Chapter 56.1 : Temple of Love and Beauty
◆Dark Knight Kuroki
I went to Teseshia along with Shirone and the rest of the company.
Freedom City, located in the heart of the Teseshia region wasn’t a beautiful city.
It was basically a jumble of assorted structures. The patchwork of the various buildings in one small place resembled an old, frayed quilt.
Synonymous with its name, everyone could enter or leave the city as they pleased.
Some of its citizens seemed to be individuals exiled from their homelands, naturally the public order in Teseshia was quite low.
Initially, Teseshia was a city created to accommodate the influx of refugees who came to this fairly safe region.
Even though the city was founded by the prosperous and prominent Republic of Ariadya, there was no doubt that even they regarded this city as a nuisance.
Anyhow, Teseshia was the only city settled near the dangerous labyrinth, making it the ideal place to escape to. Thus, Teseshia became an oasis for refugees.
Although Teseshia was a safe haven from external dangers, it was teeming with internal issues, creating a dangerous atmosphere within the city. To this end, many male refugees chose to become freedom fighters. Rather, they were forced to take that job since there was a serious dearth of options. There was practically no other job available.
Anyone, regardless of their background and level of skill, could become a freedom fighter as long as they had a sword and a healthy body.
Driven to desperation, some of the female refugees decided to become prostitutes in order to survive.
It was also a job any woman could perform as long as they had a decent, healthy body.
Those harlots were usually members of Ishtar’s faith.
The Goddess Ishtar was part of the trio that formed the renowned heavenly beauties along with Rena and the Goddess Faeria. She was an essential part of the twelve pillars of Elios
The type of religion in this world was polytheism, with the humans revering the various Gods of Elios.
The twelve pillars of Elios were composed of
I recalled myths about various god that were told by the human race :
１．God of Law and Order, Oudith and his wife, Goddess of Marriage and Fertility, Faeria.
２．God of Treasure and the Smithy, Heibos and Goddess of Love and Beauty, Ishtar.
３．God of Fishery and the Sea, Trident and Goddess of Harvest and the Earth, Gena.
４．God of Cuisine and Liquor, Nector and Goddess of Herb and Medicine, Fanacea.
５．God of Battle and Power, Thors and Goddess of Wisdom and Victory, Rena.
６．God of the Arts and Music , Alphos and Goddess of Books and Knowledge, Totona.
Heibos was revered by the dwarves and the humans both.
Due to his role as the god of wealth and treasure, he was intrinsically connected to the human race, who loved collecting beautiful and precious objects.
Members of the dwarven race were said to be said to be intimately familiar with the process of unearthing gold or other precious metals hidden under layers of hard ground. That’s why it was commonly believed amongst the humans that worshipping Heibos, the god of dwarves, would bless you with bounty and wealth.
Heibo’s faith was so widespread that merchants and craftsmen all over the world worshipped him.
The other gods that were part of Elios’ pantheon were not as well known amongst the humans.
The followers of the King of the Gods Oudith and his wife, Faeria were the most numerous, making their faiths the most popular and second largest in the realm respectively.
It was apparent that an individual could be a devotee of multiple gods simultaneously, due to the frequent observation of people who were followers of both Oudith and Rena at the same time.
However, some doctrines were in direct opposition with each other. Tension bubbled under the surface due to the major differences in their views.
For example, the followers of the goddess Faeria and the goddess Ishtar. Since their creeds were fundamentally very different, the believers of these two faiths always had animosity brewing between them.
Where Faeria’s faith prospered, the number of Ishtar’s believers decreased.
Although both religions referred to a goddess, the theology of both goddesses differed greatly.
Faeria’s doctrine centered around the tenets of a woman being a good wife and mother.
Meanwhile, Ishtar’s doctrine was the polar opposite of that, not even upholding the concept of marriage.
Faeria’s religion taught it’s followers that chastity was a virtue, a treasure reserved for their husbands in the sanctity of marriage while Ishtar’s followers believed it was alright to take numerous lovers- thus, she was the goddess worshipped by harlots. Faeria’s devotees, on the other hand, were pure as freshly fallen snow.
This was the main root of the conflict between Faeria and Ishtar’s ideologies.
The Goddess Ishtar and Goddess Faeria’s followers were always at each other’s throats. Due to this they rarely became popular and acclaimed in different countries.
Even at their most successful, they would only achieve the status of the patron saint of that country.
In the region of Teseshia, Ishtar’s faith had considerable power and influence. So much so that the Saintly harlot of the famous Ishtar temple built in the exalted Holy Salgonia Kingdom in the far west was more famous than their King.
I was currently inside of that very Ishtar temple of the freedom city, Teseshia.
The explanation for the particularly odd choice of meeting place was that one of Rena’s priests who would serve as our guide happened to be here.
From this situation, I came to the conclusion that Ishtar’s disciples and Rena’s disciples weren’t on bad terms.
Ishtar temple might be the most prominent building in this city. Ishtar’s temple might have been the most eminent building in Freedom City.
「The conflict won’t settle down, huh….」
I unintentionally uttered those words under my breath.
The site of our conclave, the illustrious temple of Ishtar was a shrine to the multifaceted deity who was the icon of love, beauty and courtesans. Along the way towards the conference situated deep within the temple’s enclosure, I saw several scantily clad women. They probably were some of Ishtar’s devotees.
Ironically, the temple of the Goddess Ishtar was a place forbidden to men, despite the fact that many followers in the temple were prostitutes.
