Chapter Six: Youth is Dazzling
“I see. Then, please become the Saint instead of me.”
When I said what I had been planning to say for a long time, Emilia’s mouth gaped open and the knights behind me groaned. Wieland too must have been very surprised, though I had become so used to his presence I didn’t know if he was there or not. I could feel how the girl was flustered and she couldn’t help but nervously laugh.
“There are many reasons I ask, but would it be okay if I explain after we relocate?”
“Your Holiness, are you letting me out of prison?”
“Ostensibly, I’m exiling you. I’d be happy if you could help me but if you listen to my request and think it’s too difficult, you can opt for exile. If you don’t mind living in the remote countryside, I have a house and a field I can give you.”
The village I used to live in is right next to a forest where magical beasts live, so others would think it reasonable to banish them and let them live there. My former home was a hovel, but the field is big enough to support three people. She wouldn’t avoid living in poverty, but she shouldn’t have a problem feeding herself and her mother. The villagers are all nice, so they would accept the newcomers.
I stood up, wiped off my ass, and looked pointedly at the troubled knights until one of them reluctantly went to get the keys for her chains. Next, I asked that all the knights who served the Saint gather, and cracked my neck. I’d only sat for a short while, but this pain! Would Emilia be alright after being tied up like that for thirteen days?
…Or am I aching because I’m an old man?
We couldn’t leave Emilia alone so she came with us as we gathered in the Saint’s room. I’d been calling it a room, but truthfully there was an entire inner palace inside the center of the temple where the Saint lives. There were also barracks for the knights, and a large meeting room. The only people allowed inside were the Saint, her family, and her knights. Well, also anyone the Saint invited in. I was nervous about anyone asking me about what the purpose of the meeting was.
While waiting for everyone to father, I drew circles on a map of the country. The black circles were so corrupted that they couldn’t be purified without being physically there. The white circles represent where purification is still active. I double check my map against the knowledge of the past Saints that flowed in me, making sure my priorities were in order.
It would be much easier if everyone could see the floor of that room, but if I couldn’t even see it before I became the Saint, it can’t be helped. As I filled in the circles from memory, the map became quite black. As expected, the situation was terrible. I wanted to do something before too much damage could be caused.
After bowing their heads to me, the knights looked at Emilia and frowned. The crime she committed was unforgivable to them; Emilia herself seemed prepared for the death penalty. Was everyone in this country so religious? And here I was, having grown up in village without a church.
When everyone gathered, I briefly explained what happened in the dungeon: I’d asked Emilia to become the Saint in my place. If she refused, I would let her and her mother live in my old home under the guise of exile. To put it simply, the knights were terribly upset, since Emilia had lied to the Elder Saint herself about being a Saint.
“There are several reasons, but the biggest reason is this: the black circle indicates a contamination so strong that it can only be removed by going there. According to the Elder Saint’s letter, the contamination has accumulated over the years as her powers waned.”
“Is this… real?”
“Unfortunately, yes. Isn’t this a lot of damage?”
When I pointed to a place on the map, the knights made strangled noises. Was this an affirmative? When I turned my eyes to Wieland, he nodded, so I must have assumed correctly. He must have recognized that the situation was far worse than he’d imagined.
“Perhaps, but Your Holiness is here on the temple grounds,” he said in a low voice, and shrugged his shoulders, thinking that would solve the problems.
A Saint found at the age of fifteen usually never left the temple again. Every day she would purify in that room and then rest to restore her holy powers. If the Saint had an accident, the country would be doomed. With that in mind, it wasn’t strange that she would want to surround herself with protection. However, I was dealing with the consequences of that. But if I were to live the same way, the country would be destroyed. If the contamination became too big to be exorcised, the rampaging magical beasts would be unstoppable. There would be countless casualties and the countryside itself would be devastated.
“After purifying as much as possible from here at the temple, I want to exorcise the corruption on location. No, I must exorcise it.”
“But if something happened to you!”
“Possibly, but could someone bring me an Appraisal paper?”
My overall level when I was Appraised in the village was in the triple digits, and both my physical strength and magic power were in the latter half of four digits. At that time, I didn’t understand what these numbers meant as I had nothing to compare them to, but now with my inherited knowledge, I knew it was abnormal. Past Saints had between one and two thousand magic power. Their physical strength was also no different from an average person, so the places where magical beasts spawned were too dangerous for them. It would be the end if they died right away.
But for me, I think I could probably go without a problem. I’d never wielded a sword, but with a bow and spear, I could kill a bear. I’d never come across a monster, but I hunted and ate creatures from the same forest where they lived. Is it because I’ve been hunting my whole life that I’ve reached this level?
When I touched the Appraisal paper for the first time in a month, the letters slowly emerged. I stared at it, watching the magic work, and tilted my head to the side in discomfort. Somehow, I felt like my numbers had improved. The magical power that was at four digits in the village had just reached five digits.
“Will my level go up without me doing anything?”
“It could be because you inherited the Saint’s power while in distress.”
Oh, come to think of it, that was probably the case. It wasn’t just knowledge I’d inherited. By having knowledge of how my power worked, my powers would work better. The Elder Saint had given me some of her knowledge and power so I would survive without a mentor. What a helpful system, right?
“With this power, is there even any danger? Well, even if it’s dangerous, I have to go.”
“Um, then, did you ask me to become the Saint so that the absence of Your Holiness wouldn’t come to light?”
“Yes. When traveling as the Saint, wouldn’t you need a large entourage? And in that case, your movement would be slowed and you would have to be constantly worried about attacks. It’s not a situation which would make it easy to purify the country… If I can’t count on Emilia, I would have no choice but to stay here.”
I couldn’t just ask anyone to take my place as Saint. There was a dungeon full of people implicated in trying to control the throne of the Saint by creating a false one. No matter what instructions I left behind for a substitute, if I chose someone bad, the entire country would be in danger.
In that respect, Emilia is a good choice. Her interest is in being able to protect her mother and stay with her, and because of this she would keep her distance from the nobles who tricked her and from politics in general. She was also much more pious than me, could look and act the part, so I knew she would do well.
“There were a number of Saints who almost never left the temple, so it’s fine if you only come out when absolutely necessary. You can live with your mother and get married as you please. I think you can live without inconvenience. There is also a lot of precedence for using substitutes, it’s just not publicly known.”
I would be known as the sixth male Saint ever, but in truth there were many more. The reason it wasn’t widely known was because many had appointed women as stand-ins. It was also the name of the stand-ins which was recorded as history. The existence of these men had been completely erased. I don’t know precisely what happened to each of them, but I would assume they faced similar situations. If it is declared a man is the Saint, many dreams would be broken.
As the knights expressed their surprise, Emilia who had lowered her eyes in thought, quietly raised her eyes. Those eyes that looked straight at me were soft green like spring sprouts. They shone brightly with determination. Youth really is dazzling. This tired old man felt burned by his own lost brilliance.
“I am a great sinner who has disobeyed God. I want to atone.”
“Thank you for your help.”
Alright, that was one problem solved. After that, I confirmed the priority of purification and dismissed them to rest… Oh right, I needed somewhere to sleep as well. Right now, they seemed to be letting me use a room that looked like a guest room, but I couldn’t stay there indefinitely. I didn’t want anything to seem unnatural about the Saint’s true identity.
“Also, is there an empty room somewhere? A storeroom or anything else is fine.”
“I can prepare it, but what kind of room would you like? What will it be used for?”
“I need somewhere to sleep.” Before I could say that I didn’t have any preferences, I noticed the frozen air and tilted my head. Did I say something wrong?