Readying the spadework – Part 1
The morning after Kunon and Karin’s departure, Lise strode through the streets of the slums while the sun slowly rose in the sky.
“Sheesh… there should be a limit to heartlessness.”
Anger painted her face.
She didn’t expect that the unanimity of Suzuran would vote not to save Takumi.
She understood that they fully trusted him and that they had to be extremely careful since a single step could be the end of them, but she still couldn’t accept any of that.
Takumi saved her, so she had to help him back in her own way. She couldn’t just sit and do nothing while the Inquisition killed him.
“I have to try my best!”
She thrust one of her fists in the air to pump herself up, then she started thinking… and her body froze in place.
She wanted to save him so badly and so quickly that she hadn’t come up with a plan to do so.
As the Queen’s messenger and the Archbishop herself, she could attend the ceremony, but the Inquisition had the final say on the matter, since their voting system was accessible only to the holy knights.
To make matters worse, the other Archbishops and above cardinals all had Fortesea’s support, and the rest of the holy order frowned at the slave merchant.
He was the reason why Archbishop Lise was now a slave, although it was only for some time.
A clergyman devoted to Goddess Filia was cast to the bottom of the social pyramid—that should’ve never happened.
Thanks to that, Lise’s colleagues were keeping their distance from her while pretending to respect her, and if she tried to defend Takumi during the trial, it would’ve probably been for naught.
The Soft-hearted slave merchant was in the worst situation possible—left to his fate alone.
“I should start from… gathering more allies.”
There were a lot of people who followed and liked Takumi.
He helped countless of them especially in the slums, so she could try asking all of them to sign a petition and push the Inquisition to the point they couldn’t just ignore the people’s sheer number.
“Okay, it is settled! Here I go!”
Putting herself together, she once again started walking down the dirty stone paving.
She turned around a corner, then the other, and checked where she was, then turned around a few more corners, and finally stopped in her tracks.
She was at the starting point again.
“Where am I?!”
The child scanned her surroundings and only saw rows of similar buildings and similar streets. She couldn’t tell which way was which and none of them had anything particular that could help her distinguish where she was going.
It’s been only a few days since Lise started going to the slums alone, and she only knew the way to Suzuran from the gondola’s stop. The other streets were uncharted territory for her.
“I-I guess I will go to Lilia’s first…”
She looked around her worriedly, then started walking in a random direction and soon crossed her way with a wobbling man.
“E-Excuse me! Can I ask for directions?!”
“What? Whazzup, youngun, ya dunno where to go?”
Lise unwillingly grimaced at him—his face was red and he reeked of alcohol.
“Ya know, I know what’chu feelin’. I lost my way in life too since my wife ran away…”
“No, I mean, I need to go to—”
“I dunno where ya needa go, ya got iiiHHHT~!”
He then turned his face quickly enough not to barf on her, and after piercing him with a sub-zero stare, she hurriedly walked away.
“I forgot that the public order is terrible here…”
She had always been surrounded by good people, so that had yet to sink into her.
Lise shook her head.
“No, thinking like this is wrong! I am the Archbishop and the Queen’s messenger! I shall trust this country’s people equally, regardless of the place they live in!”
Steeling her resolve again, she tried to talk to more people.
“Huh?! The fuck, missy, can’t you see I’m tired?! I just got off the clock! Get lost!”
“Kiddo, get lost if you don’t buy anything! I’m trying to run a business here!”
“Oww, you lost your way? And you think that I’ll show you where to go so that you can attack me with your friends and take all I have?! Damn, this is why kids suck! Just get the fuck out of my way already!”
The more she tried to talk to people, the more the wrinkles on her brow deepened.
“People around here are the worst… absolutely the worst…”
After earning the ‘getting flipped off for the tenth time in a row’ achievement, Lise’s mood sunk.
“I get laughed at although I am Crest Archbishop and people see me like a thief because I am a child… these guys have no idea about the meaning of the word ‘consideration’!”
Lise was a full-fledged public figure, but Her Majesty and Fortesea always had her avoid being on the front stage, so it wasn’t strange for people not to know her.
Whenever she tried to talk to someone, they badmouthed her for no reason, like “Where did you steal those clothes?” or “You ain’t gonna fuck with me, kiddo!” or “Go scam someone else!”, and she was already fed up with it.
“I am a full-fledged Archbishop, you fools…!”
She puffed her cheeks in frustration and tried to vent some of it by kicking a little stone, which unluckily hit a guy who was walking a little ahead of her.
He and his comrades turned around puzzled, then flashed an awful grimace.
“Hey, kid, that hurt, you know?”
As she squared her shoulders, she noticed that a few more of them were surrounding her. Their face wasn’t really friendly. They looked like thugs.
She hurriedly bowed her head in apology.
“Oooh, man, it hurts so bad… I think my leg broke.”
“It broke with just that little stone?!”
“Kid, Ares’ legs are weak! He’s delicate!”
“What’chu gonna do if he can’t walk anymore?! HUH?! We were taking care of him and look what you’ve done!”
As they yelled at her face, she found herself drove to the road’s corner. She had no escape route.
“You look quite good dressed like that, missy.”
“Really?! Do I look good?!”
“W-Wow, she got it the wrong way… whatever, I’ll have you pay for my medical fee!”
“I… I was told not to use money when I am alone.”
