Chapter 60: The Angel Descends

Wait, hold on…

To my surprise, as I walked closer, my prejudiced thought was proven completely wrong.

She’s… not being mugged by them? She’s healing them instead?

There was no doubt about it. One by one, the crowd surrounding her walked forward. Then, after a few moments of conversation, she raised her hand and cast a healing spell on them. I was familiar with it, since it was how Mother did it as well.

As I got even closer, I could hear their conversation.

“Thank you! Thank you so much! My fever—they’ve disappeared completely!” 

The one she was speaking to was a young woman, perhaps around the age of eighteen to twenty. She might be beautiful, if not for her bone-thin figure, dirty skin, and tattered dress.

The cleric girl just responded with a nod and smile, giving her a couple copper coins into her hands, and the young woman, after thanking her once again, quickly left the crowd, only to be replaced by another.

It went on like this for a while, and for some reason I wasn’t really sure myself, I couldn’t bring myself to just move on and continue with my trip. Instead, I ended up staying there, watching as she healed them and gave them money one by one. 

After several minutes of doing so however, I think I know why.

This girl… I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s an angel in disguise.

I know, I know, it’s a seriously cheesy thing to say. But that’s what my impression of her is. The way she carried herself, the way she smiled, the way she spoke with her soft voice, and the fact that she was curing these poor folks from their illnesses without pay—aren’t all that something an angel would do?

Then again, she might not be doing this out of her own volition. Maybe it was simply a task she had to do as a member of her church. I knew how Christians would send their missionaries to Africa and other impoverished places to improve the lives of the people there, as well as spreading their religion, of course.

No, this girl… she’s nothing like that. Her smile is completely genuine, with not a single hint of falsehood, and her nose never wrinkles a single time, even though I can smell the unpleasant scent emanating from these unwashed beggars all the way here.

I wonder if this is how those Milicis followers view their Saint. Honestly, if she was actually like this all those years ago, I might actually convert to their religion.

“Please, move! Move out of the way!”

Suddenly, a man came out from the nearby house, carrying what looked like a child around eight, though she might actually be older, considering how terribly malnourished she looked. I could see her ribs and bones as clear as day.

Me, who was never near true poverty before, flinched at the harrowing sight. How could things be this bad for a person?

“Miss, please! My daughter—you gotta heal her! She’s been like this since a week ago!” The man pleaded, tears falling down his sunken cheeks.

The girl’s smile vanished as she began to examine the child closer. She cast a healing spell. And another. And another—her face turning more and more grim every single time.

And then, she stopped.

“I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do.” She shook her head.

The look on the man’s face… it was haunting.

At first, denial—his eyes widening in clear disbelief. And then, anger—him gritting his teeth as his hands shook. Bargaining—him pleading to the cleric to try again, only for her to shake her head once more as she averted her gaze. Then, despair—his knees giving way as he hugged his daughter. And then, acceptance, him standing up once more, thanking the cleric for her service.

“…I have eased her pain,” she replied, still looking away. “And I shall pray to the Saint so her soul will reach Andalucia when she departs.”

She took her limp body from him, dropping her staff to the ground. Now I know why she looked away. She had been weeping as well, and now her tears dripped down one by one to the little girl’s face.

She put one hand on the girl’s forehead, and she began to pray.

“O Great Saint, please guide her soul to—”

“Wait, hold on! I’ll try healing her as well!” I blurted out those words without thinking.

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t just stand by and watch a young girl die of illness. Not when I could do something about it.

The crowd’s attention was now all focused to me, as well the man’s and the cleric’s.

“Come out, my Great Fairy! Heal this girl from whatever ailment possesses her!”

She immediately appeared, to the awe and fright of everyone watching. The man fell down while the crowds dispersed, as if I just summoned a monster (well, to be honest, to these people who probably had never seen a fairy before, she might as well be one). Only the cleric stood, giving me a confused yet wary look.

“Yes, Master!” She cheerfully answered. She hovered over the little girl, only for the cleric to take a few steps back, away from her.

