I've come to .......
Filman, who had suffered a major heartbreak, went back to the mansion and said, '...... I'm going to think seriously about the future,' and retreated to his room.
The exquisite phrasing and the unprecedented seriousness of his expression put Donis in a good mood, as if he had made a convenient mistake for us.
'You were right to leave it to me!We'll have a feast together when we get the answer to Filman's question,' he said. ...... ...... 'When we get the answer' means ............ even if we get the worst answer, do we have to have a feast together, like in Judgment of the Spirits?
In my experience, a runaway pure boy who has lost his first love will stay in his shell for quite some time and immerse himself in the "lonely self abandoned by the world (no one understands me mode)". I'd say there's still time for .......'
'Is that a rule of thumb?
'Do you think I'm going to be sentimental about it?Time is money, you know?I've seen it happen to a few people I know.
When I was in junior high school, there were more than a few people who suffered from the same disease as Philman.
As far as I know, only one of them ever had a first love. That one, too, broke up a few months after we started dating due to a personality disagreement (a severe divergence from the ideal image that I had held in my mind).
Those who broke up in this way were all depressed to a great extent. In varying degrees.
'Did you feel sorry for Mr. Filman because you've seen such friends?
'Don't be silly. You're not doing it for him, you're doing it for the Forty-second Ward, and by extension, me.'
'That's right. That's what you're supposed to do, isn't it?
You know what you're talking about. ......
'So, what are you going to do now that you've met?'
Estella says, looking up at the high wall in front of her.
'Well, ...... what are we going to do?'
'You have no plan?
Of course not. I didn't see this coming.
I could have read that Philman was heartbroken because he was dumped, but no god in the world could have predicted that I would take action to cheer him up.
I'm the most surprised.
'Anyway, here I am. Rebekah's lover.'
We'd come to a church in the 24th district.
I've got Natalia keeping an eye on Philman to make sure he doesn't do anything stupid.
Specifically, ...... to make sure that he doesn't start playing his own heartbreak song. If they do, I'm sure they'll hear it. It's obvious. We can't let that happen! --And I've told Natalia.
...... Well, I don't think we'll be wasting our lives, but just in case.
'Let's go in for now.
The reason we stopped in front of the church was not only because we were disappointed in ourselves for having acted for Philman.
It was because of the massive red iron gates that blocked our way.
A soaring high wall and a massive red iron gate.
The church in the 24th district had a very closed impression, as if it shut out outsiders.
'Aren't churches supposed to be social places where you don't refuse anything that comes your way, don't refuse anything that comes your way, and collect offerings from people who don't seem to pay?
'I agree with the first one of the three. I'll leave the last two uncommented on for my own protection.
You're an idiot. The last two are the essence of the church.
But this church is too crazy.
It's like ......
'It's a jail.
'It looks like a small town.'
Estella and I disagreed.
'Isn't it heavily guarded so that no one escapes?
'I think they're trying to keep outsiders out. It's not the criminals that are in here, it's the clergy and those under their protection.
'If I were you, I wouldn't wait half a day to get out.
If I'm trapped in a church, something in me will be purified.
'What are you so cautious about?
'I don't know, either. Unlike my father, I've never been to this city before.
Estella has only been lord for a short time.
She seems to have made the rounds to the neighboring wards, but only sent letters to the distant wards to inform them of the change of lords.
'Oh, but... I did go to the capital. If I don't greet them in person, it will be bad for many reasons.
Estella says with a bit of pride.
Are you that proud to have met the king?
'So Estella knows the royal family. I'll ask her to introduce you next time.
'Well, that's impossible. They won't listen to me, and I have no intention of letting you near King's Landing at the moment. I'm not going to let you near King's Landing. ...... I'm not going to let the Forty-Two districts disappear.''
He gave me a small hateful wink.
What the hell? Do you think I'm going to pick a fight with the royals as soon as I see them?
You fool, I wouldn't do that, would I?
