Having heard the Priestess saying that she had a favor to ask, Riley tilted his head to the side and asked her back.
“Yes, a favor.”
The flow of the conversation felt like something that he had experienced somewhere before. Finding it suspicious, he glared at Priesia. Before hearing what she had to say next, he warned her,
“If you are going to ask me something weird like the last time, won’t it be better for you to just keep it to yourself? I clearly warned you last time, didn’t I?”
The situation now felt similar to the one which happened in the Solia Castle’s restroom during last spring. That’s why Riley warned her.
“Instead of pestering me, it would be better for you to go and look for someone els…”
“N… No! It’s not like that!”
Concerned that she would be refused before even having the chance to explain what it was that she wanted to ask for, she said that this favor was not like the one she had asked before. She promptly went to the main point.
“Excuse me… Young Master, are you currently traveling?”
It seemed that she remembered the deadly threat from last spring. She was not able to look at Riley in the eyes. With cowering voice, she asked.
Riley frowned and asked back,
“What about it?”
“If you are traveling, I was hoping… if you could allow me to tag along with you.”
Riley’s eyebrows rose in surprise. He had dumbfounded look on his face. He walked to Priesia as if he was daring her to say it again.
“Excuse me, Young Master, still, she is the Priestess…”
“Do you realize you look like a complete dirtbag thug?”
Noticing Riley glaring at Priesia with violent look on his face, Nara and Rorona pulled Priesia behind their backs. It was kind of like the woodcutters hiding the deer from an evil poacher.
“It’s not like that. What’s all this? I just looked her, that’s all.”
After watching Nara and Rorona pulling Priesia behind them, Riley shrugged and said they were overreacting. However, the two mercenaries shook their head and retorted,
“Just looked at her? You looked like you were going to eat her alive?”
“Won’t it be more accurate to say you were glaring at her?”
Having heard their retort, Riley shrugged once again. He slowly turned his head and clicked his tongue. He wasn’t liking this at all.
In fact, Riley didn’t like the Priestess named Priesia.
It didn’t matter how pretty her face was. It didn’t matter how kind her heart was either…
Regardless of those factors, it was all because of the Priestess he met in his past life.
Although he knew very well that Priesia was a different person from the Priestess he knew from his past life… And although he was well aware that she was different in every aspects, her face, appearance, personality and even the Goddess she worshiped… Riley couldn’t just smile and tell her ‘ah, is that so?’
“To start with, don’t you think it is ridiculous that she is saying she wants to follow me? She is currently a member of the Lightning Boulder Mercenary. She thinks she can just leave as she wishes?”
Riley turned and looked at the three again and tsked. Nara scratched his cheek and glanced at Priesia to check her mood.
“Well, since I am the Commander of the group, I have the authority to decide on letting a member go, but… If it is the Priestess we are talking about, don’t you think that changes the situation a bit?”
Having heard what Nara said, Riley started to glare at Priesia again.
“Wow, you sure get lots of sweet treatment from everyone. Maybe I should become a Priestess too?”
“No… Young Master, not everyone can become Priestess, you know. Before that, to start with, your gender is going to be a problem…”
Riley kicked his tongue again.
“So? Why are you saying you want to follow me?”
It was not going to be about killing a demon lord, beating up a dragon or saving the world. Anyway, since this favor was not one of those kinds, Riley decided to endure it once. He thought to himself that he won’t endure it for the second time as he asked.
“Ah, yes! That is… There was a divine message.”
“A divine message?”
Having heard the words, his eyebrows twitched once.
“Around last week, I received a new divine message… I think I should follow you and Nainiae.”
A divine message… Priesia had just brought up one of the reasons why Riley hated Priestesses. Riley didn’t liking this. He furrowed his brows and asked what the message was.
“The message said I should follow the child of the black butterfly.”
“Child of the black butterfly?”
[TL: Due to ambiguity of Korean wordings, this could also mean a child who is a black butterfly.]
