Volume 1 Chapter 15: Pilgrims of the Dark Country

Although Susan and Ivy had never heard of a game called ‘Landlord’, but based on the strange cards in the lolis’ hands, as well as the resemblance of their setup with the empire’s casinos, they could infer that the tree lolis had been gambling.

“Members of the clergy aren’t allowed to gamble…”

“Uhm, we’re playing with stones not gold. I don’t think this goes against regulations, sister priestess?”

Susan didn’t know how to respond to Angel’s innocent smile. While the Church did have regulations that banned members of the clergy from gambling, that was only limited to coinage. There was no official regulation which stated that one could not gamble with magic cores.

“Little sisters, why don’t you treasure these precious magic cores? They’re scattered so casually!”

“Are these stones really that hard to find? We have so many of these; there are some more piles over there, and there too!”

Ivy felt heartache for the precious magic cores worth fortunes but were being treated as mere ‘stones’. She was about to urge the lolis to cherish their wealth but after following the direction that Mia had pointed out to her, the words stuck in her throat. It turned out that the entire wooden shack was filled with a pile of magic cores taller than a man and had started to spill out of the half-opened door. It seemed that Mia wasn’t wrong when she said that magic cores weren’t hard to find.

“These… magic cores… where did you girls find them from?”

“Our elder sisters brought them back for us to play with. Do you want to play or not? The offer from earlier still stands. If you don’t want to play, we’re going to continue—Big sis has returned.”

Noesha was about to return to the game but stood up in happiness when she saw the familiar figures appearing in the distance. Ivy and Susan followed the lolis’ line of sight and found three girls about their own age clad in knight’s plate armour heading slowly towards the shack. It was easy to tell from their helmet-less faces that each of them was a beauty.

These three knights were also mount-less and wore the same dark armour and silver cross as the knights who had been guarding the shack previously. The only difference being their armours which had an elaborate golden trim, making them much more noticeable than the guard knights. Their positions were most likely higher as well.

What surprised Ivy and Susan the most was that each of three knights carried a large bag on their backs; the knight with the golden-blonde hair seemed to be carrying the biggest and heaviest of the three. The trio ignored the petrified Ivy and Susan and placed their bags near the three lolis. The bags weren’t closed properly and some of the magic cores spilled out when the knights placed them on the ground. Many of the magic cores still had fresh monster blood; it was obvious where they came from.

Apart from the sound of the three lolis happily digging through the newly arrived magic cores, there was absolute silence. The thousand-men guard of Ivy and Susan was collectively frozen in shock. All of these magic cores were still fresh,.This meant that these three mysterious female knights from the Church had just slaughtered a huge number of monsters. This was already beyond the realm of holy knights. These three knights could very well be dragon knights with that kind of strength.

Bella was laughing internally as she observed the terrified onlookers. She had finally experienced the exhilarating feeling of showing off and putting on airs like the MCs from Earth’s light novels. If it wasn’t for these two beauties, Bella would have already slaughtered their guards. There were already several powerful evil creatures lying in ambush. It was just that the cavalry was too weak to sense them.

“Can you introduce yourself, my friend? I am the Church’s third holy maiden, Antonia Susan. This here is my good friend, Elena Ivy of the Ignaz family from the Gabriel Empire(Swordsmen).”

Susan gave a courteous greeting to Bella. She thought it was good to lower herself a bit while talking with someone who most likely had attained the realm of a dragon knight. She didn’t want to unintentionally offend the other side.

“I’m an insignificant knight named Bella, Nelson Town’s guardian knight. Oh, those two are also guardian knights. One is Dolores and the other is Eleanor.”

Seeing that Dolores and Eleanor had no intentions to introduce themselves, Bella decided to do it for them. Ivy and Susan carefully studied Eleanor, the guardian knight with fiery-red hair. If they remembered correctly, there was a young lady of a prestigious family from the Octavian Empire(Knights) with the same name. Was it just a coincidence?

After all, they had never seen Eleanor in person, only having heard of her name being mentioned before. As Eleanor didn’t choose to speak, it wouldn’t be very courteous for them to ask.

Ivy wore light armour that was pure-white and carried a finely crafted sword. Her flowing hair and irises were all dark-brown. Bella felt a sort of nostalgia and intimacy as Ivy looked very much like an Asian, the first one that Bella had seen in this world.

It might be a result of training with the sword but Ivy’s body was especially thin, but she was absolutely not lacking in the chest department. Bella wondered how she maintained her beautiful pale skin while training.

Susan and Ivy’s heights were about the same as that of Roland and Annie’s, just a bit shorter than Dolores, Eleanor, and Bella.

Susan’s attire was similar to that of the second holy maiden Hayley whom Bella had met just recently. The only difference between the two was that while Hayley’s hair was snow-white, Susan’s was the more traditional golden-blonde.