Her Highness was paying Lise for her work, but she ordered her not to use money as long as she was alone and she wasn’t used to the world outside the castle. It was an absolute order by Queen Eluria herself.
Still, the men closed ever more on her. They looked ready to bite.
“You can use your money! We’re here with you! I won’t walk again if you don’t pay for my medical fee!”
“B-But how can you walk and stand right now if your leg is broken?!”
“Ares is fucking enduring the pain! Can’t you see?!”
“My bone is in pieces, but I’m trying not to make anyone worry, YOU GOT IT?!”
“O-Oh my…! You do not want to make me worry…?!”
Lise’s face brightened like a child’s and the men looked at her in puzzlement.
“Kid, just pay for my damn—”
“Alright! I will heal your leg myself, then!”
Lise rummaged in her pockets and took out a feather pen and a piece of paper, which she scribbled in the blink of an eye and hurriedly placed it on the man’s leg. A dim light started glowing around him.
“What the heck are you doing?!”
“I compressed a Holy magic’s healing law formula. It should heal a broken bone in a few moments.”
She pridefully puffed out her chest while all the men jumped away. They had never seen something like that before.
“Are you fucking with us, little turd?!”
“You’re gonna pay for looking down on Ares!”
“Just give us your damn money!”
Ares screamed at her face while taking a knife from his cloth. He then pointed it at her as he kept a little distance.
“N-No, stay still! You might hurt your leg again like this!”
“You ain’t getting away from this!”
“But you will, now that your leg is alright, yes?! I knew that my Holy magic is great!”
The men’s bloodlust slowly filled the air at her comment.
“N-Now, I am lost, can I ask you for direc—”
“Cut your crap, brat!”
Ares screamed so loud that some of his spit fell down on her, then he tried to stab her, but his knife was blocked by an invisible wall.
“What the fuck was that just now?!”
“Shit, Ares, this brat’s bad news!”
“Let’s skedaddle before she fucks us up for good!”
Seeing her abilities and the strange wall that blocked their attacks, they turned pale and ran away in dread.
“I-I only…! Wanted some directions…”
Lise tried to reach out to them with her hand, but gave up the next moment and watched them getting far. Her arm slowly lowered as a visible shade of loneliness painted her face.
Those men didn’t react the same way as the others. They even looked considerate at first, in some strange way, so she thought she was going to be okay… but in the end, they became violent, stabbed her, or at least tried to, and ran away.
Standing alone in the corner of the road, the child cast her gaze on the ground.
“I have to save Takumi… and yet I am wasting time like this…”
She knew she was wasting time by standing there, and she knew that there was nothing she could do to change her savior’s situation.
In the end, the truth was that she was only a powerless child.
Her vision started to gradually blur when that thought crossed her mind.
No matter how much she wanted to save Takumi, her free will wasn’t enough to achieve what she wanted.
“Lise! Are you okay?!”
A familiar voice reached out to her.
When she turned around, she saw Mirta running in her direction with short breath.
“I was looking for you! I heard that you were in the slums and I was so worried…!”
Mirta tried not to pant as she spoke with a gentle voice, her face beaming.
The child started crying the next moment, a strong feeling of relief lulling her heart. She clung to the woman and hugged her tightly before she knew.
“Don’t worry, I’m here with you now, okay? Were you scared?”
“No… I wasn’t scared…”
“I-Is that so?”
Lise nuzzled Mirta’s dress while slowly shaking her head, and Suzuran’s leader looked at her in puzzlement.
“Why were you looking for me, anyway?”
Suzuran decided to leave Takumi alone, so there was no reason for them to mind what Lise was doing.
However, Mirta smiled at her.
“Well, I don’t really have any particular reason. I just felt like it.”
“You felt like it…?”
“Do you need a reason to help your family?”
The woman gently stroke the child’s head.
“Suzuran will always help those in need, be it someone from the slums or an Archbishop like you, Lise. As Suzuran’s leader, I shall embody my company’s ideals.”
Her soft smile warmed Lise’s heart, as her hand brushed the child’s tears away from her flushed cheeks.
“I can’t do the impossible like Takumi, but there’s still something I can do… and I hope that my efforts will change this place for the better in the future, even if only a little.”
Lise locked her gaze with Mirta’s smiling one and nodded after a few seconds.
“I see. You are hiding something from me.”
“W-W-Wha-What?! N-No, I’m not hiding anything!”
“That is suspicious. I feel like you are trying to fool me.”
Tightening her hug to prevent Mirta’s escape, Lise faced another way with a complicated expression.
“N-No, that’s not it! I was really worried about you being alone in the slums, and I really believe what I just said! You know that you can trust me, don’t you?”
“Yes, but I feel like you have another reason behind—”
“By the way, what were you doing? Is there something that I can do for you as a simple citizen of the slums instead of Suzuran’s leader?”
It was evident that Mirta was desperately trying to hide something from Lise, but the child didn’t push the matter any further.
“I was thinking about showing the Inquisition a petition with a lot of signs. That way we might help Takumi…”
“I see… maybe we should start by our business partners, then.”
She propped her chin with her fingers as she recollected all the people they needed to ask.
“Can I come with you? I know the slums like the back of my hand and we have a lot of business partners here!”
The next moment, she reached out to Lise’s hand with a natural smile on her face, and the child squeezed it without hesitation.
Lise’s tears had stopped and her heart felt light.
“Yes, thank you.”
Mirta’s hand was warm and soft like a mother’s.