Second Death Row Series: A Death Row Convict Teaches at a School of Magic - Cel b20
- Second Death Row Series: A Death Row Convict Teaches at a School of Magic
- Cel b20 - Church Inhabitants (2)
Translator: MadHatter Editor: MadHatter
The following couple of days brought about tranquillity.
When I reunited with her, Sharon, at the church, I was somewhat taken aback, but not particularly discouraged or disappointed. It was evident from our meeting at the bar that she was experiencing some complications, and I wasn’t that attached to her. Perhaps I wasn’t young enough to feel that fate was in store for me.
The team was somewhat on edge when the mission at the checkpoint finally got going three days after my conversation with Father Roy at the church, but once things got underway, the days were uneventful and consisted mostly of playing cards at the checkpoint.
The checkpoint invariably had a number of officials waiting to collect tolls based on the status of individuals who wished to pass through. Since these tolls were not cheap, I figured that there would be a fair amount of commotion and trouble, but in reality, the situation was so tranquil as to be almost surreal.
I had been informed that while the Kingdom’s security situation was by no means poor, it was not excellent as well. Well, I could only speculate that this was how affairs were, but one day, while exchanging information over drinks in Michel’s room, I found out the truth of the matter.
“They are, you know, what you call bribing people.”
The inn where Michel and his group were accommodating seemed to be a rank above ours, and Michel’s room, as the captain of the group, was large enough to accommodate ten people, so I was musing about how tedious it would be to perform the cleaning.
Seated across the table, Michel bent over as if to crowd toward me and spoke in a hushed tone of voice, “If you had been at the checkpoint, you would have understood. Aristocrats and merchants make up the majority of those who pass through the checkpoint, and they are extremely affluentWhen it comes to those who are incredibly well-off, they frequently enter and exit the checkpoint despite that it costs them a lot of money to do so. Don’t you find it strange?”
The peanut shell I picked up was tougher than I expected, and I struggled with it. In all honesty, I wasn’t that keen on this topic. Rather than that, my priority was to get the peanut in front of me in the bare skin.
“I can’t speak too loudly… but it seems that among the people who pass through the checkpoint is the most influential merchant in the area, who is apparently selling their goods to the government officials at a discount. In exchange, the aristocrats and merchants under this guy’s control are charged greatly reduced tolls, or in some cases, even free of charge.”
“That sounds familiar.”
Having finally removed the shelled peanut and tossed it into my mouth, I gulped down the blood-colored liquid that first popped out when I tore at the skin. Although Michel’s sense of justice may be a bit overbearing at times, he seemed to have a good sense of wine selection, and we decided to continue our frequent exchange of information.
“But if a bribe were to be discovered, the official would be fired immediately. Is there any commodity that all government officials would be willing to risk that much for?”
Even if they were colleagues in the same business, there was a risk that they might be betrayed if only one of them took a bribe. To get a pass through the checkpoint every time based on their faces only, they would need to bribe all the officials who would be crammed in there.
After slurping down his wine, Michel exhaled through his nose with a sour look on his face. His cheeks were tinged with the color of sunset, and it was clear that this was something he couldn’t talk about without getting drunk.
“This is still under investigation by me, and I have no certainty, but… it seems that the merchant at the center of the bribe is selling slaves.”
The first thing that struck me when I heard the word “slaves” was the slave soldiers, boys and girls, who were being taken care of by our unit. The conditions and treatment of slaves, nevertheless, were considerably different in Michel’s subsequent account of what happened to them.
“Let’s call the slave trader, for example, ‘X’. That X often trades in commonplace goods while posing as a typical merchant to attract more clients. Eventually, X will discreetly hint at a dialogue with a consumer who appears interested in buying their ”genuine items and wait to see how the buyer responds. Then those customers who are receptive to their stories are apparently sold the slaves that are the product, allowing them to make substantial profits. The officials of the checkpoint have probably become X’s regular customers, and they must be in close contact with X. I only learned of this because I happened to overhear the officials mentioning their slaves, and it is still sickening to think back on it. Do you want to hear it?”
“Well then, for future reference.”
It would never have occurred to Michel that my words were meant to be taken literally.
