21st Century Archmage - Chapter 12
Chapter 12: Apprentice Priestess Aramis
‘Kyaa! This is the taste!’
After entering the inn Jamir was staying at, called “The Forest’s Rest”, refreshing beer and various kinds of snacks were ordered right away. I didn’t know how they did it, but the beer was cold enough to make my mouth tingle despite the weather still being hot. The taste of a bitter and powerful fragrance went guzzling down my throat. It was a completely different level from the Korean beers I had stolen sips of from my father. This deep flavor was a sign of well-brewed beer.
“May I have another glass?”
‘When did he drink all that?’ In the time it took me to take two sips, Hans had guzzled down the entire large wooden mug and was smacking his lips.
“Haha, please help yourself. Owner, one more glass here!”
Hans had looked at me and asked, but Jamir was the one who made the order with a bright laugh.
‘This is nice~!’
With this one glass of beer, I had the feeling that I was experiencing the outside world. My next goal was to go even further beyond once I had cultivated enough strength. Since I was already in Master Bumdalf’s homeworld, I wanted to do some proper sightseeing.
“8 Gold is quite a lot, so why do you want to buy each mushroom at such a price?”
Facing Jamir, who was wearing an unreadable smile, I asked the point I was curious about. I thought it would already be killer if we could sell the mushrooms for at least 4 Gold each, but Jamir was offering 8. A person from a huge merchant group like his wouldn’t take a loss.
“Let me formally introduce myself. I am Jamir Baines, one of the twelve supervisors of the Rubis Merchants.”
“Next month is the month of the Goddess of Abundance, Sapphire-nim. As you may know, Sapphire-nim is not only the Goddess of Abundance, but also the Goddess of Festivities.”
[T/N: -nim is an honorific of respect, the Korean equivalent of -sama.]
‘Whaddya mean, ‘may know’. I know jack shit.’
Because I was busy eking out a living with the villagers day by day, I didn’t get the chance to learn much about this world. In addition, I invested my time in magic and swordsmanship in order to gain the skills to survive, so my knowledge of the Kallian Continent was rather sparse.
“Also, from this month until the next, nobles will be collecting the formal taxes.”
“Ah!” Now I got it. ‘So what it boils down to is that it’s a formal holiday made in the name of the gods to play, and since the nobles are even gathering taxes, high-quality products can be sold at high prices, eh?’
“Did you understand?”
“Well, I got the gist of it.”
“You’re quite quick-witted.”
For a guy barely over 30 years of age, Jamir gave off the feeling of a generous uncle in his fifties.
‘He gives off traces of mana. Hooh, a mage?’ I hadn’t tried a mana scan, but the trace of mana was obvious. He was a person with a lot of secrets even for a merchant.
“From what I’d heard from the people just now, it seems you normally wouldn’t come to a rural territory like this…” Trailing off, I pried Jamir for answers.
“Originally, yes. Normally, middlemen merchants dispatched to each territory would purchase goods from their designated places and then sell to the nobles in need. But this year, it’s been particularly difficult to procure high-quality specialties. Goods that usually come from the Dapis Kingdom— like madir, sharif and rudi mushrooms, and licom tea—have been particularly hard to purchase. That is because the lords have been busy creating factions over the royal ascension instead of focusing on monster and demon beast exterminations,” Jamir explained, giving more information than required.
‘Royal ascension? Does that mean there’ll be a civil war?’
It was a plot I had often read in novels.
“Will there be a civil war?” I asked.
“Hm… it probably won’t get to that point. Dapis Kingdom is a small country surrounded by powerful nations, so they won’t walk a path that leads to self-destruction.”
‘My head hurts. It’s not even something I need to worry about, but… Did he say madir?’
He said madir was hard to acquire. Because I had the experience of dragging out all my strength to catch one, I knew how hard it was. They were powerful creatures that could topple a decent-sized boat, and a mage or knight capable of using Aura Blade wouldn’t stoop to such manual labor, so it was a difficult prey to catch with the strength of commoners alone.
“Sigh, look at what I’m saying to someone I’m meeting for the first time. Thanks for today. Thanks to you, I was at least able to get some top-grade sharif mushrooms and could somewhat fulfill my goal for coming here.”