“Please, don’t run!” I told her. “I’m not a bad guy! I just want to help! I’m a mage and she’s my summon! She can use healing magic as well so I thought she can help the kid!”

The cleric didn’t respond immediately. She gave me a suspicious look up and down, followed by the same look towards Great Fairy.

“Very well. Please, cure her if you could.”

The fairy flew closer to the cleric once again, letting her hold the girl as she reached both of her hands forward towards her. I moved closer as well, wanting to see the patient in close range.

She was still alive, but barely. I could hear her heavy and laboured breathing, as her chest rose slightly up and down. I had no idea what illness she might be having, but seeing how thin she was, it could be anything. No one could live long like that.

The fairy made her drink her water as gently as possible. However, even with that intense care, the girl still ended up choking on the water, making her have to withdraw immediately.

“Hey, can you open her mouth?” I asked the cleric. “My fairy needs to have her drink her water if she’s going to heal her.”

“No, that won’t work,” she replied, shaking her head. “She doesn’t have the strength to swallow anymore. She can no longer eat nor drink and she’s exerting every strength she has just to breathe.”

Damn it, if this were my old world, we can have her be hooked on IV. But this world doesn’t even have the concept of intravenous feeding. How am I supposed to save her at this rate?

“Master… I’m sorry, but I don’t think… I don’t think I can heal her either…” She looked away.

I froze.

“Thank you,” the cleric said to the fairy, giving her a bitter smile. “But don’t blame yourself for not being able to heal her. I am already a Master-level priestess and I too am unable to do so. With her in that state, perhaps only the Saint herself that could cure her.”

I heard the sound of something hitting the ground. It was the father, and for the third time, his knees gave out, and his face was filled with renewed despair.

I paled.

What have I done?

Not only I have failed to heal his daughter, I have given him hope, only to shatter it just moments after.

Great Fairy disappeared in shame. For the first time, she had failed in her task.

“O Great Saint, please, guide her soul to Andalucia where there’s neither hunger nor thirst, if it is her fate to depart to the next world. But if she still has a role to play in this world, then grant her your miracle and free her from the shadow of death that haunts her.”

She kissed her on the head, before returning her to her father, who received her with a smile, even if his tears continued to pour.

“Thank you, for blessing her,” he said, almost with a whisper. “It can’t be helped, can it, Yuna?”

The weeping he did afterwards… I would never forget it for the rest of my life.

———-

I didn’t go anywhere else after that. I sat on the dirt, resting my back on the wall behind me. I watched as she continued her charity work. I saw her shaking her head a couple more times, signifying other cases of illnesses that she couldn’t heal.

Once she was done, she came to me with her staff.

“May I take a seat here?”

I nodded, looking away. She then sat beside me, with her legs raised just like me. She didn’t seem to care that she was soiling her dress by sitting on a filthy place like this.

“Your name?”

“Charles. Charles Pendleton.”

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“I’m Nicole. Nicole Blanchimont. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Charles.”

She offered her hand for a shake. I took it gingerly, still avoiding her gaze. She returned a smile.

“Thank you. For trying to save that child.”

“I didn’t save her.”

“But you tried. And that’s what counts.”

I gave a peek towards her and saw that she was still smiling.

“Is this your first time, seeing someone like that?”

I nodded. Somehow, that smile convinced me that I should stay around and converse with her.

“I see,” she replied, pausing for a few moments before resuming, looking away from me. “It’s not my first. Nor it will be my last.”

I gave a curious glance, which, I suppose, was enough for her to continue her story.

“I came from Silipha, to the northwest from here. I was a graduate from the Milicis Academy there. And as part of our curriculum, we would go around to the poor and help them with their ailments.”

“And of course, we weren’t able to heal every single one of them.”

I took another look at her. And now, she had this melancholic expression that made me seriously want to just wrap my arm around her shoulder and comfort her.

But I resisted. I will not be involved with a stranger again. I will only bring misfortune to her.

“Even our headmistress, Lady Miriam, couldn’t heal every single illness out there. So what chance do I have? I’m not even a High Priestess yet, when she’s already a Grand Priestess.”

