Episode 216

The Start Of Suspicion
3 weeks ago
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Felji was the Head Priest of Priyas Holy Kingdom.

He still harbored suspicions.

‘To endure such hardship with a smile… there must be some trick behind it.’

However, it was not feasible to assign a guardian to a distinguished guest.

Lost in thought in his room, trying to find a way out, he summoned one of his successors.

Soon after, a knock sounded, announcing someone’s arrival, and a man entered.

“I heard you called for me. What’s the matter, Head Priest Felji?”

“I need to discuss something about the guests from Gaia Holy Kingdom.”

“A discussion? Did the guests request something?”

“No… I wish they had, but instead, they ask for nothing.”

“Hmm… Even though they are saints chosen by Goddess Gaia, they are still young. Yet they follow the path of hardship well, without any complaints… Isn’t that remarkable?”

When the conversation seemed to veer off track, Head Priest Felji shook his head.

“No, that’s not what I mean.”

The successor tilted his head in confusion.

“Then what are you trying to say?”

“…I’ll put it indirectly. Please understand.”

“No problem.”

He scratched his head for a moment, then picked up a pair of worn leather shoes.

The shoes, worn out from extensive use, looked quite pitiful.

Felji pointed at the shoes and said,

“These are the leather shoes worn during the ordeal a week ago. What do you think?”

Without a second thought, the successor replied,

“It was certainly tough.”

“Exactly. Normally, one would show signs of exhaustion, right?”

“…Yes, but…”

“It seems there are those who don’t show any.”

Realizing what Felji was implying, the man understood.

“Are you suspecting that the guests from Gaia Holy Kingdom used some sort of trick?”

“Bluntly put, yes.”

“To doubt saints… That’s inappropriate.”

“No. There are several suspicious aspects… Perhaps some investigation is necessary.”

“Are you serious?”

The man had reached the position of Head Priest through his exceptional intuition.

The successor knew this all too well.

If Felji was this concerned, it likely was more than just a hunch.

“Hmm… How do you plan to conduct the investigation?”

“We can’t monitor the two saints directly, but we can instruct the accompanying knights and priests to report their actions.”

“I see… That seems reasonable without crossing the line.”

“That’s what I think too. The final ordeal will be in the southern region of the Heprian Mountains, so we can keep an eye on them while we’re there.”

“The southern part of the Heprian Mountains? Isn’t that where a new lordship was established recently?”

“It might be a bit of a hassle, but not a major concern. We’ll divide into four groups and cover different areas.”

“…If you say so, but please be extra careful with the two saints’ safety.”

“Hahaha. You worry too much, unlike your usual self. Do you fancy those two young saints?”

Teased by the Head Priest, the man’s ears turned red.

“No, no! I’m just concerned that if harm comes to the guests of the Gaia Holy Kingdom, it would trouble the Priyas Holy Kingdom…”

“Hahaha. Understood. I get your point. Now, you may leave.”

With a tone that seemed pleased, Felji dismissed the man, who left the room shaking his head.

Of course, he didn’t forget to add one more thing.

“Please don’t misunderstand. It’s absolutely not like that.”

The atmosphere was akin to speaking with a close younger sibling.

Thud—

As the door closed and the sound of footsteps in the corridor faded, Felji’s expression grew more severe.

“Huff!”

He covered his mouth with his hand and exhaled deeply.

Struggling to breathe, he took large and small breaths, staring blankly at the ground.

How many minutes passed in this way?

Gradually regaining his composure, he used the desk to support himself.

His condition hadn’t improved.

“…Cure.”

The warm touch of divine power enveloped him, and yellow light seeped into his body.

“This should help me last another week…”

As the pain in his chest subsided, he slumped down in his chair.

He clasped his hands and closed his eyes.

Through the window, his silhouette, praying to the gods, was visible.


“Heading back into the mountains…”

“It’s the last ordeal, so it can’t be helped. At least camping should be bearable, right?”

Nodding in agreement with Iriel’s words, they exchanged light greetings and dispersed to their respective forces.

Ray was headed to the western mountains.

For the journey, they formed four groups to divide the participants, separating him from Iriel for this ordeal.

He shouldered his backpack and looked at the knights.

“Let’s set off, then.”

“Yes, understood.”