He looked like a cool-headed merchant, but it seemed he had a lot of worries like regular people did on the inside.
‘Whether you’re the chairman of a conglomerate or a beggar, it’s just as hard to secure your 3 meals per day.’
That was something my grandpa in the countryside always said. Whether you were well-off or not, eating and pooping was all the same. It’s just that your effort would decide whether you ate good food and pooped gold or ate rough food and had diarrhea.
“Even if madir are caught, isn’t preserving the fish a problem? It’s not winter, so they’ll spoil fast…” I threw out another question.
“Since long ago, during the three months when madir pass through the Tileman Sea, magic refrigerators and merchants are stationed at each fishing village capable of catching madir. But this year, the sea monsters have suddenly become violent, so there aren’t many days when they can go out to sea. Even for people who live and die by the ocean, it’s true for everyone that they wouldn’t want to knowingly risk their lives.”
“That’s true. Even ten years ago, during this time, merchants would bring magic refrigerators to our village and camp out. It was too dangerous to catch more than a few madir, but it would be an occasion for festivities on days we caught one,” added Hans, who had been busy gulping down his beer.
‘Magic refrigerator. That’s right, magic exists here, doesn’t it?’
If there were electric refrigerators in the 21st century, there were magic refrigerators here.
‘Huhu, and I’m a genius mage.’
Through happenstance, I met Merchant Jamir from the Rubis Merchants. It must be serendipity granted by god.
“Then the prices this year should be rather high?”
“A good-quality one weighing at least 100 kg can fetch up to 35 Gold. It’s particularly necessary for nobles who live inland to prepare a madir dish for their parties.”
‘Ohhhhhh! 35 Gold!’
Hearing the news that the tuna flopping around like energetic little chicks in the village seaside made my lips almost reach my ears with mirth.
“Not just a few Gold, but th-thirty-five?” Hans, who had misinformed me of the madir’s price, was also surprised.
“Yes. The goods are in such short supply right now that the prices have swelled up.”
Despite being someone with a high position in a large merchant group, Jamir answered the country bumpkin Hans politely. Not only was he good at planning, but his disposition was also decent.
“Would you be able to acquire a few of those magic refrigerators within several days?”
“Magic refrigerators? As long as madir can be acquired, I can prepare hundreds of them right away. But why do you ask?”
‘Why do you think, I’m trying to rake in a fortune here.’
“If all goes well, it may be possible to acquire some madir…” Hiding my true thoughts, I feigned nonchalance as I sipped my beer.
Unable to maintain the calm demeanor he had possessed until now, Jamir rose from his seat in a hurry and exclaimed.
“For each fish over 100 kg, 40 Gold. Of course, they will be top-quality goods without many injuries. What do you think?”
“45, no, if they really are at that level, then I’ll offer 50 Gold! Can you really do it?”
‘Wow! You sure are decisive!’
It was a huge jackpot I never expected. I thought it was even possible that the price of a single tuna could handle the entirety of the village’s taxes. Territories owned by nobles would have hundreds of places like the Luna Village, and they valued honor more than money; for them, money was probably not the issue.
‘Shall I try being a lord too?’ The position of a lord was similar to my idea of paradise. ‘That’s right, why didn’t I think of that?!’ In order to return to Earth, I would have to at least reach the 8th Circle like my Master. Who knew when those enlightenments would occur? Since I would have to wait anyway, why not make my paradise on this continent? A kingdom just for me.
Somehow, my chest suddenly tighted as hope surged within me like a fountain.
“I cannot make any guarantees, but I will give it a shot. Before that, could you pay for the sharif mushrooms? We have to pay taxes and buy this and that…”
“Haha, of course! Terrison, bring the money.”
“Yes, Supervisor!” One of the merchants watching over us in the inn responded loudly and approached us.
“59 mushrooms in total. Calculating the final cost, since it is a large quantity, why don’t we round it up to 60 and settle it at 480 Gold?”
“Let’s do that. I have already checked the goods, so give him 480 Gold.”
Clink. After Jamir gave the order, the man named Terrison brought out a terrifyingly hefty pouch from inside his coat. He opened the pouch and began to count out the precise number of coins.
‘M-money! And Gold at that! Uhahahaha!’
I had never lost my wits because of money, but the gleam of gold made my jaw drop unconsciously.