It's just a little scam to borrow some money.
'At any rate, let's see the sisters. I'm sure the church won't reject a believer, even if the doors are closed.
Without asking what would happen to me, a non-believer, I followed Estella to the red iron gate.
It's not a huge gate like the outer gate, it's only a little bigger than my height, but it still looks heavy enough.
It must be a hassle to open and close such a gate to go out.
While I was thinking about this, Estella rang the door knocker hanging next to the iron gate.
The high-pitched sound of metal clashing rang out.
'Who is it, sir?
There was a small window above the iron gate, just at eye level, and it opened to reveal a woman's eyes peeking out from inside.
The red eyes, similar to Estella's, stare at me as if they are looking at me.
The window is about the size of a newspaper box in an apartment building, so you feel like you're being watched,......, and it's a little uncomfortable.
You're on high alert.
I'm Estella Claremona. My name is Estella Claremona. Is it possible to come in?'
Estella greeted smartly with a lordly smile for a first meeting.
However, the eyes on the other side of the looking glass clouded over suspiciously, and after glancing at Estella and me in turn, she sent us a word of rejection without hesitation.
'I'm sorry, but we can't allow outsiders into the premises. Please leave.'
With a snap, the peephole closed.
The peephole closed with a slam, and I was summarily and coldly thrown out.
Not for first-time visitors............ like a prestigious ryotei.
Do you have to be introduced by an important person to get in?
'Oh, I'm sorry!
Estella rang the door knocker again.
'Is it ......?'
Again, a questioning look appears behind the looking glass.
Apparently, they'll come out when you call them. I don't know how many more times that's going to work.
Estella is aware of this, and carefully tries to persuade her.
'You see, I'm the Lord of District 42, and I'm currently visiting the mansion of Mr. Donati, the Lord of District 24. I have something to tell you.
''Then please speak with me at the lord's mansion. At .......'
Estella's suspicious eyes tried to break up the conversation at any moment, and she spoke quickly and forcefully.
'Before I met Mr. Donati, I also met Ms. Rebecca Whitehead at the koji factory. I would like to ask you a few questions related to that. This is also related to Mr. Donati, so could you please talk to him?
We are acting on behalf of the 24th district, Estella appealed.
If you mention the name of the lord and the malted rice craftsman, any resident of the 24th district will cooperate.
I'm sure you'll be able to find a lot of people who are willing to help you out, especially if it's the Church, an organization that's all about equality, mercy and pretense.
'......,' I thought.
'...... Did Rebekah say something to you ............ that makes it even more impossible for me to see you. Please leave.'
Mercilessly, the looking glass was closed.
A voice of disappointment leaked from Estella's throat that I had never heard before, as if she did not understand.
Her shoulders slumped and she stared at the closed looking glass for a while.
Even so,......, I felt an indescribable emotion in her eyes,......, which were distorted the moment she mentioned Rebecca's name.
But it wasn't 'disgust' or 'contempt', it was more like 'embarrassment' or 'apology'. ...... Well, it's hard to judge accurately just by eye color, though.
'...... What should I do?'
If this happens, I'll just pull a Donis and force my way through by order of the lord. ......
I'm not sure if I can get Mr. Donati to write me a letter of introduction.
'No, if that's the case, we should have gotten a little more response when we mentioned Donnis' name. From the way he reacted, it doesn't look like he can be moved by the lord's power.
'So, you want more power, like ............ royalty?
In the event that you've got a lot of time, you'll be able to take a look at the web site and find out more about it.
It's a good idea to take a look at your own personal life and the way you live it.
If that's the case, it's better to think about the authority we can move now,...................
You've got a letter of introduction.
I had completely lost track of it, but I had received a letter of introduction.
That letter of introduction is still firmly tucked away in my pocket to this day.
My jacket, which was designed to carry important documents with me.
It has been modified for comfort, so that I can carry the letter in my pocket without feeling uncomfortable.
Thanks to you, I forgot all about it.
