Section 5: Those Engraved On My Forefinger
I woke up to someone lightly nudging my shoulder.
My head was still in a daze as I slowly opened my eyes. And then there was someone’s face, looking right back at me.
[Rose]: “We’ve arrived Iris-san”
It was a soothing voice that comforts my soul. And then, I remember.
――Right now, my head is resting on a certain someone’s lap.
[Iris]: “Ah! Sorry.”
[Rose]: “No, it’s okay. I’m the one who invited you out despite how tired you are feeling.”
Was I rolling around while I was sleeping? I’m lying on my back now.
As the fog slowly lifted from my brain, I was able to fully open my eyes and came to understood why I was able to see Rose-san’s face as soon as I opened them.
And not just her face. Right before my eyes were Rose-san’s breasts. Two powerful bulges that mine couldn’t even compare to that actually covered half of Rose-san’s face from where I was laying. Who can blame me for not realizing who was talking to until I saw Rose-san’s peach-colored hair.
[Rose]: “Can I help you with something Iris-san?”
Rose-san looked down at me with a cheerful face. But when she bent down to see me better, her chest got even closer as well. It felt like she was showing off the overwhelming difference in strength between us. I moved my body to avoid it, but I still felt a little depressed.
I’m already worried enough about my own chest as it is.
As I left the carriage behind, it felt like I was leaving some small part of me behind as well.
*Tuu! Tutututuu! Tututuu! Tuu! Tuu!*
I screamed after something that sounded a lot like a trumpet suddenly echoed around me.
[Iris]: “E-Eh!? What!? Uwa, a red…….carpet? Fue!?”
[Saluena]: “Compose yourself Iris.”
Taking a step forward and expecting a hard stone floor, my expectations were betrayed when my feet met with a cushy, fluffy carpet similar to the one in the castle corridors.
It turns out that noise that caused me to scream really did come from a trumpet. Or trumpets. Dozens of musicians held their instruments aloft, standing on either side of a carpet laid out on the ground leading to the church’s front door.
[Saluena]: “There are people waiting for us inside. Come, let’s go.”
Saluena took my hand and together, we started on our way inside.
The constantly ringing noise ringing around scared me, so I clung back to Saluena and let her lead me forward.
[Iris]: “W-Wow…….amazing. So this is the capital’s church……..”
Soletta Ritta’s church had three steeples built into it, and in one of those was a bell that rang each hour of the day to keep the townspeople running on the same clock.
But this church has three bell towers jutting high in the air. Intricate etchings were carved into the slightly grayish walls making the entire building a finely crafted work of art despite its aged rock.
No, it’s probably meant to be that way. The church has been here for a thousand years, since the capital was first taken from the Dragon King Oshunel. It is said that the tomb of Ranroot, our country’s first king, rests in the catacombs beneath it.
As for the number of steeples…….just how many are there? Counting those big and small, I can see at least a dozen of them from where I’m standing. I would later learn that a statue of the current king would be placed on top of the church’s highest tower, and there is a rule that no building is allowed to be built higher than that tower.
Not knowing that at the time though, I could only stop and stare with my mouth wide open at the sheer number of towers coming off this one building.
*GroGro……KoKoKoKoKoKo* The church’s front doors swung open as we got close, the red carpet continuing all the way inside. Saluena continued to take the lead, pulling on my hand and guiding me into the church while I clumsily followed along.
[Saluena]: “What is it?”
[Iris]: “So, who is it that’s waiting for me……?”
[Saluena]: “You’ll understand when we get there.”
We found ourselves inside a massive chapel as soon as we passed through the doorway. The room was dyed a soft shade of blue because of the sun’s light passing through a large blue-tinted stained glass window with the image of a tikarodeka flower planted in the middle.
The floor was crafted out of white marble, the same as Soletta’s church. But that white mixed together with the sun’s blue light to make serene sky blue.
We slowly walked forward as the church’s hymn sounded all around us.
A large number of wooden pews were arranged on either side of an aisle for worshipers to sit, and at the very front row were a number of people wearing metal armor over a robe sitting still. On closer inspection, all of them were women. Although she didn’t have it with her right now for me to compare, each of the women were carrying the same large shield that Rose-san usually carries around. And on those shields was a tikarodeka emblem.
(Warrior priestesses? And so many of them……)
As we reached the front altar, the singing came to a stop.