After all, as someone once said, if you eat well before you die, you’ll have pretty clothes even in the afterlife!
* * *
“K-Kyre, is this a dream, or reality?”
Hans trembled as he looked around warily, clutching a lump sum in his bosom for the first time in his life.
‘To be so alarmed over just this much, heh.’
It still didn’t come close to making up for saving my life. How could a few hundred Gold possibly add up to the cost for saving my one and only life?
“That’s the Administrative Building, right?”
“Seems to be the case.”
‘This so-called lord went to the royal capital and hasn’t been seen for the last few years, right? And the guy called the Administrator has been pigging out on the territory as he pleases.”
After settling the price of the sharif mushrooms, I obtained information regarding this territory from Jamir as well as the owner of the inn.
‘Rotten bastard. As an administrator, he should only be a public service worker, but he’s been scheming with the Daron Merchants to line his own pockets, huh?’
Even more infuriating was the fact that this Administrator person had no interest in the lives of the residents. His only interest was colluding with the Daron Merchants to empty the pockets of the citizens.
“Halt! Where are you coming from?!”
‘A-a knight! I finally get to see a knight!’
The Administrative Building was in front of the lord’s mansion, a villa surrounded by high walls in the middle of the castle. The entrance of the 2-story building was guarded by a knight wearing sturdy silver armor and around ten soldiers.
“Kyre, be sure to just bow your head. If a sir knight sees fault in you, it’s instant death,” Hans quietly warned as he bowed his head with a humble expression.
‘This isn’t even 007 Licence to Kill…’
After seeing from his fearful trembling that he wasn’t joking, I also lowered my head.
“W-we are people from Luna Village who have come to pay the taxes.”
“Luna Village? That village is still around?” The knight’s reaction wasn’t much different from the soldiers at the castle gate. “Go in.”
“Thank you very much, sir.”
‘What the—is that all? For someone who’s supposed to be a knight, this mana is…’
The mana I felt from the knight guarding the Administrative Building was as pathetic as a rat’s tail. Even without doing a scan, I could tell that he didn’t have much mana.
‘I could fight a knight like this with my eyes closed.’
It wasn’t arrogance—even if he was a knight, he didn’t inspire any awe. Like that, I followed Hans into the place called the Administrative Building.
* * *
“You’re from Luna Village?”
‘That person is the Administrator?’
I had imagined a pot-bellied retainer with eyes like a rat, but the Administrator in front of me was a knight in his mid-forties.
‘He’s got quite a lot of mana.’
The Administrator was giving off an energy far greater than the knight outside. With the sword on his waist even while in an office, he looked like a stereotypical knight giving off a masculine charm with an angular jawline.
“Mm, we could not tend to the village because of the shortage of strength in the territory; it’s a relief that the village is still standing.”
‘Wut? Is he really the Administrator?’
The Administrator was uttering unexpectedly kind words. His words were filled with a sincere worry towards Luna Village.
“Please do not worry. Simply being a resident of the proud Fiore Territory is reason to thank the gods.” Unlike what I had feared, Hans responded smoothly while even sticking in some flattery. I could see why the Chief had picked Hans out for this trip.
“I am grateful that you say so. The taxes set for this year… here they are.”
I got a strange feeling from this person who was supposed to be the Administrator. This man’s way of speech was dignified, and every single action of his had the weight of nobility behind it.
“30 Gold is written here, is that correct?”
“Huh? Th-thirty Gold?”
Holding a single document, the Administrator said it was 30 Gold. It was no wonder that Hans was flustered.
“Is that not the case? The crop yield from around 200 villagers doesn’t amount to much… I set the tax rate to 30% because it is an independent village; is it too much?”
‘This jerk is playing with people.’
This Spring, the Administrator had sent soldiers to the village to order them to pay a tax of 50 Gold.
Hans and I looked at each other.
“N-no, that’s not it… our village is…”
Kerchunk. The moment Hans was about to utter ‘50 Gold,’ the door we had entered from opened wide.
“Cough! My—my Lord! When did you arrive!?”
As someone barged in, the Administrator, whose inner appearance was actually as I had imagined—a girthy man with beady rat eyes embodying greed—exclaimed with surprise.
