Souma opened his eyes due to vibrations shaking his body with a sound of rattling in the background.
As there’s still a sense of fatigue and a feeling of drunkenness remaining all over his body, his consciousness is hazy. Nevertheless, he opens his eyes slightly.
What jumped into his eyes first was him being sullied with dirt. It seems he has been put to sleep on some type of loading area. Once he opened his eyes a bit, he saw a savannah dyed in ochre due to the withered grasses with a cold wind fiercely blowing through the plains.
“Lu Bana! Lu Bana! Pomus ishytal kimuya!”
He can hear yelling in a foreign language that he has never heard before from somewhere nearby.
“Ah… aah… uuh.” (Souma)
He tried to speak up somehow, but nothing but a faint groaning escapes his throat that was burning dry. He felt nauseated, but with nothing to vomit out of his empty stomach, he only felt sick.
He heard a man shouting nearby.
“Somalua ork furnoiha!”
I don’t understand what he’s saying, but at the very least it doesn’t seem to be Japanese or English.
After a short while he could hear the clip-clopping of horse hooves which he knew from movies.
“Ou. Di Ork furnoiha?”
Alongside that voice, Souma’s face was covered by a shadow. Souma couldn’t even move his neck due to the remaining fatigue that’s penetrated his body. Even so, he looks at the object that was blocking the sunlight by shifting his eyes.
(… What’s this? Is it a dream?)(Souma)
What entered his slightly opened field of vision is a face similar to that of a lizard. However, its size was close to that of a horse’s head and it was covered by light brown hair which a lizard usually doesn’t possess. That lizard looked down at Souma while flicking its tongue, which is split in two at the end.
There’s no way that such a creature exists in reality.
That’s what Souma thought.
“Diha noiha? Diz migur noiha?”
The voice flooded him from above, but it used words which Souma didn’t understand at all.
“… Wh… Where is, this place…?” (Souma)
He desperately squeezed out his voice, but it resulted in no more than a quiet whisper almost indistinguishable from a long breath. And then the consciousness of Souma, who exhausted his energy with just that much, was once again swallowed by darkness.
Signalling the arrival of a hard winter, a freezing north wind blew through the withered grassland.
Until just recently, the season of summer, Zao, dominated with a blazing heat. However, with the short autumn, Nagurto, passing in the twinkling of an eye, it has now become the season of winter, Nero.
The Platoon Leader Setius frowned due to the cold nipping wind that felt as if it was chopping up one’s body.
The subjugation of the evil adherents who troubled the neighbourhood recently was wrapped up quickly, contrary to his expectations. The priest, who expressly arrived from the capital, exaggerated by spouting 「This is God’s will」. Since it was said that he came to order the subjugation of the evil adherents, Setius was anxious about their level of dreadfulness.
However, once he looked at the results of the subjugation, all the evil adherents were similar to a gathering of amateurs. No terrifying monsters or suspicious magic like the ones in the tales sung by minstrels appeared either.
It’s to the extent that the march from the fortress was far more difficult than the subjugation itself.
“Hurry! Hurry up! The sun is setting in the west!”
He could hear one of the squad leaders scolding his subordinates.
I also want to somehow reach the place with the large rocks, which are located beyond this point, before evening. If we camp out in such windswept savannah, we will be tormented by the north wind all night long and won’t be able to get a good rest.
“Platoon Leader! Platoon Leader!”
It was the voice of a squad leader who was among the marching forces.
“It seems that the youngster woke up!”
Currently, if the word 「Youngster」 is mentioned within this unit, it’s about the boy considered to be a 『Divine Child』 that was discovered in the den of the evil adherents.
Pulling the reins, Setius turned over the head of the Kiryu. The Kiryu, which Setius is riding, is a type of lizard that can’t be called a dragon at all even though it has the word dragon* in its name. It kicks the ground with its two thick and strong hind-legs whereas its forelegs are are short and slender. The forelegs are used in order to pin down bitten prey and at the time of standing up with what’s essentially a push-up when lying upside down on the ground. The Kiryu’s entire body is covered by bluish black scales with light brown hair growing in-between those scales. If it’s a blade at the level of a cheap knife, it won’t even be able to make a scratch. It has the drawback that it’s slightly weak to the cold, but it’s a creature that’s a powerful mount which is preferred by soldiers because it isn’t cowardly and doesn’t need more care than horses, which are said to exist in the distant southern grasslands. (T/N: Kiryu is written using the kanji for mount and dragon, properly it would be Kiryuu, but I cut off one “u.” ? )
“Oy! Did the boy open his eyes?” (Setius)
The squad leader replied to Setius’ question with a nod, and pointed at the top of the loading space of the cart next to him where provisions and arms were stacked.