On Susan’s right shoulder, Bella saw the emblem consisting of a pure-white hexagram, the same as the second holy maiden, Hayley. From what Bella had learned since her encounter with Hayley, this emblem represented Alan faction, one of the three factions within the Church of Light. The cardinal who had given her the box of gold bars was the head of the Salo faction and the two factions had never seen eye to eye. Hopefully, Susan wasn’t looking for trouble.

Susan was able to see the cautiousness in Bella’s eyes but chose not to speak about it. Their factions had already been in a state of infighting for the past few thousand years after all. From churches to the territories in each city, there had been constant fighting between the two factions and it was hard to resolve the tensions between both sides.

Susan didn’t know that Bella wasn’t actually a member of the Salo faction. She was just a ‘fake’ who was using the Salo faction as a disguise and the same could be said for every other ‘member’ of the Salo faction here. As the Salo faction had always been cruel and brutal to heretics, there weren’t very many people that dared to imitate a member of the Salo faction. It was pure luck that Susan and Ivy had run into Bella’s group of imposters.

“Lady Bella, about these magic cores…”

“We picked them up on the path. If you need to get somewhere, I suggest you do so before the sun sets. We’ll be returning to Nelson for worshipping.”

Bella whispered into Noesha’s ear who then went up to the shack and gestured with her hands, and all the magic cores in the shack vanished into thin air as if they had never even existed. If it wasn’t for Bella and the others who were still here, Susan and Ivy would have considered their entire encounter a dream.

“Space-time magic… little sister, are you a space-time magician?”

“I’m just a normal sister of the Church. You two sisters take care. I’m heading back to Nelson Town with big sister Bella and others.”

As they saw Bella’s group was about to leave, Ivy finally remembered the reason why they had intercepted Bella in the first place and hurriedly blocked their path.

“Lady Ivy, we still have stuff to attend to. Why are you blocking our way?”

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“I need the magic core of a high-level monster. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring enough helpers so I want to enlist your help. When we finish, you can ask the Church for payment. State your price?”

“Uhm, what monster are you hunting?”

“<Ground Dragon>—hey wait, Bella, don’t go! Can we atleast discuss the price?”

As soon as she heard that the two were hunting ground dragons, Bella had wanted to leave on the spot. Although ground dragons were pseudo-dragons, they were still technically considered dragonkin and were much stronger than typical high-level monsters. At the Adventurer’s Guild, hunting ground dragons was already considered a low-level dragon-slaying assignment. There weren’t many who had completed a mission of this class in the entire history of the Adventurer’s Guild. Along with the fact that Bella still had some bad memories of being beaten senseless by Lisha’s golden dragon just recently, it made her all the more not want to encounter another dragon.

“Hey, don’t leave! I can give whatever amount of money you want for payment!”

“Does it look like we’re the type of people who lack money, boss? I still want to live a few more years. A ground dragon already can’t be considered a high-level monster! You’d best find someone else to help you with your dragon-slaying mission.”

“Isn’t it the Church’s way to help people in need, Bella? Why are—”

“Oh please, that’s the saying of your Alan faction, I’m from the Salo faction.”

Susan studied Bella’s group curiously with her golden irises. Those who could kill so many monsters wouldn’t be weak; they should definitely have the ability to kill a ground dragon. It was very interesting to Susan that such a powerful person would be so scared as soon as she heard about them planning to kill a <Ground Dragon>.

Out of curiosity and playfulness, Susan decided to drag Bella down with her on this dragon-slaying task. At this moment, Susan had forgotten the conflict between their factions and had not yet realized that the one who would truly be dragged down in the future would be herself.

“I know you don’t lack money but I really need your help. I’ll owe you a huge favour, and if you ever need help, I will do everything I can within my jurisdiction.”

Hearing Ivy’s words, Eleanor and Dolores made an unnatural expression, Eleanor especially so. Eleanor quickly turned to the side, looking as if she wanted to laugh but managing not to. Weren’t those the same words she had said to Bella just a month ago? It was shocking how history repeats itself.

Bella’s gaze suddenly sharpened as she stopped in her tracks. Recalling properly, the last one who had said these words to her already had half a meter of grass above their grave… er, wrong phrase… they had already joined Bella’s side. This Ivy was definitely a swordswoman. It wasn’t a bad idea to get such a beautiful swordswoman on her side.

“Alright, we can offer our assistance but it’s getting late. By the time we enter the forest, it’ll be too dark to see anything. We can gather here tomorrow, It’s best if you return…”

“Can we stay in Nelson Town tonight, seeing as we’re part of the same Church? Pretty please?”

“Sure but only the two of you. The town can’t hold too many people. This is non-negotiable. If you can’t accept it then I wish you a safe journey back to your camp.”

Bella quickly shut Susan down before she could ask for anything else. She didn’t know why but she had trouble denying Susan’s requests. Perhaps it was because of the contrast: acting moe, different from her usual holy maiden role.