“What are you all doing! How dare you raise your heads high! Do you not recognize the appearance of the Lord!”
True to the notion that the person who farted is the first to point fingers, this treacherous retainer was quick to yell at us.
“Haha! Administrator Trimo, let it be. It’s my fault for staying in the capital for so long.”
“Greetings to the Lord!” As if greeting a king, Hans kneeled and brought his forehead to the ground. As he did so, he clutched my pants with his right hand and dragged me down.
“G-greetings to the Lord.”
‘Uwaah! This hurts my pride.’
Besides giving formal bows in order to receive money on Lunar New Year, this was the first time in my life prostrating myself like this. I was forced to show the greatest respect with a bowed head to this person, the Lord.
‘Fuu! A lord, I’ll become one for sure!’
Yet another reason to become a lord had appeared. With a commoner status alone, you’d definitely have to go around bowing and scraping all the time. I could never keep living like a piece of gum stuck to asphalt, bent over 24/7.
“But Administrator Trimo, is the tax set for Luna Village this year not actually 30 Gold?” asked the Lord as he held a thick document.
“I-it is, sir. Thanks to your generosity as a merciful lord, even independent villages have been fixed at 30% tax rates.” After a moment of panic, Trimo rubbed his hands together as he gave a shameless response.
‘Should I just call him out?’
Looking at the way things were going, it was a fact that this Trimo guy was embezzling taxes behind the lord’s back.
“You fellows, did you say something in front of the Lord?” With lazers in his eyes, Trimo berated Hans and me as we kneeled with our heads bowed.
“They didn’t say anything,” said the Lord.
“Is that so. Hehe. I only said so because peasants will spout nonsense at times.”
This son of a gun put me, the one and only Kang Hyuk, just one syllable away from a worm. I engraved the sight of his fat face deep into my memory.
[TN: The Korean word for ‘peasants’ also has the word for ‘worm’ in it.]
“The taxes are indeed 30 Gold. Pass over the money to Administrator Trimo here.”
“My Lord, are you heading to the mansion?”
“That’s right. It’s time for Zaigon’s meal and he might scare the servants, so I have to go.”
“Then I will come find you after a short while, sir.”
“Then, work hard.”
“Goodbye, my Lord.”
I didn’t know who the lord was talking about, but apparently there was someone he had to feed. He walked back out of the open door and left.
“You said you came from Luna Village?”
“Y-yes, Lor—no, Administrator-nim,” replied Hans at once, looking half-dead from the lord’s sudden appearance.
“It would be best if you didn’t spread around what you just heard. And the taxes are 50 Gold. Territory management is difficult because the merciful Lord is receiving lower taxes due to useless people like you. That’s why I have no choice but to do this. Keep that in mind.”
‘Wo~ow! To be this shameless!’
As if he had welded a steel plate to his face, Administrator Trimo took an extra 20 Gold in taxes like it was nothing. From what I heard, there were hundreds of villages in the territory, so the money he was embezzling must be enormous.
‘You bastard, just wait. I may not be Lee Mong-ryong, but I will definitely send you to hell!’
[TN: Lee Mong-ryong is a fictional police detective.]
How could he steal the poor commoners’ hard-earned money as if he had nothing better to do?!
“Here it is, sir.”
Hans proffered the prepared 50 Gold. To me, it was only a few pennies’ worth, but if the villagers hadn’t met me, the blood, sweat and tears of the villagers would have been in that money.
“But did you kick out Ryan even though he worked hard to go see you?”
“This Ryan you are referring to is…”
“Oh my, it seems you can’t even remember this. I sent Daron Merchant Group’s Ryan in order to spare myself from the effort, but he said you coldly refused him… I’ll be watching you.”
‘Rotten bastard. Open robbery and blackmail to boot. Count yourself dead already.’
Every cell in my body shivered at the joy(?) of discovering someone who was shittier than the Crown Prince of the Ohsung Group, Hwang Sung-taek.
‘You’re smiling? Okay, that smile… let’s see how long you can keep it up.’
A smile of satisfaction danced on Administrator Trimo’s lips as he counted the money. I could see that he would look exactly the same as Daron’s Ryan after eating a load of humiliation from me.
* * *
Translator – Lei
Proofreader – yukitokata
Join our discord for updates on releases! https://discord.gg/MaRegMFhRb
* * *
“Please acquire all of these goods for me.”
