Chapter 22 – Truth

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Ruri’s compulsive decision to revisit Nadarsia proved to be devastating as she was utterly shocked by the situation in Nadarsia.

“This is awful…” -Ruri

The time when Ruri was exiled from Nadarsia, she was thrown into a horse carriage and brought straight to the forest. She never did had the chance to see for herself the condition of the capital and villages in between the castle and the devil’s forest.

That turned out to be better, so thought Ruri.

If she were to have this image in her mind back then, she might have been overcome by hopelessness and would not be able to go on with her life in the forest with as much vigor as she did.

The condition of Nadarsia was that bad.

Although the city is quite big, one would be mistaken the place as an abandoned ruin from the past. Abandoned buildings were part of the normal scenery and the very few people walking about were impossibly skinny with a dead expression on their face.

There were no children running around, nor were there ladies chit-chatting about while standing by the roadside like they own it, even the typical shouting of shop owners to gather up customers was nowhere to be heard.

The difference between this place and the Dragon Kingdom next door was staggering.

It has been 2 years since Ruri was summoned here. She recalls the time she was here in Nadarsia.

Treated as Asahi’s companion, everything was provided to them in the castle.
Upon understanding the ‘normal’ lifestyle the people here lived in, Ruri now knows how blessed she was at that time.

As for the Shrine Maiden, Asahi received the same treatment as the royals do. No expenses spared would be the right word to describe it.

From a different standpoint, it would be correct to say that it was the lifestyle in the castle which was abnormal. And the city around it is the worst it could get.

Yet, this country is preparing to go to war with the Dragon Kingdom. Even Ruri who was not well versed in political stuff knows that Nadarsia is in no position for that.

『Ruri, let’s leave this place..』-Rin

Rin was pushing Ruri to leave this place, but Ruri could not do that.
As if she noticed something, Ruri turned back into human form and walked towards the direction of the plaza.

There is a water well by the plaza which is crowded with people, trying to fill their hunger with water.
However, there was no way water could satisfy their hunger. Those people gave the obviously non-local Ruri a look, and immediately lost interest in her and reverted to their miserable state.

『Ruri? 』-Rin

Rin was staring at Ruri with astonishment as Ruri stood in the middle of the plaza and was concentrating on something.

Suddenly, a bud sprung from the ground.

Ruri poured her magic into the bud, causing it to grow at a rate many times faster than a normal plant. Ruri did not stop pouring magic into the plant, even after it became a huge tree covered in green. In no time, the tree started to bore fruits.

At the change of scenery, the people who were looking into the sky with listless gaze was showing a change in their eye.

Ruri used her wind magic to collect the fruits that were on the tree and give them out to the weak looking people around her one by one.

Confused by Ruri’s action, the people held on to the fruit while staring at each other.

Cautiously, they took a bite. The juice of the fruit flooded their taste bud with a sweetness so ungodly, that as if a chain broken off of them, they swallowed the fruit without a care in the world.

Maybe because it was a tree that was given ample magic power by Ruri, by the time she finished giving out the first batch of fruits, the tree replenished itself with more fruits.

Seeing that, Ruri made a personal request to the people who were still lively to give the fruits out to people in the surrounding cities and proceeded to leave that city.

Unable to fathom her action, Rin questioned Ruri.

『Even if you do that, nothing will change you know?』-Rin

“That’s fine. It is the job of the country to fix this situation, not me.
It’s just that… if I left without at least doing something, I’m afraid this scenery might haunt me during my sleep.
Even though I was only here for a few days back when I first arrived, the things I wore, ate and drank was paid by these people. In a way, I was robbing these people of their life. I’m doing this just to consult myself and limited as it may, give back to them what I took of them.” -Ruri

Human thoughts are just too complex, so thought Rin. Looking at the confused Rin, Ruri could only smile bitterly. Ruri continued her journey to the capital of Nadarsia while giving out food to the people in each of the cities she visits in between.

As expected of a place closest to the King’s lap, the capital is bursting with people looking well-off walking about.

Despite being many times smaller than the Dragon Kingdom, if this capital alone is “Nadarsia”, a traveler from elsewhere would check it off their bucket list in “places I would like to visit in my lifetime”.
For Ruri that had seen the depressing situation of the villages and cities around Nadarsia, she could only feel discomfort in the difference in treatment given to the people of Nadarsia.

Another thing that had bothered Ruri was answered as well. ‘Why was the majority of the people in the villages she had visited comprised of children, women and old people?’.

The entrance of the capital stood a long line of men. Some looked like they haven’t slept for days, while some was shaking to their boots.

Ruri got to know that these men are people who are called to battle as she eavesdrops in their conversation in her cat form.

『What will you do now, Ruri?』-Rin

Ruri was troubled.

