Chapter 18 - Another Monastery
Nevertheless, Eli looked around for the monastery, muttering calmly as if he was tired of living.
Sighing, Edna took a cautious step toward the curious and despairing people standing on the bumpy road. She smiled and tried to talk to them, but they rushed to enter their garish houses as if they were running from a ghost.
Once the people heard Eli and Edna’s conversation, they belatedly realized who they were. They didn’t dare run away, however, so they simply froze. The people who had just begged the well-dressed pair for alms were now busy hiding, and Edna sighed. Eli’s presence alone was the incarnation of fear to them.
“Come this way,” she heard Eli call her and Edna hurried to catch up to him. Reaching his side, she saw Eli facing the crumbling monastery in astonishment. A moment later, three skinny, haggard-looking priests came up to the door to greet Eli, and he asked, “What the hell is this all about?”
“We are starving ourselves in order to pay for our sins.” One of the priests answered.
“What sins? Do priests sin, too? Oh, are you talking about the sin of fornicating?” Eli sneered at them.
The priests’ faces distorted at Eli’s rude remarks.
“No, we are guilty of making God angry. Why would you say such a blasphemous thing, my lord?” Abbot Noel asked in a polite but reproachful tone.
Eli shrugged and replied, “I’m thinking of having a wedding. So if you qualify as a marriage officiant, then I’d like to leave it to you.”
The abbot smiled coldly at Eli’s curt words and said, “What would your lordship do for this monastery if I hold your matrimonial rites as the abbot?”
“What? Are you asking me to pay a price?”
“If your lordship allows it, I would like to raise donations with the authority given to the monastery. Don’t we also have to make a living?” Abbot Noel said in a rigid tone.
It was a very brazen remark. What kind of donations could he gather from this desolate town? Eli squinted his eyes at the absurdity he was hearing and reached out for the long sword tied around his waist. Seeing that, the priests’ faces paled.
While roaming the battlefield, Eli had seen many horrible things. Among them were the priests who borrowed the name of God to beg for mercy. But instead of helping others, they tightly locked the monastery gates and monopolized the food and water. Eli wanted to puke each time he witnessed a citizen desperately beating down the doors of a monastery with bloodied hands while carrying a fleeting hope of receiving God’s mercy and salvation.
These priests were no different. It infuriated Eli to hear that they wanted the authority to extort from people who had nothing to offer no matter how hard they got squeezed to save the monastery.
At the sound of a sword leaving its scabbard, Abbot Noel quickly backpedaled. He felt something trickle down his cheek and, in reflex, raised a hand to touch his face. His complexion whitened upon seeing crimson blood on his hands.
“You’re trying to get your stomachs full instead of comforting the despairing people. Did you ask what I would do for you? Can you guess?” Eli glared at each of them, the threat in his voice sending chills down the priests’ spines. “Right now, I’ll spare your worthless lives. However, the length of your life expectancy henceforth will depend on how well you perform your role as servants of God. Is there anything else you want?”
The priests had turned into stone statues, unable to say anything as their teeth chattered in utmost fear. They didn’t dare even open their eyes properly before Eli, lest he decided to end their lives at once.
Up to this point, Edna had stood still behind Eli. His swordsmanship was astounding. Clean and beautiful enough to send shivers down her spine. His one blow was absolutely unavoidable. Perhaps Edna herself wouldn’t have been able to exhibit such uncanny precision.
The priests’ ludicrous demand to Eli had devastated Edna. Back when she had first run away, she too had tried to hide in a monastery. But they knew Edna was broke and refused to accept her. In contrast, when she went to the monastery as Anna’s maid, they gladly welcomed the coins Anna had brought.
Edna was well aware of their shallow faith in money. Disillusioned by their selfish beliefs, they paid heed neither to the hungry nor the sick. Now they shook in fear before Eli.
Eli addressed Abbot Noel once more, conscious of Edna’s breathless presence right behind him. “Will you be able to carry out your job now?”
“Yes? What do you mean?”
“The wedding…!” With an ear-shattering roar, the thoroughly angered Eli grabbed Abbot Noel by the collar. Edna took the chance to step in and restrain Eli.
“This is God’s servant. You shouldn’t handle him so roughly. Please quench your anger, your lordship. It’s all because of this situation where everyone is starving. No one can be benevolent in the face of hunger.”
Edna’s calm voice, like a steady stream of water, washed over Eli’s anger and entered his ears. Gently, she put her hand on Eli’s stout forearm that was still grabbing Abbot Noel’s collar.
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