“…It’s really awful. First of all, the slaves have been abducted from the inhabitants of small settlements and exiles from neighboring countries, just beyond the checkpoint where we are guarding. Even though the bulk of them seem to be young women or children, they are evidently not protected by the Slave Protection Law since they are deemed to be illegal slaves. This means that, as slaves, they are not even guaranteed the most basic human rights. The officials were talking about… Oh, it really bugs me just remembering it… They said that they use women and children as their playthings, but it wasn’t enough to just violate them. They used a special toy that X sells along with the slaves―a torture device―and made them compete to see which slave could hold out longer to scream. If all they did was beat and kick, that would have been fine, but the way they did it was in the worst possible taste—’driving nails into the slaves’ fingertips one by one’… The first slave to scream was compelled to run for kilometers while having a nail driven into their leg without any change, and they were eventually unceremoniously dumped outside… Excuse me.”
He must have felt really ill from talking about it. Michel took his seat and left me alone, so I sipped the remaining wine by myself.
Well, I guess that’s the extent of it.
That was my impression after listening to Michel’s story. Certainly, the environment was far worse than the slave boys in my unit right now, but the content of the story was very clichéd, like something an amateur beginner would come up with.
Truthfully, I didn’t like the way they were treating the slaves, but according to Michel, there were several high-status aristocrats engaged in this matter, and it was obvious that if I meddled in it, I would wind up in a lot of hassle. Besides, it would be fine if it was just me, but should Thilia hear about this, her strong sense of justice would no doubt make her go out of her way to resolve the problem without regard for the danger. Ultimately, our mission was to guard the checkpoint, and anything that might interfere with that mission should be kept out of our hands as much as possible.
In the end, I left Michel’s room that day, only asking him to let me know if there was any progress on the case, as he was going to work alone to solve it. A week has passed since then, and I have yet to hear from Michel.
Well, to be frank, my work at the church was a bit of a letdown.
At most, six or seven believers would come to the church in a day, and they would kneel at the altar, pray for about five minutes, and then get up quickly. When Sharon or Kyle handed tea to the visitors, they would engage in a lively chitchat, and some of the old men would stay in the church for more than ten times as long as they prayed.
Since there were no strict rules regarding prayer in Aetherism, these were not necessarily erroneous beliefs, but the issue was that the number of believers who visited the church was overwhelmingly low. Even though people can choose their own form of faith, the fact remained that the number of believers who attended church was far too limited. Yet, Roy, a priest, jokingly said, “I have decided not to force people to go to church because I believe that each person has his or her own way of faith”. After ten days, the cleaning of the church grounds, which had initially impressed me, became nothing more than an excuse to skip the missionary work, and I lost credibility with the man Roy simultaneously.
This country was a religious nation, and its state religion was the Aetherism. As long as the country was established based on the teachings of the Aether, the scale of belief in the Aetherism, in other words, if most of the people were not believers, they would not be convinced of the country’s policies and there would be a lot of opposition. To put it simply, “I am not a believer, so why should I obey the laws made according to the teachings of the Aetherism?”
In the Imperial Kingdom, which was heavily centralized, the capital and larger cities notwithstanding, the number of religious groups dwindled and the percentage of believers dropped dramatically in the rural areas, something Iris had lamented before. Although I was not helping her, I began to wonder if I could increase the number of believers here in Ciscima, and I reached a conclusion in the middle of my second round of guard duty at the checkpoint.
Magic was the fastest way to accomplish this, that was what I thought.
“Hello, sir and madam. Is something troubling you?”
One day, while walking on the outskirts of town, I came across an old man and an old woman, who I assumed to be his wife, squatting on an unpaved road.
“Ah, you came at a good time. Excuse me deeply, but could you please carry this person to the town’s hospital? It seems that he hit his back when he rushed to avoid a carriage that just passed this way at a high speed…!”
In this world, vehicles powered by sacred power already have existed, but since they were mostly used in wars now, most people still use carriages, apart from a few people in power.
“That’s terrible. Have you called the military police?”
“No… I think it is likely the crest on the carriage I mentioned earlier belongs to the Sabra family. Since we can’t count on the military police, I thought I would at least try to get this person to the hospital as quickly as possible…”
Speaking of the Sabra family, they were a fairly prominent aristocrat in this area. The military police, who played the role of maintaining order in the country, were as corrupt as the government officials in such a remote area.
