. A guild could be manageable even by simply accepting requests, after all.
Still, to get the more profitable jobs, you have to search for them.
Helping farmers with their fields when they needed it, collecting specific materials, guarding merchants, defeating monsters that weren’t particularly strong, searching for lost pets like cats or dogs, or for people who fled from home… Keeping in touch with the other guilds to control the flow of requests was just a waste of energy.
It would have been better to search for those that weren’t brought to any.
That’s why the members of my intelligence department gathered information day and night.
One of them was reporting what they heard while I was drinking during the night shift.
“Ver, bring me a cold ale, please! Today, I didn’t stop for a second! I’m drenched in sweat!”
“Well done, Leeza.”
Leeza, the girl sat two seats away from me, was happily drinking her ale. She originally worked as a maid in an information shop in the Twelfth Street, but I scouted her as soon as I noticed her potential.
When we first met she was eleven, and now was sixteen. Her short hairstyle let her wonderful smile and cheerful personality stand out.
The earring in her right ear was a magic tool that enhanced her hearing ability.
Each information gatherer in my guild had one of those accessories, which I personally crafted.
They also wore overcoats on their leather armor to avoid standing out in the bar.
All customer wore them, after all.
“Ah, can I sit next to you?”
“Sure, the seat isn’t taken.”
“Ehehe, thank you. You never change, Master… I mean, mister.”
That “Master” was intentional, wasn’t it?
I thought and gulped down my ale with a wry smile.
When Verlaine brought the snacks, fresh cheese that we just got delivered, I decided to eat some.
Leeza imitated me happily after I encouraged her. She loved dairy products, and that cloud sheep cheese was delicious. It wasn’t hard like the common ones and it also had a delicate flavor.
“Ver, hear me! Today…”
She seemed to gossip but was actually using a secret code to tell me what she found out.
The Prince of Vinceburg, after Manarina broke their engagement, didn’t back down and kept proposing to the other princesses, only to get rejected by the third princess due to her tender age.
A noble who used knights for his personal requests lost their right to do so and asked the guilds for help.
The request regarded the purification of the mansion they bought at a low price from the ghosts that haunted it. Since everyone rejected his appeal, the noble left their new residence without a second thought.
I wasn’t really interested in any of those things, but if Manarina and Timis had another sister, I wanted to protect her from the fiendish hands of the Prince of Vinceburg. I guess he wanted to join the royal family so badly that he even tried to make a move on such a young girl.
“Oh, and Princess Manarina had another proposal from a king, but she plainly rejected him. Seems like she was influenced by a certain someone.”
“Is that so? That’s interesting. Maybe the mister over there has something to do with this.”
Commented Verlaine, chuckling.
Since a princess could be enthroned, she wasn’t obliged to marry someone, but if she chose to take a vow of chastity for me… I mean, wouldn’t that need a lot of self-questioning?
I was sure that if I dared to express my thought, Mylarka would have looked at me with disgust the next time we saw each other again.
“Oh, right! You heard, wifey?”
“Wife…? Are you talking about me? I do want to marry someone I’m in love with but are you perhaps trying to cheer me up? How sweet of you, Leeza.”
“I just got carried by the mood, but I’m glad you appreciated it!”
I was about to say “Don’t call her a wife”, but gulped it down along with some ale.
“Oh, do you know about the orphanage of the Church District’s outskirts in the Royal Capital, right? It’s said that its director is laying up for a while now, and the children are growing worried. The elder among them is now acting as a proxy, but it seems like they’re having quite some troubles.”
“That’s very unfortunate… Did the director contract some kind of illness?”
“No one knows about that. Her name is Yuphila Manafroze, and her condition keeps worsening day after day.”
Yuphila Manafroze. It had been a while since I last heard that name.
In my mind floated the image of a priestess with clothes too big for her and a soft, gentle smile.
‘Since my name is quite long, I beg you to call me with an abbreviation’, she asked before our expedition. That’s why Aileen created her pet name by taking only the first syllables of her full name: ‘Yuma’.
Exactly. She was Voiceless requiem, one of my former comrades in the expedition to defeat the Demon Lord.
