Chapter 25 – Curse (9)
Sanctuary. It was the unique ability of a priest to remove evil in a certain place so that it could become a holy ground. They did this by burying sacred relics on the ground and setting a barrier.
However, whenever Sanctuary was done, the effect was so strong that all ‘unclean’ things would be removed. That’s why a mage was needed when this was being done—the mage would need to put up a shield for protection within a certain area.
There’s usually no way to sort through the things that it purifies, this is why there’s only a few high priests capable of doing this with control.
Apart from that, the temple would need to cooperate with mages, so the temple was reluctant to do it.
However, as long as it was not a regular mage but a court mage, then the priests would cooperate. And Seren, who Julia thought to be a regular priest, was actually a high priest.
When Julia urgently shouted the word, Seren nodded.
“Yes. His Majesty has heard of the students taking their own lives, so due to these strange incidents, he has granted royal permission for this.”
This place was within the jurisdiction of a Duchy. But even an independent territory such as this was under the command of the kingdom.
Despite being the highest authority of the Duchy, which was like a separate country, Duke Epesia was actually still a vassal of the Floren Kingdom. Nevertheless, the Duchy still couldn’t be directly controlled by the King because it was under the rule of the Duke.
“What did the Duke say in return.”
“His Grace opposed it. He asked to delay it.”
“Because it is a royal command.”
“What did… you say?”
“The nobles who have sent their children to the academies here personally pleaded to His Majesty, and so the Sanctuary was approved under the King’s name. In other words, even if the Duke holds authority here, he cannot oppose His Majesty.”
Seren sighed as he stared at her.
“Duke Epesia also asked us to delay it, but look at how the situation has escalated. Numerous students have taken their own lives after being caught up in strange incidents. Furthermore, didn’t you, Lady Julia, concluded it that way yesterday—that black magic could be involved?”
“Yes, I definitely said that. But that doesn’t mean I agree with the hasty decision of doing the Sanctuary…”
“What will you do if another student commits suicide once more?”
Julia bit her lips, not knowing what to say. Unlike the old priest’s gentle expression, Seren spoke coldly.
“As you mentioned yesterday, the students won’t be able to pay the price… So if we don’t take action while the clock is ticking, the number of victims would increase exponentially. Then what are we supposed to do? One by one—and later dozens by dozens. They would pass on the ritual to others because they don’t want to die. What are you going to do once that happens?”
It was a problem that people wouldn’t even think hard about. As Seren said, the children’s lives were the top priority in this case. There should be no more deaths after this, so the problem needs to be solved as quickly as possible.
It’s clear that unrest would just grow bigger if more students took their own lives. Furthermore, if more of them died, then the curse would be completed.
In many ways, what the old priest said wasn’t wrong. However…
“Then, what about the souls?”
To them, the summoned souls were like monsters who fed on the children’s lies. But in fact, they were also victims here.
Even though all that’s left for them was to rest, they were summoned here once more and they had to undergo pain. Why else were they seen hovering in the sky, wanting to leave this place?
With a serious expression, Julia spoke.
“What are you going to do about them? Are you saying that their souls are lesser than the souls of the living here?”
Seren stared at her with his lips in a straight, grim line. Then, he spoke slowly.
Julia stared at him blankly while Seren rubbed the bridge of his nose.
“I’ve heard a lot about you, Lady Julia. You’re a mysterious person who relieves the worries of people by taking on these bizarre cases. You can see souls, hear their voices and talk to them to solve incidents like this. However, I heard that in the process of doing so, there were frequent conflicts not only with our religion, but also with other religions in the country. And what they’ve been saying is…”
Seren’s eyes shone sharply.
“That your main focus was to treat spirits and humans equally as you solve things. Young Lady. We don’t see souls, but we can feel them. They’re here. But at the same time, we don’t regard them to be the same as humans, unlike you. Regardless of whether they’re visible or invisible, they have already died. The living should not be sacrificed for them. Therefore, do not force upon us your belief that living humans and souls are the same—we will not be able to solve anything like that. Do you understand?”
The gaze Seren had on Julia was gentle, and he saw how she grew pale as he spoke the last word.
“We will perform the Sanctuary tomorrow evening. We had planned to do it this evening, but His Grace the Duke stopped me, so I had to delay it. But remember. In the meantime, if you and His Grace cannot find a solution to this by then…”
Seren stared at the small cup placed on the table.