“I understand. But there is no need to go to the hospital. I will examine him here.”
When I bent down, I cast “Lesser Heal” spell on the old man. Fortunately, the symptoms were only minor bruises, so the injury was fully healed in a few seconds.
“Oh, the pain’s gone…!”
“Well, it only took a few seconds…!? Even the doctor in town can’t cure it this fast!”
The elderly couple was astonished, as if in disbelief. The medical technology in the Imperial Kingdom was at best a hair above Japan’s medieval period. The medical magic was at least far superior to the medical technology of the 20th century, so from their point of view, the current development must have seemed like a miracle.
“I’m glad to hear you’re all right. I will contact the military police later. Please be careful on your way home, you two.”
“W-Wait a minute! We can’t offer you much hospitality after all you have done for us, but please at least have a cup of tea at our house!”
“I will only accept your hospitality. I have not done anything for which you can thank me. I am merely following the will of the Aether God.”
“Ather God, you mean, are you of the Aetherism religion?”
“Yes. I came to this town the other day from the capital. I am in the military, so there are days when I am not here, but I am currently serving at a church in the outskirts of town, so if you would like to thank me, please visit the church on a day when you have time. Even if you are not a believer, I would be delighted to talk to you.”
“Oh… We are also members of the Aetherism, but we haven’t been praying at church recently because of work, so we would be glad to stop by!”
“Thank you very much. If you have a companion or someone who is injured, I would be happy to help them if they come with you at that time.”
And so I chose the method of gaining believers little by little from impersonating a doctor.
After that day, the number of people visiting the church began to increase visibly, albeit gradually.
At first, Sharon and her colleagues were perplexed by this transition, but I supposed they were simply overjoyed to find that the number of people visiting the church had increased. It was apparent from their faces while they were working that they were beginning to put more effort into their church work, even though they were noticeably busier than before.
On the other hand, there was one person who was reluctant to accept this change. It was Roy, a priest of the church.
His forehead was constantly sweating as he greeted visitors to the church, and he wrinkled the corners of his eyes as he condemned my behavior.
“Sir Taiga, this is an impious conduct. Having more believers visiting the church is a positive thing, but to think that the way to do this is to heal their physical abnormalities for free… This is as if they are not coming to the church to pray, but to have their bodies examined by you. This is a church, not a hospital!”
He had probably heard the story from the believers who had visited the church.
In an effort to calm him down, I tried to clear up the misunderstanding in a soothing tone of voice.
“No, that’s not true. Father Roy, please reflect on this. The prime mission of us priests is to spread the teachings of the Aetherism to the people widely. However, in order to do so, we must first somehow make people show interest in Aetherism, otherwise they will not listen to us, no matter how much we explain the wonders of Aetherism to them. If so, we must first create an opportunity for them to develop an inducement to take an interest in Aetherism. My action is to be that catalyst, and I do not intend to turn this church into a non-paying hospital.”
“But what you are doing is nothing but trickery! I heard what you said, but there is no way that injuries can be healed in a matter of seconds by such a method! If your trickery is eventually exposed, this church will lose credibility, and even its current members may leave!”
“Father Roy, with all due respect, that is neither cheating nor trickery. My power is the divine power bestowed by the Aether God to save the believers in this world.”
“Hmph, what nonsense…”
Roy was completely treating me like a fraud, so I decided to do him a little service.
Using my magical power, I cast “High Heal” spell on Roy’s back and around his hips.
“W-What are you… oh!?”
I had known for some time that he suffered from severe hemorrhoids.
As the advanced magic that healed even fatal wounds in the blink of an eye eliminated the cause of his pain, I smacked his buttocks as hard as I could.
It was tough to hold back my laughter when I saw Roy jump up on the spot as if he were a horse that had been whipped. Roy, however, realized that he did not have the pain of hemorrhoids that would come immediately afterward, and his dull eyes widened to the point of bursting.
“This is how it is. This is just a part of the power God has granted me. Of course, it is impossible to save all the believers, unless you are the Aether God, but I promise you that I can save at least the believers in this town.”
I left the church after saying this to the still bewildered Roy.
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