[???]: “We welcome you, Iris Calvafon-sama.”
Somebody spoke from behind a lit candle standing on top of the altar. With a bishop’s staff in one hand, she wore a robe with the sacred flower emblazoned on the chest. Unlike the other sisters and priestesses however, the border of the tikarodeka was sewn with seven different brightly colored threads around the border indicating that she was a woman of high status in the church.
[Marie Arone]: “I am Marie Arone¹, the bishop in charge of this church.”
Bishop…….bishop? If you’re talking about a bishop, then doesn’t that mean she’s ranked even higher than Aronda-san? Actually, isn’t a bishop the highest rank you can normally obtain in the church? There are some countries where a bishop might be the most important member of the church there.
[Iris]: “Um, it’s nice to meet you Marie Arone-sama. As you already know, my name is Iris Calvafon.”
[Marie]: “Fufu, there’s no need for you to be so formal. Marie will do just fine.”
[Iris]: “Y-Yes……Marie-sama. I-I am Iris, and……”
Long, blue hair flowed down the thin veil Marie-sama wore on top of her head. Long eyelashes covered wistful eyes. She looked…….maybe around thirty? She definitely appeared to be younger than my mom at least.
[Marie]: “Fufu, a charming girl, just as you told me Priestess Rosalith”
[Rose]: “It is good to see you again Highbishop Marie. Yes, as you can see she is a very pure-hearted girl.”
Highbishop? Did Rose-san just call Marie-san a highbishop? For a second I thought it was because Marie-san is the bishop for the capital’s church, but it turns out Marie-san is actually an archbishop.
I know little to nothing about aristocrats, but Aronda-san taught me a bit about the church’s social structure, so I have at least some knowledge on the subject.
The archbishop is an honorary rank among bishops, seen as the bishop in charge of uniting the churches spread across the continent. There are only a few across the world. You could count all of them using the fingers on both hands. With only the pope and the Goddess ranked above them, you could say they’re the real leaders of the church.
My surprise leaked out in the form of a strange sound squeaking past my lips. As the seriousness of this situation started sinking in, I found myself seriously wishing I had gone to the bathroom before coming here.
Marie-sama struck the bottom of her staff against the ground, and all of the warrior priestesses who had been silently sitting on the frontmost pew rose up all at once.
[Marie]: “Now that I have imparted my greeting, my role for today has come to an end. From here on, it’s up to you. I shall closely watch over the work of the Goddess’s miracle.”
The sisters who had recited the church’s hymn as we entered descended from the chancel and lined up behind Marie-sama. There was easily over a hundred of them in all.
Saluena leaned over, whispering into my ear as I tried to cope with so many people’s eyes trained solely on me.
[Saluena]: “Iris. Do you remember the reward you received from the guild in Soletta after slaying the carbuncle primordial spirit at St. Noglint?”
I don’t know what’s going to happen next or what I’m supposed to do, and I’m sure my anxiety was clear to see on my face. That’s why Saluena gently rubbed my back and softly guided me to the answer.
[Iris]: “Ah, yes……”
The reward for subjugating the carbuncle was a whole bunch of gems. After that was……”
My head connected the dots leading from my past memories to the current situation.
I had counted the number of priestess warriors when I came in. There were twenty-five of them sitting on each pew on either side of the aisle. In other words, fifty in total.
The same number as in the reward.
[Iris]: “D-Don’t tell me…….the warrior priestesses here are……”
[Saluena]: “That’s right. I had Aronda send word ahead before we left Soletta Ritta.”
Saluena put her hands on my shoulders and slowly turned me around. I was met face to face with fifty warrior priestesses who all had their gazes squarely focused on me.
[Saluena]: “Thank you for coming here today. Riviera Von Iliana. Our name notched on her forefinger!”
As Saluena’s booming voice spread throughout the church, the warrior priestesses raised each of their shields all together, holding them directly over their chests.
The tikarodeka flowers emblazoned on their shields’ surface began to emit a faint……no, a powerful white light.
And then as if in response, the ring on my left index began to shine with the exact same light.
1. Marie Arone is all one name. It was all connected in Japanese, but I couldn’t bring myself to call her something like Mariarone or anything else that sounds like I’m saying macaroni with a bunch of food stuffed in my mouth.