The inns around Ishtar’s temple might exist for that kind of fishy business.
Though they shouldn’t provide explicit services in the middle of the day, I began to doubt my assumption when I heard them say that the rendezvous location was akin to a love hotel.
It seemed that Ishtar’s temple used to be a brothel once.
Of course, the manager was a man.
Once, one of Ishtar’s apostles happened to be visiting the brothel and was appalled, nearly flying into a furious frenzy upon witnessing the abusive treatment of the courtesans.
Led by Ishtar’s apostle, the prostitutes rebelled against the pimp and assumed control over the brothel.
From that point of time onwards, the brothels fell under the management of Ishtar’s Temple. The brothels’ management by the temple was more lax than one would generally assume.
The temple and the brothels had a relationship of mutual aid.
For the most part, they allowed the brothels a great deal of freedom, only enforcing 2 rules – no woman should be forced to become a harlot and those who abuse harlots would be severely punished.
Additionally, anyone who acted unjustly against disciples of the goddess Ishtar were said to bear the goddess’s curse of impotency. With the looming threat of ending their bloodline and legacy, no man dared to abuse Ishtar’s harlots. Rather, they were treated as if they were goddesses themselves. This particular temple belonging to the goddess Ishtar was splendidly built, its ornate designs funded by the generous donations of the patrons – in actuality the gentlemen who were their customers. When we were walking through the temple, I caught glimpses of gilded illustrations of the goddess and ornaments which seemed as beautiful and delicate as the women who resided here.
「Kuroki. You absolutely mustn’t follow one of these women if they call out to you.」
I sensed a sharp glare from the left and looked over to see Shirone whispering to me in a low voice, her face stormy.
I had no intention to follow them from the beginning, However the atmosphere of this place made me curious as to who would choose such a strange meeting place.
The mysterious person in question was none other than Rena’s priest who maintained a favorable rapport with the authorities of the Ishtar temple. The reason for this alliance was due to the fact that Rena had no temple in Teseshia dedicated to her.
This might have been because Rena’s temple had been built so lavishly in other city states including the Republic of Ariadya, which had a strenuous relationship with Teseshia.
Throughout the expanse of the city, you would not be able to find a single temple dedicated to the Goddess Faeria due to the apparent animosity between their followers.
「Yes. I will be angry if you take their invitation you know.」
On my right, Rena warned me, her beautiful face somber.
Why would she give the same warning as Shirone?
The thick dark cloth of the hood cast shadows on what portions of her face were visible. Things would get chaotic and complicated if the others got to know that she had descended into the mortal realm so she kept her head low and her countenance neutral, hiding her face.
She was currently accompanied by her combat priest and the priest of her temple – flanked by two apostles of her Valkyrie.
Such an entourage, trailing after her gave her an aura of importance and leadership. She was considered no less than a VIP. In fact she exuded the aura to a point where some of the harlots began whispering amongst themselves quickly. “Who is that eminent person? “ They gossiped furiously amongst themselves when they saw Rena.
I should try to make myself less conspicuous
The premise under which we were concealing my identity was that I, Kyouka’s valet, was escorting her to the temple. Such an important individual like the hero’s younger sister could not go unaccompanied after all.
To blend in and maintain my cover, I wore slightly threadbare clothing and carried her luggage. Naturally, I left my sword behind. I would have been an idiot to carry something so conspicuous when I was going undercover. This disguise should be convincing enough to deflect attention from myself.
The secret was kept under tight wraps.The truth of my identity was only known to Kaya, Kyouka and Shirone. Not even the convoy of priests accompanying Rena were told of my identity.
According to Rena, the priests who were escorting her until our arrival numbered in the hundreds, which established the need for a spacious and enormous conference room.
Also, though Regena was also part of our current company during our journey to Teseshia, she went to oversee the delivery of our luggages to the inn where we planned to stay tonight.
The reason being that the temple of Ishtar wouldn’t offer shelter to non-believers.
Men could technically stay on the temple premises so long as they had been recognized and granted permission beforehand. However, until now, there had never been such a case.
Thus, we chose an inn near the temple, merely a few moments away.
The purveyor of Rena’s temple-someone called Tormalkis, was apparently the one who arranged our lodging.
We arrived in the sought after room after walking along the lengthy corridor for a while. The room was very wide and spacious, it seemed to function as the temple’s multi-purpose auditorium.
The men and women gathered there were dressed in shabby and frayed clothing, a couple of them sported fresh scars, They readjusted their posture, standing at attention when we entered the room. They looked like freedom fighters. Were these people the guides prepared for us?
I felt a strange nagging feeling when I looked at the freedom fighters. It was odd, I mused surveying their numbers, there were more of them present than I had expected.
Did they know who would be coming beforehand? If so, then how?
In the foremost portion of the crowd stood the combat priest, Leylia. The shield she was carrying was etched with Rena’s crest. With the exception of two men, all of her companions were women.
Someone who appeared masculine amongst the other women, how were they related to Ishtar Temple ?
「We’ve been waiting. Kyouka-sama, Shirone-sama.」
Laylia, the highly decorated combat priest knelt down on one knee in front of Kyouka.
It seemed as if Kyouka was regarded as the leader of our group.
How queer. Leylia should’ve realized Rena’s presence in our company due to her apostle status. Instead, she kneeled in front of Kyouka, due to the order of the angel who had turned her into an apostle.