The guards who had escorted Ivy and Susan returned the way they had come from under the command of Ivy,. They were rather confused when they left. The Church of Light’s Salo and Alan factions had never gotten along, this was fairly well known, but now the Alan faction’s holy maiden was about to spend a night at a Salo faction Church. Had the two factions decided to band together to face the threat of the newer third faction?

Sadly, this gossip wouldn’t be brought back into the human territory. The guards had been ambushed on their way back by a raiding party of beastmen numbering almost 20,000. Ivy and Susan managed to dodge a bullet by choosing to stay the night at Nelson Town.

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On their way back, Susan and Ivy couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Before coming, they had heard from Duke Victor that the town of Nelson had been destroyed during the fight with the beastmen. However, the town’s fields were brimming with green crops as far as the eye could see and based on their growth, it was safe to assume that they had been planted for a while.

But the most shocking thing for them was that these crops weren’t even planted by humans; Susan and Ivy didn’t know what to say as they looked at the zombies toiling away in the fields. Has this world gone mad? It was unheard of for the zombies, who would only attack humans, to work in the fields.

As they continued their scrutiny, Ivy and Susan discovered quite a bit of difference between these zombies and those that only knew how to blindly attack humans. These zombies did not have any open wounds and had all of their limbs. Apart from the unmoving eyes and lack of breathing, there weren’t any apparent differences between them and normal humans.

The zombies were very strong and worked very hard. Along with the fact that they didn’t need to eat, they made the best workers for large projects. They were similar to earth’s machines but had a significant advantage over them; it was that machines would eventually break down due to overuse. These zombies could work for centuries or even millennia as they would never malfunction like machines and never rest.

The closer they got to the town, the more shocked Ivy and Susan became. There were even more zombies inside the town itself, and they could be seen working busily everywhere. If it wasn’t for the fact that they neither breathed nor moved their eyes, it would have felt as if they had entered a busy human city.

The zombies didn’t talk amongst themselves and continued their work even when Bella’s group of living humans entered the town. They did, however, open up a path for them to pass!

“Bella, what’s with these zombies? Why is it that they don’t attack humans; they seem to have quite a bit of intelligence.” Looking at the zombies who were busy building the city, Susan asked a little nervously. These zombies didn’t only do hard labour, but they also seemed to be doing work that required a certain level of intellect. No one would believe Bella if she said that these zombies didn’t have any intelligence.

“This is one of our Salo faction’s secrets, Miss Holy Maiden; therefore, I suggest you stop asking. All you need to know is that these zombies won’t attack you. Just pretend as if they are nothing but air.” Bella chose not to explain anymore. She had learned quite a bit about the Salo faction during this past month.

The Salo faction was one of the three big factions within the Church. Its head was Cardinal Andrews Salo who had gifted Bella the box of gold previously. This faction valued using the evil power of demons to maintain the power of the Church, quite opposite to the Church’s preaching.

But if there weren’t any evil beings creating havoc, there would be no need of the Church and fewer people would follow their faith. This was something that the pope didn’t want to see. So he let the Salo faction off the hook in silent acquiescence, even going as far as using their cruel means to crush those who dared to oppose the Church. The Salo faction was also used as an important chess piece to keep the Alan faction in check.

Seeing that Bella didn’t wish to continue the topic, Susan couldn’t exactly persist with her questions. She was aware of the tensions within the Church. While the factions would beat each other up at home, they still had to present a united front to outsiders. The Alan faction had long known of the evil rituals performed by the Salo faction, but the pope had turned a deaf ear to the Alan faction’s complaints. After such a long time, the Alan faction could basically guess the reasons behind the pope’s inaction.

Bella had let the two girls stay the night because she was confident that Susan would not tell anyone what she saw here. Moreover, Ivy still had something that needed her help. She should know better to keep quiet. Moreover, There was something else that she had not told the two: the zombies created by coming in contact with the fluids secreted by the【Demon’s Wisdom】could also attack humans. It was just that they wouldn’t attack females, also the reason why Bella only allowed Susan and Ivy inside the city.

Nelson was technically no longer a town. Its scale was already comparable to a large-scale city, and zombies were still working day and night to construct various structures. It would only be a matter of time before the city grew to the size of an empire’s capital.

Beside the fields were many large grain silos. Each was so filled to the brim with various cereals that the doors had difficulties closing. Next to the silos, there were also zombies hurriedly constructing several new silos as well as a never-ending stream of zombies carrying sacks of grain into the silos.

“Bella, have you ever thought about helping to feed the refugees with all this food? If you did so, it would definitely improve the current situation in the region.”

“I haven’t, Miss Holy Maiden. Do you think that humans would be willing to eat food that was grown by zombies?”

- my thoughts:
Just Edited

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