“But you see,” She suddenly looked at me, making me blush a little as I had been staring at her. “She taught me something important. To accept the existence of death… it’s something a priestess of Milicis should be able to do.”

She then sighed for a bit before continuing.

“It is impossible, especially for just a single person, to be able to save everyone. Even our Great Saint couldn’t save every single person she met when she still walked this earth. Are you familiar with the Catechism of the Three Disciples?”

I shook my head.

“There’s a story there—about a blind man who asked the Great Saint to heal his blindness. She, in her infinite mercy, tried to heal him, only to find that her healing spell wasn’t effective in the slightest. She then prayed to the Heavenly Dragon, asking him why she couldn’t heal him. And he replied, ‘It was his fate to be blind. And so he shall remain thus.’”

Fate?

“We are each appointed our fates by the Heavenly Dragon even before we were born, when we were still souls slumbering up above. Whether we are born noble or common, whether we become rich or poor, whether we receive a blessed life, or a miserable one—all that were decided for us. We may struggle to change our fate, and we may just be able to, by the grace of the Heavenly Dragon, but there would be always some part of our Fate that is immutable and unchangeable. And we have to accept and bear that fate, good or bad.”

At first, I remained silent, as I tried to process what she just spoke. But soon after, I realized what she was going at.

And that brought a bile of anger right out of my mouth.

“So you’re saying, that man should just accept his daughter’s death?! That his daughter deserves to die?!” I yelled, right in front of her face.

She remained unfazed however, still keeping the same smile from before.

“Her soul would be in a better place. As for him, he indeed should. To move on with life, no matter how painful it might be, it’s what the Great Saint wants us to do.”

My hands flew. I grabbed her collar with my right, and I held my left on the air, intending to hit her.

“You’ve suffered too, aren’t you? I can see it in your own eyes. But you are still unable to accept and bear your fate.”

My hands shook. My eyes watered. I released her, before I bolted.

Or I would, if she hadn’t grabbed my arm and stopped me.

“Charles.” She took my hand and embraced it with her own two hands. It was so warm and pleasant that my thought of running completely disappeared. “If it’s alright with you, you can tell me everything. As a priestess of the Holy Saint, I promise that I will not speak of your troubles to anyone.”

I couldn’t stop myself. I threw myself at her and hugged her, before weeping silently that she was the only one who could hear it.

She didn’t say anything. She simply hugged me back and patted me gently on the back of my head.

Only after my crying died down that she whispered, “Let’s go somewhere else, shall we? I think I have an idea for a place where we can chat privately.”

I followed her without complaint.

———–

What am I doing?

I was now back on the busy streets. We had left the slums a while ago, and now we had returned to the “proper” part of the city.

And now, I was walking side by side with this girl I knew nothing about, with her left hand holding my right.

Am I really going with this girl to some place I don’t know about just so I can talk about my problems? Have I lost my mind entirely?

..Yeah, pretty much. I just hugged and cried on her shoulder after all.

What in the world am I doing, seriously?

I started to wonder if she was using some sort of charm spell at me. I always hid my problems from strangers, acting like there was nothing wrong even though there clearly was.

But after what I had witnessed of her, and the touch of her hands and the warmth of her smile, it’s as if I was compelled to tell every single one of my troubles to her.

Is this it? Is this what Hugo Greenwood has become, crying in the most pathetic way to a girl he just met? Just because she reminds him a little of his big sister that he has run away from?

…Goddamnit.

Yep, I’ll admit it. The way she comforted me like that—it really reminded me of Marina. It didn’t help that she seemed to be around the same age and was just as gentle as her.

I always said that Marina was a brocon but I think I might have become a siscon as well. I can’t help it. She had showered me with so much of her love after all.

And now I’m outright replacing her with a complete stranger, just because I can never see her again.

You truly are one pathetic man, Hugo Greenwood.

I gave a glance towards her and she promptly smiled back.

Damn it, that smile—I’ve been completely charmed by it.

If she’s actually a succubus in disguise, I’m pretty much screwed. I won’t be able to do anything as she sucks my life force out as long as she smiles like that while doing it. Well, might not be a bad way to go out, I suppose.