Mylarka didn’t know that she fell sick, so her current condition must be something that had started recently.
“Her father is the church’s archbishop! Seems like he can’t publicly ask a guild for help, but he would do anything to heal his daughter’s condition. Currently, her mother is nursing her day and night.”
Since Leeza knew about me and Yuma, she provided details on the matter.
“That’s all for today. I’m super tired, so I want to take a long sleep when I get home.”
“Thank you for your hard work. I hope to see you again soon. Have a great night.”
The girl waved her hand nonchalantly at me and Verlaine, then left the bar with slightly unsteady legs and headed to the guild’s dormitory, which was a near apartment building I had bought.
On the other hand, I lived on the second floor of the bar, along with the former Demon Lord.
“Have you heard, mister? Leeza called me a wife. Maybe working as the bartender is making me look like a young one… what do you think about that?”
I didn’t know how being a bartender and looking like a young wife could be related, but she looked happy about that. I was wondering if her goal changed, given that lately she wasn’t asking her belonging back, but as long as she didn’t assault me, everything was fine.
I didn’t know what was fine precisely, but I told that to myself.
The day after, I exited from the back door during the afternoon break and headed toward her place.
Each one of the twelve streets of the capital stretched from north to south with their peculiar features and were numbered starting from the west.
The First Street adjoined the Church District.
Since it would have taken some time to reach that by feet, I made one of the wagons wandering around give me a ride. The newest ones’ seats were extremely good, so sitting on them for some time didn’t even hurt my back.
After an hour, when my destination was near, I wore an overcoat and descended from it. Thanks to the country’s subsidy for wagons that accepted passengers, I paid the cheap fee of five silver coins for the ride.
Exactly as the name suggested, the Church District of Albein was filled with religious institutions. People visited temples while priests and monks practiced their arts ascetically.
Glancing at the surrounding buildings, I finally reached the orphanage that Yuma managed as the director.
Near it stood the temple where she conducted her priesthood duties and studied to become archbishop. She was so busy that it wouldn’t have been strange for a normal person to faint because of fatigue.
I saw children playing in the orphanage’s yard as I approached it, when a young priestess, who was watching over them, called me out.
“Good afternoon. Is there something I can help you with?”
“I’d like to talk with your director. Is it possible to meet her?”
“The director is in the temple, but lately she isn’t feeling well, so a meeting might be impossible…”
Yuma wasn’t old enough to drink, and it was also forbidden for priests, so she couldn’t come to my guild.
That’s why the only way to see her was to pay a visit, but going so far only to see how was she doing was exaggerated.
This time was an exception.
I just accepted a request which only I could do. Thinking about that excuse, I prepared myself for the worse.
“Yuma… I’m an old friend of Yuphila. Me and Mylarka Iris also know each other.”
“Mylarka Iris…? A-Are you friends with Sweet disaster…?”
The priestess was surprised to hear that. I wondered if she would have let me through with that, given how much authority Mylarka’s name carried. Since she dropped by every once in a while, it seemed that the girl in front of me, who looked older than Yuma, also knew her.
“T-Then I’ll go ask Lady Yuphila. Please, wait here.”
Said her, and headed to the temple at a quick pace. After a little while, she returned and guided me to meet the director as hoped.
Stepping into the building, I set my eyes on the back of a priestess who was praying in front of the icon she worshipped.
As the light descending from the skylight gently illuminated her, she kept invoking her deity’s grace silently.
I wondered if I could get closer, and as I mustered up my courage to walk toward her, she turned to face me.
She wore the very same smile I remembered, and raised one of her hands to greet me.
“It has been a while, Dick. I knew you were going to meet me. I saw it in a recent vision.”
“Amazing… What kind of vision was that?”
“I cannot reveal the paths of God this easily. It should remain a secret.”
She put her index in front of her mouth. Her white clothes shown her delicate curves. Despite her small build, she got taller and grew enough to not be called a child anymore.
“Did you lose weight? I haven’t seen you in a while, but I can tall that.”
“You heard that I was sick and came to pay a visit, have you not?”
“Nice guess… well, I didn’t know if a messenger could be appropriate for this.”