“All of this?”
After meeting the lord and the administrator, we went straight back to the Forest’s Rest, where Jamir was staying. Then I borrowed a paper and pen, wrote down all the items I could think of, and passed the paper over.
“Five carriages with ten horses, 400 bags of finely-ground flour, 20 cows, sheep and pigs each with mixed gender ratios, 100 chickens, 50 suits of sturdy leather armor, bows and spears, 100 swords, clothes in various colors for 300 people, various kinds of farming tools, like screws and seeds as well… And finally, an enspelled container that produces cold beer… Young man, are you trying to construct an entire village?”
After reading the list aloud, Jamir looked at me with surprise.
“Haha, I ask for good prices. It seemed like it would take a long time to gather everything on my own, so…”
If I were to take Hans and try to buy all those goods, one day would be far from enough—we’d be lucky if it just took several days. Also, we would get ripped off hardcore by the merchants, guaranteed. It was easiest to ask for a favor and just leave this to a professional.
“I thought you weren’t ordinary from the first time I saw you, but this is impressive. How about it, any thoughts about becoming a merchant?”
‘Eh? Another scouting? Jeez, my popularity is just too good~.’
“No thanks.” Of course, I shook my head.
‘I’ve gotta be a lord at the very least. Anything else is unnecessary.’
My first and foremost goal was to recover the paradise I had lost. Any professions unrelated to that were out of the question.
“If you were to come under me, I would raise you to supervisor level in a short amount of time. Think about it again.”
At Jamir’s words, the attendant by his side, Terrison, made an expression of utter surprise. It seemed the offered position was pretty high up.
“Still, no thank you.”
“Why do you say that? It should be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you,” said Jamir, showing a face of regret.
“I have a different dream.”
“A dream, you say… If that’s the case, then it can’t be helped.” As a smart merchant, he understood what I meant. “Instead, be sure to keep the promise this time with me.”
“The motto of my family is honesty!”
“A motto of honesty… Haha! Truly a family that suits a merchant.”
He wasn’t even that old, but Jamir spoke like an old person.
“Then, please depart on the morning of the day after tomorrow.”
“The morning of the day after tomorrow, so fast?”
“Ah! And if you wish to get the madir, you will have to depart from here at around that time.”
Hit the iron while it’s hot! There was nothing good about dragging things out.
“Understood. I’ll trust you and try investing my hand this time.”
“This is the decision of a Rubis Merchant Group Supervisor. Prepare every magic refrigerator in this territory and the surroundings at once.”
Terrison, who had been about to protest, bowed his head at Jamir’s words as it was an order from a supervisor. It was probably because their discipline was so strong that they could become one of the top five on the continent.
‘The only thing left is the potion, right?’
Potion, an item that costs several Gold per piece. The chief had said to get at least ten, but I was thinking of a greater number. Catching a fish for a hungry man would only feed him for a day, but giving him a rod would feed him for a lifetime.
‘The temple, huh… Sigh.’
The temple could be said to be the highest hurdle today.
It seemed I would have to try challenging it, for now.
* * *
‘Oh! Isn’t this quite grand?’
The temple in Viscount Fiore’s castle was considered the turf of the Goddess of Mercy, Neran. In front of me stood a temple supported by ten arched pillars. Like a temple from ancient Greece, the beautiful and majestic sight was pretty impressive.
‘The temple’s potion is holy water blessed by a priest devoted to god. It’s a cure-all with healing and magic resistance power.’
The temple’s potion was way more cost-efficient than the production methods for magic potions in my head. Potions for magic were costly to produce, using high-class ingredients like troll blood, and they were unpopular because there could also be side-effects with use. Therefore, a decent mage would just use Heal instead.
‘Actually, the Holy Knight profession is one of the decent ones out there. If I learned it well and returned to Earth, I bet I could become a leader of a religion.’
I thought back to the reason why it was inevitable that Master could amass a huge amount of wealth on Earth. He possessed an enormous amount of magic-related knowledge. Of course money would be running hilly-billy into his pockets.
“Welcome, brother. The Goddess of Mercy, Neran, loves her brethren always.”
When I entered the temple, I was immediately greeted by a kind-looking priest wearing white robes.