In a slight gap created between the luggage the boy, who was found at the evil adherents’ den, was put to sleep while being covered by a blanket which amounted to no more than a ragged cloth.
Setius approached the cart with his kiryu, matched up with its travelling speed and peeked at the boy’s face.
Is the boy suffering from a disease? His complexion is pale and he’s leaking painful moans.
If it’s a kind of infectious disease, it will become troublesome, won’t it? He thought this, but having said that, there’s no way that he can abandon him either.
I guess I have no other choice but to limit access to this boy as much as possible.
As he observes the boy, he faintly opens his eyes, but they seem to be unfocused.
With this he couldn’t expect a decent answer, but even so he tried to question the boy just in case.
“What kind of person are you? Are you a 『Divine Child』?” (Setius)
But, as expected there’s no answer.
At that time the weak voice of the boy reached the ears of Setius who was wondering whether it was pointless.
“… Wh… Where is, this place…?” (Souma) (T/N: Author writes in romaji here, so imagine Setius not hearing the words but the sounds of the words)
It was the sound of words Setius had never heard before.
It doesn’t seem to be the Deas Language which is the official language around here, and neither is it the Holy Language used by the priests. On the other hand, it also seems to be different from the words spoken between demi-humans such as elves and dwarves.
Going by his attire, the boy seems to be from a far distant foreign place, but starting with him, no one from the platoon knew where that place might be.
I happened to hear about black-haired humans living on a mysterious island in the far east in the stories funnily recounted by travelling merchants and minstrels at the bars, but I wonder whether this boy really came from there?
“From where did you come? Who are you?” (Setius)
However, he was unable to get an answer since the boy lost consciousness once again.
When Setius sighed as if annoyed, the squad leader, who attentively watched the course of events, timidly called out to him.
“Platoon Leader, what shall I do with this brat?”
“It’s not like we can discard him. Take care of him so that he doesn’t die.” (Setius)
Due to that order, the squad leader only showed a forced smile with cramped cheeks, and didn’t give his agreement immediately.
“What’s wrong, Squad Leader? Do you have any complaints?” (Setius)
Due to the squad leader showing an attitude that can be taken as a protest against his order, Setius presses him for an answer while con-notating his words with a reprimand.
The squad leader ducked his head and said with upturned eyes,
“Platoon Leader, this guy, umm, is a 『Divine Child』, right?”
Setius consented to that.
Because of an incident that happened a while ago at the fortress where Setius and the rest of the platoon works, 『Divine Child』 has truly become a taboo existence.
“Won’t I get cursed to death if I get involved with him in a bad way? Besides, this guy looks ill.”
It’s not like he doesn’t understand this squad leader’s feelings either. If Setius didn’t have his duty as platoon leader, he would have wanted to abandon such boy in the plains as well.
Reluctantly, Setius stretches out his hand by bending himself forward on his kiryu and touches the boy’s body.
“Look. I haven’t been cursed by just touching him. In the first place, that incident happened because the lord of the fortress has, umm, how would you call it… a disturbing fetish. While it may be true that he’s a 『Divine Child』, you wouldn’t usually get cursed.” (Setius)
While saying this, Setius was nervous in his mind about being cursed just by touching him. But, as it’s wrong for him to openly show such attitude, he says such a thing to the squad leader while bluffing.
“If you say that you are scared of the 『Divine Child』’s curse, you will be even more cursed and resented if you leave him to starve to death by abandoning him in the plains.” (Setius)
Being told that, the squad leader’s body is shook by a single, intense tremble.
“I understand, Platoon Leader! In exchange, please distribute one bottle of alcohol once we return to the fortress.”
Once he tells 「Got it」 to the squad leader, Setius makes his kiryu run to the front of the platoon by lashing it once with his whip.
At that moment a noticeably strong north wind blows. Once he looked up to the sky, the firmament was covered by deep black clouds making it apparent that it will snow soon.
“Damn… isn’t this a somehow sinister weather?” (Setius)
This region, which is called Solbiant Plains, was once within the sphere of influence of the zoan, one of the demi-human species.