“You know that even though the western mountains are said to be safe, we still need to be vigilant, right?”

“We’re fully aware. You don’t have to worry about the saints.”

Encouraged by the knight captain’s confident words, he checked the number of selected knights.

Counting those lined up behind him, there seemed to be slightly over fifty.

‘About sixty, then.’

That should be enough to handle any forest monsters.

Just as he was about to set off after checking the formation, a messenger approached.

“Greetings to the saints.”

“What is it?”

“Head Priest Felji asked me to inform you before you head to the mountains. In the southern part of the Heprian Mountains where you’re going, there’s a monster lord.”

“A monster lord?”

His puzzled expression prompted the messenger to continue.

“It’s a creature that controls monsters in the area regardless of species, like a monster tamer.”

“That sounds troublesome, doesn’t it?”

“That’s why we deployed more knights to the southern mountains. Encounters with monster lords are rare, but they are powerful.”

“If something happens in the forest, can you come back and let me know?”

“I don’t think it’ll be as worrisome as you think, but if there’s an unexpected problem, I’ll rush back first.”

“Please do.”

After the messenger bowed and left, the group heading to the western mountains started to move.

Ray, surrounded by his entourage in the middle of the group, was deep in thought.

‘A monster lord… That sounds ominous…’

Even in the Holy Kingdom, there had been times when monsters swarmed.

It was as if someone had commanded them.

He had felt the power of the monsters, both large and small, swarming together, so his concern was not unfounded.

That’s why he had told the messenger to inform him if anything happened.

The southern group consisted of sixty knights and twenty priests.

Even if monsters swarmed, there were enough people to send at least one messenger.

He looked back at the southern group and then turned his head away.

“There shouldn’t be any problems.”


As soon as they arrived at the mountain range, they began to cut down trees.

They needed to make a large tent.

The knights, now somewhat accustomed to Ray, followed his orders well.

“Leave that here. It’s better to trim it for assembly later.”

“Understood.”

The knights began to trim the logs they had brought with daggers pulled from their thighs.

They carved a flat surface on the wood, made a groove, and drew a long line next to it, creating excellent assembly timber.

When the timber was fitted into the opposing grooves, the frame of the tent was roughly completed.

They covered it with usable leaves and used a hand drill to light a fire.

The process, like observing a naturalist who had lived in the mountains, amazed the knights.

“You are truly remarkable.”

“Such excellent camping skills.”

Receiving praise was like a buff for Ray, tripling his efficiency.

He set about preparing the campsite with determination, and a splendid camping site was quickly established.

Across the campfire, there was an assembled wooden table and a nature-friendly tent that looked comfortable for sleeping.

It seemed good enough for more than a month, not just a week.

It had turned into a vacation in the forest rather than an ordeal.

A knight approached and reported.

“Saint, the perimeter has been reinforced.”

“Set a watch in the direction of the southern mountains too, in case a messenger comes.”

“I apologize, but we lack the personnel for that. With a total of 64, it’s difficult to cover the southern mountains as well.”

“How about supplementing from the western boundary’s personnel?”

“That’s not negotiable. We can’t compromise your safety.”

The knight, continuing the conversation, pointed south.

“You don’t need to worry too much. Though there’s a monster lord in the southern mountains, over sixty mana-using knights are there, supported by priests. Even if various species attack, we can withstand it.”

“Using mana or not, monsters in a swarm are not easy to handle. Protecting the messenger in such a situation won’t be easy.”

“There’s also a saintess in the east, so if we just watch the south, it should be fine.”

Convinced by the seasoned forest dweller’s words, Ray nodded and stepped back.

“Then please pay more attention to the south.”

“Understood.”

As the knight left, Ray comfortably sat at the table and opened a book.

Despite the unease, what could he do?

Excluding those needed for guarding, few were left.

These few also served as his escort troops, leaving him with no alternatives.

Still, the likelihood of a battle in the southern mountains was very low.

With over eighty people, a monster lord would think twice before attacking such a large group.

If, however, the monsters did attack, it would be quite troublesome.

The terrain itself advantaged the monsters.

“Better be cautious, just in case.”

He expanded his mana perception, focusing on the southern part of the Heprian Mountains.

Should anything pass by, he would detect the movement.

After making several preparations, he covered his face with the book and fell asleep.

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