When I took the letter out of my pocket, Estella's face lit up with joy.
'Ah, from that time!
That's right. This is the letter of introduction that Bertina wrote for me once, saying that there is a sister that I'm close to.
Perhaps she took the trouble to give me a letter of introduction in anticipation of something like this.
If it was a sister of the Spirit Church, it might be more effective than a letter of introduction from royalty.
Especially if it's a sister with whom you have a close relationship.
In Japan, there is an old saying.
"A friend of a friend is a friend of all.
The circle of friends should be spread to the world.
That should do it.
Again, this time with great enthusiasm, Estella hits the door knocker.
The peephole opens three times.
Each time she opens it, the eyes peeking in grow more suspicious.
'............ What is it yet?
'As a matter of fact, we have a letter from one of the sisters that we are very close to. Could you please read it for me?'
It's sealed with wax, so we can't see what's inside.
But I'm sure that Bertina has done a good job of encouraging us to help.
I hope it's not just a 'please send me more delicious miso' kind of message. I'd like to believe it's not .............
The person on the other side of the iron gate who received the letter through the peephole closed the peephole. He is probably reading the letter behind the iron gate.
...... Please, Bertina.
The door, which had been tightly closed, slowly opened with a heavy thud, as if such a prayer had been answered.
I'm sorry I was so rude to you, I didn't know you knew Bertina. Please forgive me.
A girl bows her head behind the iron gate, which is only open enough for one person.
On her lowered head, a pair of rabbit ears swayed.
'My name is Sister Sophie Whitehead of the 24th Ward Church.
Estella rolled her eyes when she saw the girl who appeared.
The girl's hair, as her name suggests, was a beautiful white and shone in the light.
And she looked vaguely like Rebeka.
'Yes. I'm the sister of the koji maker Rebeka Whitehead.
I'm not sure if you've heard of it, but I'm sure you've heard of it.
...... One of the ears was bent from the middle.
At first glance, it looks like a bunny girl's ear, and it looks charming. ...... The broken ear never lifts up, and it doesn't look like it was done on purpose to be cute or charming.
'Oh, ...... these ears?
As if embarrassed, Sophie stroked the broken ear, 'It's still bothering you, isn't it?
'I broke it a few years ago when I fell from a height. It doesn't hurt, but my hearing is ...... bad.'
He smiles sadly.
Estella next to me was holding her chest tightly.
'I have read Bertina's letter and understand what kind of people you are. I trust you.'
I don't know what was written in the letter, but you seem to have a lot of trust in me, Bertina. I can't believe a letter can make you change your mind so much.
The quizzical coloration of the time when she was peeking through the looking glass has completely disappeared, and Sophie's eyes are filled with an enveloping tenderness.
Her red eyes, which had looked like they were on alert, drew a gentle arc.
'So you'll let me in, then?
'Yes, sir. There is nothing here, but you are welcome.
Sophie bows gracefully and puts her hand on the iron gate.
...... I don't think it's heavy enough to be opened and closed with such slender arms. ............ Bullshit as usual, the arm strength of the beastman race.
I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that I'm not the only one.
The door is open.
But Sophie, standing in front of it, has her hand on the iron gate, so it's like she's blocking the way.
Looking straight at us, Sophie tells us with a serious face.
'There are many wounded subhumans protected in this church. Therefore, it has been decided that no one from the outside without permission should be allowed to pass through these gates.
Almost at the same time as Estella's murmur, her gaze naturally went to Sophie's ear.
Even in a city where disdain for subhumans is so ingrained. I don't even like to imagine how much they look at those who have been injured. ......
'They are all kind-hearted children, but they are very wary of strangers and may even be rude to the two of you in some cases,......, but I'm sure I can't blame them for their rudeness.
I can't be responsible for what happens inside.
Do you still want to go in?--It's like they're asking you.
'And I'm sure you won't be the only ones to do so. ...... If you treat the children of the church unfairly or make inappropriate comments, ......'