However, wishing to expand its grain-producing area which was adjacent to this region, Holmea State gradually extended its influence into the plains. That’s a story that took place around 30 years ago.
Of course the former occupants, the zoans, resisted against that. On countless occasions both sides repeatedly clashed while exchanging blades and blood on the plains.
Individually the zoans were physically stronger than the humans, but in front of a well-regulated human army, individual military prowess had no meaning. While producing many victims, the zoans were forced to flee from the place they used to live in.
Nowadays the zoans have been driven away into the hills extending from the Dornas Mountain Range located in the north of the plains. They lived there as if in hiding.
However, because they even now descend into the plains sometimes to take back their own soil, a single fortress was constructed in front of the hilly area for the sake of protecting the pioneering farmers from the zoans.
The platoon led by Setius arrived at that fortress three days after the subjugation of the evil adherents.
Scolding his subordinates who relaxed their attention and took a breath in relief after passing through the fortress’ gate, Setius, who instructed them to write reports and to tidy up after the return, notices the arrival of the Company Commander’s Aide, Marchronis, and salutes while clicking his heels with a sound.
“Platoon Leader Setius has returned to base just now!” (Setius)
“Good work, Setius.” (Marchronis)
Marchronis is a man who has already entered the period of being past middle-aged. Several sword scars were etched into his face as if recounting the tales of his military service.
“The evil adherents, who abducted young girls from the pioneer’s villages, were completely subjugated. There are no losses among my platoon!” (Setius)
Marchronis revealed a satisfied smile more to the fact that there was no damage to the platoon than to the accomplishment of the evil adherents subjugation, but when he heard a loud voice from behind, his face turned sullen.
“You stupid, damned worms! Can’t you walk quickly!? Hurry, move your asses!”
The one shouting those insults was a corpulent, fat man. He is wearing a white and indigo-blue coloured priest garb, but not matter how you look at him, he doesn’t seem to be a clergyman. His appearance hints towards him being suited to talking about food or money-making schemes rather than preaching divine love.
While that priest is raising a shrill voice while sitting on a palanquin that is carried on the shoulders of two half-naked men, he brandishes the horse whip in his hand.
“See here, see here, Priest Mildas-dono. What happened for you to expressly come to a place like this?” (Marchronis)
Concealing his grimace, Marchronis greeted the priest in an exaggerated manner of speech.
Priest Mildas is called 「Pig」 and 「Wrinkled Toad」 by the soldiers inside the fortress, but despite that he is still the official campaign priest. On the continent where the authority of the Holy Faith is powerful, he is an opponent that even a general likely can’t take lightly, not to mention a company aide.
“No, not at all, Marchronis-dono. It’s about the evil adherents who have wronged the Holy Faith after all. For this pious servant of god it’s a serious affair. Unable to stand waiting any longer, this humble me had to come as soon as possible.” (Mildas)
Saying that, Mildas made his throat, sagging with fat, tremble as he laughed.
“So, I wonder, what happened to those abominable evil adherents?” (Mildas)
Setius ordered his subordinate to bring a small linen bag as well as a jar with a size that allows one to carry it under one’s arm.
First Setius unfastens the cord tying the bag, opens it and displays its contents.
A large amount of cut-off human ears were stuffed into the bag.
“We only brought their right ears as proof of having subjugated the evil adherents.” (Setius)
Since it would have been laborious to bring back the heads of all the evil adherents, they sliced off only their right ears instead.
Next Setius removes the lid of the jar, which was placed on the ground, and takes out the head which was pickled in salt.
“And, according to your esteemed instruction, the leader of the evil adherent. Pickled in salt as you can see.” (Setius)
Priest Mildas hits one of the men, who carried him on his shoulders, with the whip.
“Hurry up and lower the palanquin. You dullard!” (Mildas)
While leaking mumbled cries of pain, the man lowers the palanquin by going down on his knees. Once Mildas gets off the palanquin by using that man’s head as stepladder, he snatches the freshly severed head out of Setius’s hands and continues to take a long, hard look at it.
Setius drops a deeply sympathetic gaze at the man who collapsed on the ground, starting with his head which had been transformed into a stepladder. Countless fresh wounds of whip lashes are carved into the body of the man, who wore a sorry excuse of worn-out and tattered clothes, with red blood trickling down from several of those.
He thought that it was a cruel treatment no matter the fact of them being slaves, but once he looked properly, he saw that these men weren’t humans. Their height is that of human children, but dense beards are covering their faces and they have firm bodies. They were a species of demi-humans called dwarves.