“I am the one in charge of this temple, Priest Hedor. How may I help you? Are you in need of God’s assistance?”
‘I don’t trust it, that white beard.’
Master Bumdalf, who looked way more legit than any miracle quack, maintained a beard in order to fool the naive. I had the feeling the priest smiling amiably in front of me was doing the same thing.
“I came today because I wish to acquire potions. This time, our village…”
The moment I was about to tell the priest the reason for our visit, I heard a very familiar voice.
‘Wouldya look at that?’
It was Ryan, the Daron merchant who got kicked out by the Chief and a mouthful of frustration from me. His fat body shook enormously as he called the priest.
“Aren’t you Ryan-nim, one of God’s faithful servants? For what reason have you run over with such haste?”
“Th-that is, I have something urgent to tell you.”
“Is that so? Then let us go inside. Brother, please wait here a moment.”
As if he and Ryan were well-acquainted, Priest Hedor showed mirth as he greeted the merchant.
‘Surely he wouldn’t be…!’ As he followed the priest, Ryan turned around and sent a venomous look my way. ‘Alright then, you try your cute tricks.’
He was one of the people on my hit list. I was planning to show him the painful truth of life anyway, so I just waited for what petty trick he was going to play.
The interior of the temple was quite spacious. In order to magnify the sense of holiness, various religious items made of gold and silver were gleaming under the candlelight; a statue of a beautiful, topless goddess was smiling benevolently at the center of the temple.
Even among all these lavish sights, a single existence captured my attention right away.
‘A praying angel!’
A woman was kneeling and praying, her long blue hair flowing over a white robe devoid of any decoration. Considering that her robe was similar to the priest’s, I could tell that she was no ordinary lady.
‘I wonder how she looks from the front?’
From the back, her appearance was so perfect that I wanted to give her 11 out of 10 points. Holiness earnestly devoted to God was shining from her back like a halo, and the sight of her fragile back was enough to ignite any man’s protective instinct.
While my curiosity towards the woman was reaching its peak, the old priest named Hedor appeared again.
“Yes, Priest. Please speak.”
“You said you wanted to acquire potions, correct?”
“Yes. The potion at our village has lost its effectiveness, so we need a new one. We need around ten of them.”
“It regrets me to say this, but this temple cannot sell potions to you.”
The priest suddenly changed his tune. An unpleasant light was shining in the priest’s eyes as he told us he could no longer sell potions to us.
“I heard that you have caused damage to a merchant group managed by a faithful servant of Neran-nim.”
“N-no, that is…”
“I need not speak more. Neran-nim may be the Goddess of Mercy, but naturally, she loves and protects her own. Those who interfere with the work of God can never be granted the power of God.”
“P-Priest, that’s not it…”
“Then, I am busy, so goodbye…”
Before I could finish, Hedor hurried to draw a cross and scurried away. I was sure he had received a proper dose of “medication”.
“Huhu, cocky brat. Try dealing with this. I’m truly curious as to how long you can last without potions in that backcountry.”
A short while after Hedor made his exit, the piggy Ryan from the Daron Merchants popped out from a side door in the temple and passed by us with a sneer.
“Your name is Ryan, yeah?”
“How dare a young brat speak down to an elder!” At my casual speech, Ryan’s face burned red-hot, as if he’d already been in a bad mood.
“What, you wanna go? I’ll mince those rolls of fat for you.” I activated a bit of mana as I looked straight into his beady eyes.
“Y-you bastard… Huhu. Whatever, try your best. Soon, your village will be torn to pieces by demon beasts.” Having realized his advantage, the pig retreated backwards, not forgetting to spit out a final vicious curse.
“Remember this: lightning will strike you bastards soon.”
“Lightning? Puhaha! Do as you want, you little piece of shit!” sneered the pig Ryan as he fled the temple.
‘Jeez, there’s always someone like him no matter where you go.’
There was always someone using their tiny authority to harass people who had nothing. Until the day I get buried, I wouldn’t forgive such people.
As I was about to follow the fleeing pig out of the temple, a clear voice sounded next to me like an auditory hallucination. I subconsciously turned my head.
I could not help but let out a cry.
‘Angelina Jolie? No… How can you explain this beauty?!’