Riley tilted his head to the side. Nainiae, who left the scene a while ago to get some tea, just returned and said,
“If you are talking about the child of the black butterfly…”
Nainiae blurred the end of the sentence because she had a guess on what this could mean. Nainiae looked at Riley. Priesia nodded and said what Nainiae didn’t.
“Yes, I’m talking about Nainiae.”
To give supplementary explanation to Riley, she whispered to Riley in the ear,
“I think she must be talking about what happened in the dream.”
Last time, Riley heard from Nainiae about the dream where the black butterfly appeared. It seemed Riley had already guessed that this was about the dream. He nodded.
“Still, Priestess… If it is Nainiae who you need to follow, doesn’t that mean you don’t need to ask the Young Master for permission in particular?”
“Now that I think about it, that’s true… Why are you asking Young Master Riley? You can just ask Nainiae.”
“Still, he is the one who Nainiae serves, so in the end, I thought I should get his permission, so…”
“In that case, that even more reason for you to ask Nainiae first. Asking Nainiae first would have made the conversation faster.”
“Pardon? That would be faster? What do you mean?”
Riley was exchanging whispers with Nainiae. He could also hear the three talking in front of him. Annoyed, Riley crumpled his face.
“These guys, seriously…”
“Rorona, I was wrong. We can’t say things like that. After all, Nainiae is Young Master Riley’s maid.”
Nara slowly directed his gaze to the side. Rorona felt betrayed. With hardened face, she glared at her Commander, who made excuses that really weren’t excuses.
“A… Anyway… Priestess seems to be determined to follow Nainiae as the divine message said. I don’t plan to object to this, and…”
Feeling Rorona’s gaze, Nara was avoiding it and pretending as if he didn’t notice. He went back to the main point.
“Well, to start with, we are a small group, so I guess we will really feel Isen’s absence when Priestess leaves. His empty seat will feel bigger.”
Nara thought about what it would be like with Priesia gone. There will be just two people left in the mercenary group. Nara had a sad look on his face.
“With just two, I think it would be a bit odd to call it a mercenary group, right? I guess we should call ourselves a duo from now on.”
Rorona relaxed her face and added in gloomy voice.
The mood became melancholy at that instant. Even Riley and Nainiae were unable to open their mouths easily. Nara slapped his lap hard and said,
“Anyway, I don’t have any objection in particular. I know that joining our mercenary group was a temporary measure for the Priestess to stay in hiding, but… I was proud to have her in our group. As proud as I was, I was also feeling the weight of the responsibilities and burden.”
“I also don’t have any objections.”
“Commander, Ms. Rorona…”
Nara looked at Priesia and shrugged. Nara asked toward Nainiae,
“Ms. Nainiae, what about you?”
He was asking if it would be all right with Nainiae to have Priesia follow her.
“I am not sure.”
Nainiae scratched her cheek and hesitated on answering. It seemed Nara and Rorona were surprised to see this. They opened their eyes big and exchanged looks with each other.
They expected Riley would refuse and say it would be such a bother. However, they thought Nainiae would gladly allow it. However, instead, Nainiae was taking a moment and thinking hard about this. They never thought Nainiae would do this.
If it was before, Nainiae would have said ‘Of course, if you are okay with following me.’ However, Nainiae was agonizing over this right now because of the memories from Riley’s past life that were contained within Nainiae’s head.
‘Will it be all right?’
Unlike before, Nainiae had come to understand very well just how much Riley hated and loathed the Priestess from his past life, so… Nainiae was hesitating from promptly saying ‘it will be all right for you to tag along.’
“I’ll follow Young Master’s decision.”
Priesia believed Nainiae would be her ally in this, but instead, her friend had avoided responding. Although Priesia was hoping for a favorable reply, she nodded, understanding that this could not be helped. Priesia looked at Riley.
“What about you, Young Master?”