…Nah, she can’t be one. She doesn’t have that sexy body all succubi have. Her breasts and butt were only noticeable slightly from her conservative clothes. If she were a succubus, then she would have far more of a bombshell of a body like that receptionist from Frastelleren.

Her charm is really far away from the sexual kind. Using a religious comparison, she isn’t the sexy nun you can often find in fantasy worlds taking inspiration from Western religion. She’s the warm and kind nun that devotes herself to feeding the orphans and taking care of the sick and all that.

And that charm is enough to win me over. I now genuinely want to tell her everything.

…It’s probably fine. The Church is opposed to the Magocracy, right? So they won’t rat me out.

We soon arrived at what clearly looked like a church, only that there were no cross imageries like the ones you would find on Western churches back in my old world. Instead, there were dragon imageries instead. That, and stained glasses portraying what could only be the Great Saint in a stylized manner.

I then noticed it—the brooch she wore under her collar. It was colored in gold, and it was shaped similarly to the dragon the church had all over.

“We’ll use the consultation room inside,” she said to me, still with that same smile. “Don’t worry. It’s completely soundproof, so no one else would be able to hear what you have to say.”

She didn’t release my hand even as we went inside. The place was empty, except for one dark-haired young woman in a nun dress who’s cleaning the floor with her mop.

“Excuse me.” She called out to her. “Might we be allowed to use your consultation room?”

The young woman yelped, nearly kicking the bucket of water she had nearby. Wow, she’s pretty clumsy for her age.

“I’m Nicole Blanchimont, a Master-level Priestess and an aspirant for the title of High Priestess. I am in the middle of my pilgrimage and I would like to invoke my right for refuge in this church.”

She spoke about a bunch of things I didn’t understand. One thing however caught my attention.

Nicole? Have I heard of that name before?

“A-an aspirant?” The young woman hurriedly ran over to her. “Truly?” 

“Yes, truly.” She smiled. “Will this brooch suffice as proof?”

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She took off said golden brooch and gave it to the nun.

“This is…” Her eyes widened. “O-oh, forgive me, Priestess Blanchimont! You really are an aspirant high priestess!” She bowed her head deeply as she hurriedly returned the brooch. “Please, the room is just in the back! A-and here’s the key!”

Wow, is she some bigwig cleric or something? It’s really awkward seeing a young woman in her twenties bow to a girl of her age.

“Thank you,” she replied, putting the brooch back in its original place. “Now come, Charles. We can have our respite in there.”

I followed, with her still grasping my hand. She really must think of me as a child if she’s not bothered at all with our hands touching like this. 

Well, can’t say I blame her. After what I did, everyone will view me as a simple crybaby, nothing more, I thought bitterly.

We soon reached the furthest end of the chapel, behind the pulpit. Just like the nun said, there was indeed a room there. Using the key, she unlocked the wooden door and pulled me inside.

It was a small room, just slightly larger than the size of your typical stagecoach interior. There were two long wooden seats, placed face to face, with only a small round wooden table placed in-between them.

She took one of the chairs, and gestured at me to take the other across. The seat was hard, as it was just polished wood, with no cushion whatsoever. I couldn’t rest my back either as there was no backrest on either chairs. Clearly, whoever sat on these was supposed to be seated straight for the entire time.

“Apologies for the uncomfortable arrangements. But I couldn’t take you to my room at the inn without angering my party. Let’s just say that I wasn’t supposed to be doing this with a boy I just met.” She smiled weakly.

Well, so much for my idea of inviting her to travel with me.

“But I believe in you, Charles. I don’t think you’re a bad person. Your eyes showed that to me.”

Before our conversation could continue, the nun from before knocked on the door. She brought with her a tray of tea and bread, which she promptly put on the small table, before pouring two cups; one for me and one for the priestess. She then bowed once more before leaving us. Wow, it’s almost as if she has become her maid or something.

“So, tell me. What ails a young boy like you? To be able to summon a Great Fairy like that, you’re not just your average mage, are you?” She let out a knowing smile.

…This might be a bad idea after all.

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