She was fairly tall, at around 167 cm (5’5”). Her skin was as translucent as a newborn baby who had never seen the sun. She had deeply set large brown eyes, her nose was raised even without the power of silicone and her lips were small but red.
And, most spectacularly of all, she had a faint radiance around her that made her shine. She possessed such a noble beauty that it was almost difficult to look straight at her.
“I apologize under Neran-nim’s name that we cannot relay God’s love to you.”
As if she had overheard my conversation with Hedor, the woman bowed her head, her eyes looking moist with tears. Her refined movement of lightly pressing a hand to her enrobed chest was very refined.
An electrifying feeling surged inside me.
“Excuse me, but… May I ask who you are?” You should first know the other person’s identity to accept their apology, right? Right?
“I am an apprentice priestess of the Goddess Neran, Aramis.”
‘Apprentice priestess? Only?’
From what I could see, this apprentice priestess, Aramis, was positively dripping with God’s love. Although I could feel more devotion from the temple boss, Hedor, the woman had introduced herself as merely an apprentice priestess.
‘She’s really pretty…’
She may be a sister of the faith, but her pure beauty was an emotional sight. Ye-rin must be patiently waiting for me back at school, but the priestess in front of me was fine enough to be called the embodiment of beauty.
“Aramis-nim, what do you think a god truly thinks as he or she gazes upon humans?”
“I am deeply disappointed by those who don a priest’s appearance and dirty God’s love, the love that shines down on all creatures from above like the sun in the sky, with their filthy hands due to their own greed.” Facing Aramis, I shared the thoughts I’d always had towards religious people. “Aramis-nim, do you not feel it? Neran-nim over there may be smiling mercifully on the outside, but in her heart, she must be crying, deeply hurt by the priests who call themselves her servants.”
“Ah…” At my harsh criticism, Aramis let out a small cry.
‘This isn’t the only temple.’
Even if Aramis didn’t accept my words, it didn’t matter. The Rubis Merchants could get any number of potions, I was sure. I finished what I had to say and smoothly turned. I felt kinda bad about basically venting my anger towards this apprentice priestess who was powerless.
“P-please wait a moment.” Aramis’ voice, wet with tears, rang out behind me. “I have sinned. I—no, we have sinned.”
I heard Aramis sobbing as she slumped to the ground. I just said a few words about the actions of these priests who were no different from religious people in the 21st century, but Aramis took it to heart and repented with tears. I suddenly felt like the bad guy.
“To sell God’s love… the sin of vainly taking offerings, the sin of denying those loved by God using one’s name as a servant, the sin of failing to embrace the sick and poor, I repent it all.”
I wasn’t the one to repent anything, but the apprentice priestess Aramis was denouncing her sins.
“But what can be done? With my feeble authority, I cannot do anything. Even if I want to embrace God’s devoted, these thin arms of mine cannot handle even a single person; even though I wish to, I cannot casually use God’s love due to restrictions made by fellow servants. Please teach me. O’ Messenger of God, show me the path I must walk…”
‘Messenger of God? Da fuq.’
This isn’t what I meant to happen, but Aramis was begging me for a response. But how in the world was I supposed to know God’s feelings?
“Everything is a projection of the heart. If you believe that you cannot, then that will become a reality you cannot overcome. But if you steel yourself with the notion that you can, then there’s not a thing to fear in the world. Moreover, isn’t there Neran-nim standing behind you? What is there to fear? There’s a God who is unbeatable by any means in the world behind you.”
The words flowed smoothly from my mouth. For a moment, I had the feeling that I actually was a messenger of God.
“A-a projection of the heart…”
That wasn’t something I came up with, but a very cool teaching from the Great Monk Won-hyo, a saying I learned from Korea’s national curriculum.
‘I gotta say, Korea’s education is world-class.’
Once again enlightened on the importance of education, I turned and walked away. There was nothing more to say to Aramis. Chief had repeatedly reminded me to get some potions, but there was nothing I could do when these merchants of God refused to sell.
‘What a nice scent.’’
An unfamiliar scent blew in from somewhere and drifted into my nose. I felt uplifted thanks to the fragrance that was more refreshing than mint and as sweet as spring flowers blossoming.
It didn’t take two brain cells to figure out that the still-crying Aramis was the source of the smell.