Sophie quietly pulled up her own jacket.
On her hip, she carried a small mace that she could hold in one hand.
'...... I trust you both,' she said.
'You can rest easy there,' she said.
Sophie's whole body was covered with the tense air of Bertina's rare display of caution. You can find a lot more than just a few things that you can do to make your life easier.
There is something in here that she wants to protect so badly.
Sophie's determination must be as firm as this iron gate.
'Well, please come in. We know you're uncomfortable, and we're ...... sorry again and again.'
'We don't mind. In fact, we think sisters like you are wonderful. Hey, Yashiro.'
'Hmmm, thank you for ....... You are indeed the people that Bertina-san approved of.
I wonder what kind of person Bertina is to Sophie.
I'm sure she'd say, 'She's a good person,' no matter who she was.
'Please enter the gate and wait. You won't be able to close this gate yourselves. Also, if the two of you go ahead alone, you may be attacked .......'
As Sophie instructed, stop when you pass through the gate.
...... They're attacking us, are they beasts or something? I'm not sure what to make of that.
The iron gate is closed with a loud noise.
Then, it was locked tightly with a huge bolt that looked like a steel frame.
I see. I guess we can't get in that way. There's nothing Estella or I can do.
'Come on, this way. I'll serve you some delicious fruit tea.'
In the midst of the tension of being forced to walk unarmed through the savannah, I followed Sophie, who was smiling serenely.
The grounds of the church seemed to be quite large, and there was a long stretch of narrow pathway leading from the gate.
Both sides of the path were covered with thick trees, making it look a bit like a forest.
At the end of the path is a church, which is inhabited by a group of wild beastmen. ............ Why should I risk my life for Philman's first love? ............
Anyway, let's keep our heads up.
And so we passed through the woods.
The wounded young beastmen attacked us in packs.
They attacked with all their might.
'That's enough, you little bastards!
''''' Hahaha! '''''
Even after I pull it off, another kid comes hugging me one after another.
Some of them stuck their fingers in my nose, some of them gave me a "kancho", and some of them even grabbed my very delicate parts.
Such undisciplined kids need to be punished without hesitation, and there is no need to have any hesitation in executing the punishment.
'Yachiro!Shake it around!
'Throw it away!
'Make a mess of it!
...... Which one of us is being sentenced? ............ You're too tough, kids!
I'm not sure what to do, but I'm going to do it. I'm sure you'll have a great time.
I'm not sure what to do.
It's not something humans can compete with.
How could there be 16 of them? ......
'It's amazing ...... that they're so fond of you. And in such a short time.
'Yashiro is very popular with children wherever he goes.
In the event that you have any questions regarding where and the best way to get in touch with us, please do not hesitate to contact us. ...... Help me out, Estella. And the sisters here. You're supposed to be their babysitter.
'Noooooooo!Don't crowd me!There's also one very calm kid in there. Who's that?He's so polite.
All the kids in the crowd have big smiles on their faces, and they're all play-hungry beasts.
The armless ones, the ones with artificial legs, the ones with one cloudy eye: ......
Each and every one of them has a painful scar. Some girls have large burn marks on their faces.
But all of them are smiling happily.
This church must be a peaceful place for them.
'The children here have been gathered here from various districts.
She listened to Sophie as she fought off the raids from the kids.
'Children with deep wounds are sent to the churches in each ward. Not many parents can take care of a child who has lost the means to earn money for life.
'I can't blame the parents, but ...... those children must be lonely.'
'Yes, ...... they all look lonely every day. ......'
No, no, no, Sophie. Look at these guys.
They're smiling so much. I mean, they're too cheerful to be in trouble.
You're not convincing me at all.
'Fifty years ago, one of the sisters here was a subhuman woman. She took in wounded beastmen who had lost their way in other wards, and since then, whenever any ward had such a beastmen child, they would come here to hand it over.
'That's why this church is so large.