“I’ll start the Sanctuary.”
The moment he stopped speaking, Julia turned around and left the room, closing the door violently behind her. Seren and Horbeloix sighed, watching her retreating back.
“I can’t believe it… Sanctuary? Why… Why does it have to be that…!”
Julia marched into the room where Leo was in, biting her lips as she entered through the door. Then Olden, who was also inside, greeted her.
“You’re here, Lady Julia?”
Despite this, Julia ignored him and went straight to Leo, who was staring at her.
“I heard about it.”
“I expected that you would know by now.”
“When was the decision made?”
Leo pressed down on his forehead and tiredly murmured.
“I guess it couldn’t be helped on their part because there’s negative public sentiment going around. His Majesty is also hoping for a quick resolution while the discussion had been ongoing. And apart from that, it’s suicide, not just ordinary deaths… It’s bad that students are taking their own lives. And even worse, the nobles are involved in this now. So…”
“That’s why they went straight for Sanctuary. Is that it?”
At Julia’s aggressive tone, Leo could only sigh as he looked straight into her red eyes.
“In their eyes, if Sanctuary is performed, they think that all the bizarre incidents and the curse would be completely eliminated.”
They weren’t wrong. If all the summoned spirits disappeared, the necessity to feed them would also disappear. In other words, the curse would also disappear.
But… Julia widened her eyes and gritted her teeth.
“What about them?”
She raised her hand and pointed to the sky. Leo’s gaze followed where she pointed, but he couldn’t see what she was referring to. All he could see were white clouds in the sky.
“I can’t see anything.”
“But you know what’s there. That they’re hovering right there.”
“I can feel it intuitively. And because you said so, Julia.”
“Then you know what I’m talking about.”
Leo stood up from his seat with his lips closed as he stood in front of her. Julia looked up at him, but Leo only set his lips in a straight line as he faced her.
“We know how the ritual is being done and what kind of curse it is, but we don’t know who it was who originated the curse, nor do we know how to resolve the curse itself. What if one more student dies in the meantime?”
“I know, Julia. For you, those souls have the same value as living people. That’s why I’m saying this.”
Staring at Julia’s perplexed expression, Leo grabbed her shoulders with both hands and spoke.
“I don’t want anyone else to die, and I don’t want any soul to disappear either, especially after they’ve been summoned due to someone’s selfish interests. They were already resting in peace. Performing the Sanctuary may save the students’ lives, but it cannot save the dead. Then, who do you think can solve both the students and the souls here?”
All Leo could see was Julia. And as Julia gaped at him, Leo smiled.
“It’s until tomorrow evening. It must be solved by then. Otherwise…”
Leo’s gaze shifted out the window and towards the sky. It was a clear sky to him where he could see nothing, but there was definitely something there. Something that Julia cherished.
He looked back at Julia and smiled. What he said rang in her mind, but she continued to have a blank expression.
His people should be more precious to him. His people were the living. Shouldn’t they be more precious to the Duke?
As she stared at him with conflicted eyes, Leo’s lips just curved up as though this was natural.
“Julia, I don’t want to see you being sad anymore.”
“No matter what, let’s solve this problem—together. I’ll help you.”
He reached out and gently took Julia’s hand and carefully wrapped it in both of his.
“So don’t make an expression like you’re about to cry.”
Did it look like she was about to cry? Julia couldn’t see her own face. There was no mirror in this room. She thought all that was reflected on her expression was the anger she was feeling.
However, in Leo’s eyes, she looked endlessly sad, as though she had lost the most precious treasure. With the corner of her lips downturned, it was as if she was seeking his help to find it. This was all he could see in her expression.
Leo smiled softly and lifted her cold hand towards his warm lips.
This was the second time he kissed the back of her hand. The first was when he proposed to her. Even now, this man was warm.
“I’m always on your side, Julia.”
Just the mention of him being by her side made her heart fuller. His voice always stirred something in her, like ripples in a lake when a stone is thrown inside it.
“…Please help me.”
She needed help. She needed someone’s help to resolve this curse quickly. Someone… That someone was right next to her, close to her just as always.
“Julia, you can always count on me. Just one word from you is enough.”
As his lips touched the back of her hand, his closed eyes slowly opened. Blue eyes met her gaze.
“No conditions and no explanations needed.”
His eyes expressed everything he wanted to say. That was enough.
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