“Thank you, Dick. You have always been kind of heart, even though you pretend to be uninterested in people.”
“If I weren’t interested in people, I wouldn’t have started a guild. I don’t want to be the center of attention, that’s all.”
She looked amused at what I said. She heard those words many times before.
Still, even though she looked good at first glance, it was evident that she was sick.
How could I explain it… She was way too pure now. The Yuma I knew wasn’t like that.
“Is the orphanage doing well?”
“Yes. We cannot afford to take any more people, but I talked with father and proposed to build another one.”
“…Do you have time for that? If you keep neglecting yourself, your condition will worsen.”
If I should describe her, she was like a requiem.
But somehow, I couldn’t sense any serenity in her words.
After all the time we haven’t seen each other, the first thing she would have said to me would have been to comfort my soul or something, given her soul fetish.
That was strange.
Or rather, it was normal for a normal person, not Yuma.
“Working and studying are really important, but you should take the time to rest every now and then.”
“You are right… but the Capital is at peace now. Events that shake my soul hardly happen.”
Commented her in a disheartened voice.
I knew it… The reason why she was feeling so bad was that she couldn’t bring peace to anyone’s soul.
“Could you… bring peace to any soul since you returned to the capital?”
“W-What does that have to do with anything…?”
“Look at yourself. You always said that you wanted to do that, but you haven’t mentioned it once since we started talking. You said only normal things so far, and this isn’t like you.”
“The capital is at peace now, and no one requested me to take care of the souls of the departed, so unlike the time we traveled together… I had no chance to… b-bring… much peace to…”
As she hesitantly pronounced those last words, unable to keep holding them, the light was drained out of her eyes.
“But… Aah… Now I remember… I wanted to comfort your soul… even for a little…”
“W-Wait, I’m not dead yet. How can you bring peace to my soul while I’m alive?”
“I can force its way to the Kingdom of God… Ascension… A Holy Magic spell…”
“Oh, my… Y-Yuma, calm down. I’ll let you comfort my soul all you want when I die. Let’s say that it’s kind of dear for me right now…”
I let out a sigh of relief when the light started to flow back into her stagnant eyes.
Looking her carefully, she was really losing weight. I sat on one of the leather sacks scattered around, which were the temple’s seats, and showed Yuma a bottle and a glass I had brought with me.
“Is eating or drinking in the temple forbidden? Should we go somewhere else?”
“No, it is not… But why are you doing all of this for me…?”
“Well, first drink this. Don’t worry, it’s not alcoholic.”
I uncorked the bottle and poured some of the liquid in the glass.
‘Drops of serenity’ was an elven medicine made by blending the essence of rare medicinal herbs together.
Yuma sat next to me and took the glass, then started to sip the medicine.
“Mmh… It looked dense and bitter, but is actually sweet.”
“Flavor is important even for medicines. Think of it as a high-tier potion.”
“I see… I feel my body warming, and my feelings quelling…”
She was so tired that the medicine effects kicked in right away.
It also stimulated the appetite, so I handed her some fruit juice and a baguette sandwich which even a priest or monk, who couldn’t eat meat, could consume.
“If you’re hungry, take these. My bar is quite popular for its light meals.”
“…Shameful as it is, I am indeed hungry now. Thank you.”
She took the baguette sandwich, unwrapped it from the paper, and bit into it. Looking a girl eating maybe was unsettling for her, so I shifted my gaze to the temple’s religious icon.
“This is nostalgic… is it not, Dick? I remember you preparing something like this during our expedition, even though this tastes way better.”
“I’m glad to hear that. You should eat properly, you are too slim.”
“You are right. Still, it is a shame that we are not eating together.”
I couldn’t ignore her invitation. I took out the baguette sandwich I was thinking to eat later and bit it in front of her amused eyes.
The situation wasn’t good. She was still weak from the lack of food.
If I couldn’t make her vent her stress, the problem wasn’t solved.
But what to do?
I should have made her satisfy the desire she had piled up.
That sweet, graceful Yuma wasn’t bad at all, but I wanted her to return to her usual self.
When I reached the answer, I started to plan the next move.