Riley was enjoying the aroma of the tea that had Nainiae prepared. Noticing Priesia’s gaze, Riley paused for a moment and said,
He paused for a moment, but he didn’t think about it at all during that moment because he had decided the answer beforehand.
There was the thing about him just not liking Priestesses, but more importantly, he thought it would be such a bother to have another girl tagging along with him.
There was a reward placed on her and finding out her location. The reward was placed not just in Solia, but also in other cities as well. Riley was certain that there would be trouble.
Besides this, Riley had one more reason as to why he had refused her.
“Well, I’m sure you have many reasons, but… If you are the Priestess, don’t you have something else left to do before following me?”
It looked like he was really enjoying the tea’s aroma. He closed his eyes gently and said that. Wondering what was the thing she still had to do; Priesia floated a question mark on her face.
Nainiae poured the tea for everyone else, including Priesia, Nara and Rorona. Instead of Riley, Nainiae answered for him by pointing below with her finger.
The three had puzzled looks on their faces. Of the three, it was Priesia who figured out the meaning first. She bit her lips.
“… You are right.”
“What does it mean?”
“I was careless. I was so focused on following the divine message that I forgot about something else very important.”
Priesia handed the tea cup back to Nainiae. She bent down on her knees and picked up a handful of the sand from the ground.
“Now that I think about it…”
Finally, Nara and Rorona also realized what Riley was talking about. They vacantly stared at the sand that Priesia picked up.
The sand was black.
As if it was trying to prove that it still contained the epidemic, it was sizzling lightly, trying to melt Priesia’s hand.
“I still have something left to do here.”
Holding the sand in her hand, she gently closed her eyes. Using her Holy Power, she cleansed the sand that was in her palm.
Slowly… The sand regained its original color. The cleansed sand left Priesia’s palm and fell to the ground, above the black sand, making a crumbling sound.
It was just a handful of sand.
In this huge Karuta desert, that was just a handful of sand. The black sand waiting to be cleansed was still rotten and covered quite a distance.
“Because of Kabal, she didn’t get a chance to completely cleanse the desert.”
The prayer that Priesia performed to cleanse the desert was interupted because of Kabal’s interference. Remembering this, Rorona muttered.
Nara directed his gaze toward the merchants of Reitri’s group who were organizing their goods.
“I think the answer is decided.”
Priesia said in quiet voice. Meanwhile, Riley asked for another cup of tea. Watching Riley, Priesia had bitter smile on her face.
“Excuse me, Young Master. After I finish cleansing the Karuta desert… Would it be all right if I followed Nainiae then?”
“How long will it take to finish the cleansing?”
“Probably about three days…”
Because the cleansing was interrupted once already, Priesia said she thought it will take quite some time on the second try. She asked carefully,
“Will it be all right?”
Riley held the tea cup at one hand and fiddled with his own chin with the other hand. Soon, it seemed he decided on the answer. He said with smile,
“I said no. It will be a bother.”
Enjoying the tea, Riley still said no. Priesia was hoping he might approve this time. Having heard the response from Riley, Priesia’s head fell.
“The two over there said they are feeling empty, so stay with them.”
Riley looked at Nara and Rorona and said three will be better than two. Nara shook his head as if he thought there really was no way to convince Riley otherwise. Nara asked,
“Young Master, are you going to leave right away?”
“I am not sure.”
He finished the second cup of tea. He looked up the sky. He said as he stared at the twinkling stars above in the night sky,
“Now that things turned out like this, I might as well rest for another day. I personally have something to tell Reitri, so…”
“Now that I think about it, isn’t it almost time for dinner? I guess I can talk to him over dinner.”
Riley got up, saying it was almost time for dinner. Nainiae, who was watching him from the side, lightly turned her head and looked at her shoulder.
‘It’s already dinner time, yet…’
For some reason, the summoned spirit had not shown herself throughout the whole day. Nainiae was concerned about her.