With that being the case, he could even understand the priest’s way of handling them.
For the Holy Faith which advocates human supremacy, demi-humans are filthy, inferior species which should be weeded out as they are badly-done humans.
Mildas raised a joyous cheer in front of the severed head.
“Oooh! This is doubtlessly the head of the evil adherents’ leader! Well done! You did a great job!” (Mildas)
He returns the severed head into the jar as if it’s valuable, takes it under his arm and reveals a sloppy smile.
“I-I will bear responsibility for this head and take it back to the Holy City! Well, as expected of you, Marchronis-dono! It’s an achievement, quite an achievement!” (Mildas)
Marchronis realized that it doesn’t seem to be merely the head of a leader of evil adherents thanks to Mildas’s attitude, but he held back on that fact by bowing lightly without making a sound.
Since he’s finally in a good mood, there’s no need to shoo a snake out of the thicket by nudging it with something imprudent. After humouring him to our best abilities, I’d like him to depart the fortress as soon as possible was his true opinion.
And, according to Marchronis’s conjecture, the old man who was branded as leader of the evil adherents wasn’t just a simple old man either. As one of the three Arch Priests who governed the Holy Faith in the Holy City, this old man wielded influence as head of a prominent household until few years ago.
However, being defeated by a coup d’etat within the Holy Faith, he ran from the Holy City after having every single position and right stripped off him and was labelled with the stigma of an evil adherent alongside his clan.
How and from where did he acquire the information? Mildas, who knew that they had escaped to this area most recently, came up with the idea of killing the old man by using the soldiers of the fortress while acting as if this is god’s dearest wish.
Even though he was deprived of all authority, he was an old man who once stood at a place closest to the summit of the Holy Faith. For the Arch Priests who are currently controlling the Holy Faith, he was no more than a thorn in their side.
If I enter the Holy City while carrying that head, the Arch Priests’ feelings will be auspicious and I will be entrusted with a parish or, if I play my hand cleverly, even working in the Holy City isn’t a dream.
Setius called out to Mildas, who is showing a broad smile while imagining the fame he can obtain from this.
“Priest Mildas-dono, may I ask you one question?” (Setius)
Being disturbed in his precious daydreaming, Mildas answered while looking displeased,
“Yeah, yeah, I know. I will properly report your conspicuous service in this as well. Please don’t worry.” (Mildas)
“No, that’s not what I meant…”, Setius lowers his voice. “As a matter of fact, we discovered a suspicious boy in the den of the evil adherents.”
“Suspicious boy, you say? What stupid stuff are you on about? If he was in the den of the evil adherents, that guy is probably one of the evil adherents as well. All will be fine by you cutting off his head quickly.” (Mildas)
Due to Mildas scoffing while obviously making fun of him, Setius lowered his voice even further.
“Well, in fact, that boy seems to be a 『Divine Child』.” (Setius)
Upon those words, not only Mildas but even Marchronis, who silently listened at the side, had startled expressions.
“Just what kind of 『Divine Child』 is he?” (Mildas)
“Well, even though it’s embarrassing, as I don’t know what kind of 『Divine Child』 he is, I brought him to you as soon as possible to seek your esteemed opinion.” (Setius)
Mildas ridiculed him with 「Such foolishness」. Those who were chosen as a『Divine Child』 have a seal engraved somewhere on their bodies. Once one sees that seal, anyone will understand with a single glance what being chose that 『Divine Child』. Not knowing that is nothing but simple lack of knowledge.
Thinking that it won’t be difficult to exhibit his own superior knowledge to an ignorant fellow who is at the level of working as soldier in this remote region, Mildas had Setius guide him to the boy while putting on airs.
“This is the boy in question.” (Setius)
Setius pointed at a black-haired boy who was sleeping on the loading space.
Mildas knits his eyebrows. Even for him it was the first time to see a human who had this sort of black hair. Besides, this odd attire, what is that?
“And this is the 『Seal』.” (Setius)
Saying that, Setius cleared away the forelocks covering the boy’s forehead.
The figure similar to a combined 8 and ∞ shone faintly on the exposed forehead of the boy.
“Th-… This is?” (Mildas)
Mildas was stumped. Although he boasted grandly, the seal on the boy’s forehead was different from any of those he knows. As he definitely can’t say that he doesn’t know at this point, he decided to try talking his way out of this mess somehow, but once he looked once more at the seal, he felt like there was something stuck in some corner of his memories.