She came here to Nadarsia in order to find out if the rumors were true about them planning on going to war with the Dragon Kingdom.
She now knows that the harsh truth that she didn’t want to believe was true.

She knew that she alone would not be able to do anything to stop the progress of a war that is going to take place soon. She only came here out of curiosity.

Another reason why Ruri came was to find out if Asahi is going to be involved in this war in any way. Ruri is now having serious buyers remorse.

And so again, Ruri was troubled.

『For now, how about we go the castle before making any decision?』-Rin

『You’re right. But I don’t want to meet with Asahi, so let’s do it quietly.』-Ruri

With the next move decided, Ruri and Rin infiltrated the Capital through a hole in the crumbling outer wall.

***

The King of Nadarsia was sitting on the throne chair in the castle.

“How of the progress of the war preparation?” -King

The person who answered the King was the very same old priest who held the highest position amongst his peers that performed the summoning which brought Ruri and the rest into this world.

“Everything is proceeding smoothly. We were worried for a while there when we lost the ability to use magic, but after understanding that it was a warning from God for letting the non-believers of the shrine maiden live, we exiled them all to the Devil’s Forest.
Right now, they should serve as food for the beasts in the forest.” -Old Priest

“Really, that gave me such a scare. However, thanks to that, we had an excuse to get rid of those pesky buggers. Even the shrine maiden is useful from time to time.” – King

“It is as you say.” -Old Priest

Both the King and the old priest was making heartful laughs that lack any empathy whatsoever.

There may be a slight bump in their plan, but nothing too serious that could derail its set destination.

“Well… the only problem I see right now is with the prince, that’s all heads and heels over the shrine maiden…” -Old Priest

“To think that he was charmed to that level, just pathetic.
I’ll just send that guy together with the shrine maiden to war, and get rid of them both. I can substitute his place with anybody else available anyway.” -King

Here stood a King that talks about his actual blood-related son like he’s a consumable item for his greed and a priest that agrees with his every word like it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
However, the old priest was bothered by just a small detail.

“The shrine maiden as well, you say?” -Old Priest

Thanks to the appearance of the prophesized shrine maiden, the church had received an overwhelming amount of donations.
It would be a shame to lose the shrine maiden at this point, so thought the old priest.

“If there comes the time we need a shrine maiden, we can just summon another! We don’t need someone more influential than me.
She’s frankly just a sore eye.” -King

To the frowning King, the old priest nodded as if to agree with his word.
In the beginning, although the King did promise special treatment for the shrine maiden, everybody working in the castle gave their respect and was careful of their treatment towards Asahi purely due to the fact that she was the ‘shrine maiden’.

I was like the shrine maiden herself was using charm magic in her own world as well, she acted like the treatment given to her was to be expected.

Using that, she utilized the soldiers in the castle to perform her friend searching quest without any reserve.
From Asahi’s perspective, it might’ve seemed like they were moving because they wanted to help her out of the kindness of their heart, but in fact, the soldiers took it like it was their duty. Not to mention the Prince literally threw himself for her to fulfill that task.

From the eyes of the King, Asahi is an entity too dangerous to be left roaming.

“…… If that is so, it would’ve been a good idea to make the acquaintance of the shrine maiden that we expelled to the forest, the shrine maiden.
We were too focused on making it so that the more unique looking the person is the shrine maiden. Adding the talking point about the eye colors was a mistake.” -Old Priest

To the troubled priest, came a retort from the King.

“No, that person wouldn’t cut it.” -King

“Why is that?” -Old Priest

“When they were all first summoned here, everybody other than that girl was in a state of panic. Only she alone tried to calmly grasp the situation.
We don’t need someone smart like her. What we needed was an idiot that would believe every word we throw out and act on it.” -King

“Indeed the word I would use for the current shrine maiden is an ‘idiot’. Some might even say she’s ‘pure’, but Tomato Tomato.” -Old Priest

“We just have to sweet talk her to do anything we want. But if that other girl was beside her, she might see through our schemes and whisper who knows what to the shrine maiden and foul our plan.
It was correct to get rid of her early.” -King

“It’s as you say. If she found out that the so-called ‘prophecy’ of the shrine maiden was never a real thing, and was a total fiction that we cooked up, everything would be for nothing.” -Old Priest

…. …. ….

(What the hell… …)

Intending to find Asahi, Ruri was roaming around the castle in her cat form when she just so happen to come upon this scene where the King and the old priest of Nadarsia was chatting leisurely.
Thinking that she might be able to glean some information, she eavesdropped on their conversation and was hit with such a bombshell.
A wave of surprise hit her so strong that she stopped dead in her track.

(You have got to be kidding me! What is the meaning of all this?!… … …)

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