'Yes. I heard that the site was expanded thirty years ago with some donations from the churches in each ward.
Instead of forcing a nuisance on us, we paid for it. ...... No, it's the other way around.
We paid for it, so why don't you take the bogeyman?
In this city, there are many beastmen in important positions.
Many of them have risen to prominence with the unique skills of the beastmen.
However, a deeply wounded beastman cannot display such power.
When that happens, they will probably show their faces again. The old abominable custom of "subhuman disdain".
'What's going to happen to those kids?
'In addition to education, we also provide job training, so we can place them in suitable jobs.
If you can do the math, you'll have a job even if you don't have one arm.
If you are good with your hands, you can get a job even with an artificial leg.
If you are a good cook, you can stand on your own even if you are blind or have a burn mark on your face.
As long as there's someone to take you in.
'Even so, there are many people who remain here ...... who are still afraid of the outside world.
A world that rejected you once.
Returning to it may be a bit of a hurdle.
'There are fields and orchards within the church grounds. Some people choose to work there. And there are children like me who want to become sisters.'
That's what Rebekah said. The vegetables here are good.
She said she came here for a reason, to see if she could meet someone.
But Rebekah hasn't been able to see her loved one.
Perhaps this is inevitable, since the church is so tightly sealed off from the outside world.
I understand the significance of this church.
So now let us fulfill our purpose.
'Here in the field, ......!
'Yachiro!Wait, wait, wait!
'More than a story, let's play!
'I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you to stay.
Before I could talk to Sophie, I was crushed by a bunch of kids.
Don't jump on me because I'm ......!
And you're so polite, you're the only one in here!
'Alright!All right!Then we'll play hide and seek!
'''' What's that?
'I'll count to ten, while you guys scatter around and hide.
'''' Can't you hide? ''''
'Yeah, it's a game of hide and seek until I say it's okay!You wanna play?
'''' I'll do it! ''''
'Alright, let's count!One, two, three... ......'
'''' Wow! ''''
After I finished counting to ten, the kids started to lie down or sit down in the sunny garden and stare at each other.
Okay, stay put.
'Yashiro. Isn't that simply called 'sunbathing'?'
'No, it's fine, whatever.
Actually, the kids are having fun.
'Anyway, Sophie. I need a favor.'
'Yes, what is it?
'I need to see the man who works in the fields here.
'In the field, sir?
'No, but ......'.
Sophie's ears perked up before she could finish.
'Oh, you're just here. He's one of the workers in the field.'
Sophie points to a young man who seems to have just returned from the fields.
He is walking slowly towards us.
'He has a serious illness, and his stamina is only about a third of other people's.'
'One-third?Working in the fields with that kind of body?'
'Yes. I work at the pace I can. But I never slack off, never get lax, and never show weakness. She wants to send money back to her sister in her hometown, so she works day in and day out until she reaches her limit. ...... I respect her.'
Estella's gaze softly turned to me.
Perhaps she is thinking the same thing I am.
Maybe that man is the one Rebekah is thinking of. ......
'Mikel-san!Can I have a moment of your time?
Sophie waved, and the man called Mikel waved back.
Perhaps his stamina was at its limit, but his arms were not raised at all.
'...... So, Yashiro. What race do you think he is?I don't know, I just don't get it.
'Well, I guess he's an insect .......'
Mikel's face as he approached us was that of an insect.
It had tentacles, big eyes, and a smooth head.
However, it is difficult to distinguish insects by their faces alone.
What kind of people are they? ......
'Oh, Sister. What do you want from me?I'm a little tired, but I'll at least listen to you!
This tone of voice ...... somewhere ............
I'll introduce you. This is Mikel from the Aphid People.'
'Oh, our guest!Nice to meet you!
'Are you Mokoka's brother?
'Hey, how do you know me?
I met Mokoka, an aphid exterminator who uses a somewhat wild honorific language, in a sycamore field in District 29.
I never thought I would meet his brother in such a place. ............ The world is so small.