Let me see? It appears like I have seen this seal somewhere…?
“…! Ah, aaaahh!!” (Mildas)
Setius and Marchronis opened their eyes widely in surprise due to Mildas suddenly letting out a cry.
Mildas jumps on the palanquin while causing noisy sounds with his feet.
“Ma-Marchronis-dono! That boy is not allowed to get away! T-The detailed account will follow later!” (Mildas)
While saying that, he departed in great haste by spurring on the dwarven slaves with his whip.
The remaining Setius and Marchronis looked at each other while wondering what had happened just now.
The time when they are going to notice that the jar with the head of the evil adherents’ leader was forgotten at their feet will be a little bit later.
Once Mildas returned to his own allocated room, he began to comb through the books lined up in the bookshelves.
“This is wrong! That’s not the right one either! Where!? Where is it?!” (Mildas)
Tossing them off the bookshelves, the room was littered with nothing but pleasure and romance books that one wouldn’t possibly expect to be in the possession of a clergyman.
“God damn it! Where did I put it? — R-Right! It’s still stored in the luggage box!” (Mildas)
Next, he opened the lid of a dust-covered wooden box in the corner of his room and started to rummage through the things inside. Underneath stuff like icons, which were put in by breaking their wrists so that they could fit into the messy wooden box, and scriptures, which were as good as new as they had never actually been unwrapped, he found the book he was searching for.
Its title is 『Memorandum of Augusto』.
For the Holy Faith, the Messiah Innocent has been extolled as Son of God and as founder of the Holy Faith itself. It’s a book recording the conversations of Augusto, who was one of his disciples, with Innocent.
However, because he wrote down the livelihood, conduct and speech of Innocent too bluntly, it’s a book which has been labelled as apocrypha due to its inconvenience for the Holy Faith which deifies Innocent as Messiah and Son of God.
“I-If I remember correctly, somewhere in here…” (Mildas)
While licking his fat, horn-worm-like fingers, he flips through the pages.
“…! Found it!” (Mildas)
It’s the part recording the conversation of Messiah Innocent, who was finally able to appear in front of the God of Humans at the end of his asceticism spanning over two months.
In the middle of the three-day-long conversation there was a moment when the God of Humans left the venue for some reason. It’s said that a single little girl appeared from somewhere in front of Innocent.
In the holy scriptures, it’s written that devils came to disturb his conversation with god. Likewise, angels came to protect Innocent during the absence of the God of Humans; however, in the 『Memorandum of Augusto』 it had been recorded that 『Who came out from within the morning mist was a little girl with a mysterious seal shining on her forehead, I was told by teacher』.
This little girl threw several questions at Innocent, but to all of these questions Innocent answered with the unsightliness of the demi-humans, the superiority of the humans and the magnificence of the God of Humans, according to the memorandum.
Due to Innocent’s replies, the little girl only answered with 『You are quite the amusing human』 and vanished into the morning mist just like she appeared from within.
When the God of Humans returned after a little while, he asked Innocent whether anyone came to this place. Even while considering it strange that the great God of Humans didn’t notice the little girl from just now, he honestly told god about meeting her and the god was greatly perplexed.
While tracing the text with a trembling finger, Mildas read out loud.
“Teacher asked god about the identity of that little girl. And once he did so, I was told that the great God of Humans said following: 『She is the Goddess Aura who is my mother and my elder sister. You must not extol Aura. You must not show contempt for Aura. You must not speak about Aura. You must not be touched by Aura. You must not know about Aura.』” (Mildas)
Once he turned over the page, he found an illustration of the little girl said to have been drawn by Augusto as he listened to the story of Innocent. The seal which was drawn on the forehead of the little girl depicted in that illustration is exactly like the one which shone on the forehead of the boy from before.
It’s an eerie seal similar to two serpents biting each other’s tails while writhing and twining around each other, and also seems to be a joining of 8 and ∞.
“『The reason being; the Goddess Aura, who is my mother and elder sister, is the goddess governing over death and destruction』 !” (Mildas)
The book slips out of Priest Mildas’ hands with a rustling sound. While opening his eyes as widely as possible due to surprise, he pressed out his voice from within his dry throat as if squeezing it out,
“That boy is the 『Divine Child』 of the Goddess of Death and Destruction, Aura!” (Mildas)