“You’re smart, cool, and have a boring personality, but you’re pretty and even got money. Isn’t that the kind of background a hundred guys would love?”
“……Drink your tea.”
Lancia smirked as Eisel sipped her tea and replied bluntly. It was funny how Eisel’s reaction usually came whenever she complimented her, and Lancia often said things like that.
“I’m bored nowadays. My parents never come home, and Eisel is too busy to drink tea. There’s something I miss about the old days. After class, we’d go to the market together and have fun……a!”
Lancia, who had mumbled slowly while stirring her teacup, opened her eyes wide. Aisel narrowed her eyes in a short gasp, and Lancia jerked her upper body forward.
“Did you hear that?”
It was a very careful voice, lowered to a whisper. Eisel calmly tilted her teacup and spoke softly with wet lips.
“I suppose you’ll have to tell me what that story is about first.”
Eisel’s eyes widened, unimpressed. Most of the things she discussed were about Basquiella. She’d been involved with Basquiela since childhood, and she owed much of who she is today to their support, especially Bahidman.
“Gerald’s son, Raven, if you remember.”
“I know. It’s strange that I don’t remember.”
‘How could I forget after all that trouble? It was still fresh in my mind.’
But why would he? Lancia frowned as Eisel looked at her questioningly.
“Seven years ago,” she said, “Gerald was exiled to Basquiella when he inherited the earldom, but I heard Gerald died not long ago.”
“Yes. He died so quietly, asleep in his bedroom, that everyone was surprised. Many say he died of an illness he suffered from, but there are other rumors circulating in Yinji.”
Lancia glanced around and spoke in a small voice.
“Raven killed him.”
Lancia nodded slowly.
“There were stories that he switched Gerald’s medication, or that she saw Raven coming out of his bedroom when he died.”
“Aren’t those rumors true? I don’t care how much you want to kill your own father…….”
“Yeah, but the rumors say they were on rough terms, enough that everyone thought it could be true.”
Eisel’s brow narrowed as Lancia continued her slow tale.
Raven and Gerald didn’t seem like a normal father-son relationship. Their relationship was less than stellar, and Eisel wondered if that was the case.
Sipping her tea and picturing Raven and Gerald’s faces, Eisel shook her head slowly.
“Forget it. Not even close.”
“Doesn’t it bother you though?”
Eisel replied bluntly, tilting her teacup. She’d be lying if she said it didn’t bother her, but it wasn’t enough to interfere with her work.
Eisel smirked as she lowered her teacup.
‘I’d rather talk about something else.’
It didn’t matter what happened to Raven.
* * *
Believers in world destruction and apocalypticism have been everywhere, throughout the ages. They spoke of divine judgment, world destruction, and other strange things. With the arrival of warm imperial winds and the appearance of unseen demons that would not go away, these people decided it was time to get active again.
Even if it was nonsense, some believed it because of the situation. They formed cults and even paid money to them.
And among these cults, Eisel stood out like a sore thumb.
“People, the end of the world is coming! Look at the sky! It used to be clear and warm, but now it’s full of snow and cold, and dark clouds cover the sky. Your grain is cold and shriveled, and the trees aren’t tall enough for firewood. I realize that the clothes you’re wearing have been worn for years. All this misery is the end of the world, and it is judgment!”
In the middle of the huge auditorium, a lot of people mumbled something as they looked at the man shouting at the top of his lungs. The man looked at them, spreading out his palms and giving them power in his eyes.
“But fear not, for judgment has come, for those of you here will be saved by the great Akrada, and on the day of judgment, you will be saved.”
What nonsense. If God is so busy, he’ll remember everyone here by name and save them.
But people believed it. It’s the way the world is, so of course you want to believe it, but others had other reasons.
“As proof, I’ve brought you this much grain and cloth today!”
“All of this, my friends, is by the grace of the most powerful God, Akrada, and the product of your faith in him to save you!”
“I believe, I believe!!!”
“Oh, Oh! What a small group of believers! Keep faith in Akradah and wait and believe. Faith will lead to salvation and bring you out of hell. Please come up one by one. Take the grain and the covering that I have prepared for you. Take as much as you can, for there is plenty.”
A crowd of fanatics rushed for grain. But the prepared paladins skillfully controlled the crowd, distributing the grain and cloth prepared in advance. The man, watching the scene, looked at the offerings and jewelry they brought. The man nodded at the people.
“Come on, be careful. Don’t get hurt. You are a member of the Keleum Cult. If anyone asks you who you are, tell them you follow Keleum. Oh, you can believe in other denominations. Were polytheistic.”
Watching from afar as the man smiled, Eisel slowly raised his mouth corner. Unfolding her gently crossed arms, Eisel turned her head. Ninetail and Bethmere, who had been watching the scene from the sidelines, turned their heads in amusement.
“What do you think?”
“Where did you get someone like that?”
Moving people with a single word was not easy. It was a gift that made a politician famous.
“He is a former con artist.”
“A con man?”
“So I got this guy who was wanted, and he was caught crossing the border, and he was in jail.”
“Is there any chance he could run away or hide the money elsewhere?”
“Not likely. He’s a money maniac, but he values his life very highly. We caught him running a couple of times and tortured him, so now he’s given up and is doing his job the way he can. They pay him well, so he doesn’t seem to have any complaints these days, and besides, look at him.”
Bethmere stretched out a finger and pointed to the man who was talking excitedly.
“That guy, that’s his job. Getting up in front of thousands of people like that.
Pretending to be a priest in front of thousands like that.
“So don’t worry about it.”
“Good. I’m glad I asked Bethmere to do it.”
“Thank you, Ms. Eisel.”
Bethmere still believed Eisel was a messenger of God. He’d had his doubts, but they’d been put to rest when he’d seen the man make so much money at such a young age.
Eisel looked away from Bethmere and looked down at the people receiving grain and cloth. The relief effort had been carried on for months now, and thankfully it had found the right people and was stabilizing. Bethmere glanced at Eisel, who was looking down at the people with her arms crossed, and then opened his mouth cautiously.
“But, Ms. Eisel.”
Eisel’s red eyes soften. Bethmere bowed his head, lowering his body slightly.
“Why are you doing this? If you want to make money, why do you have to do this when someone who wants to buy your grain comes to you with a box of gold coins?”
They were considered demigods by the Keleum. He was worshipped by those who lied and betrayed, and any denomination that claimed to follow him was ostracized and treated as a heresy.
Furthermore, all of Eisel’s businesses were legitimate businesses that operated within the law. A business that created a cult and used puppets was unacceptable.
“What I always emphasize is that there shouldn’t be any riots.”
Eisel held the fan in her hand to her chin. Her eyelashes fluttered along with the fan’s gentle tapping.
“Riots don’t happen because the world ends. They happen because people are starving and hopeless, and if they do, the empire, which should be busy dealing with demons, distracts its soldiers. To stop them. And people are more realistic than animals you might think.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I’d rather believe in a god who gives me bread than a god who just gives me faith, so in that sense, this denomination fits.”
Giving them hope of saving the world, giving them grain, clothing, shelter from cold and hunger, that’s enough to keep them from rioting.
“Other denominations will try to label us as heretical and ostracize us, but it doesn’t matter, they’ll dissolve in time, because what we need is not a denomination, but for those people not to riot.”
“But we’ve had many nobles approaching us lately.”
Bethmere nodded, his face grim.