Ascendance of a Bookworm Chapter 87

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The Things I Should Give

Fran looks back and forth between me and Gil, then slowly opens his mouth to speak.

“It is the duty of the blue-robed clergy to distribute the blessings of the G.o.ds—rather, the necessities of life―amongst their subordinates. When a blue-robed priest or priestess joins the temple, they are given attendants, to whom they grant rooms and clothing so that their attendants may live alongside them.”
“As I do not have a room at the temple,” I say, “is it the case that my attendants must still live at the orphanage?”
Fran nods slowly. “Essentially, yes. Furthermore, with regards to meals: a priest eats first, then their attendants and apprentices dine on the remainder, then what remains of that is brought to the orphanage as the blessings of the G.o.ds. You may note that it is natural, as such, for the blessings bestowed upon an attendant to be much more plentiful than those bestowed upon the orphans.”

I didn’t want to be separated from my family, so my number one concern was making sure that I didn’t have to go to the orphanage. I’d been happy to be given the right to still live at home, but I hadn’t thought of how breaking with the temple’s customs like that would affect my attendants.

“Then, Fran, as you have been rea.s.signed from Father Ferdinand’s service to my own, were you thus forced to leave his chambers and return to the orphanage?”

If that’s the case, then it would be natural for him to be depressed about his demotion and lash out because of it. Fran has been nothing but extremely helpful, but I really haven’t done anything to repay him yet. I’d been planning on splurging to give him weekend pay, but I might need to talk to the head priest as soon as possible about improving his working conditions.

“No, I have not had to move from his chambers. Delia, I believe, has most likely not had to move either. When you are not at the temple, I a.s.sist Father Ferdinand in the performance of his duties and, as such, take my meals there.”

Come to think of it, the head priest did say he was swamped with work and didn’t have enough capable people to help with it, didn’t he. I don’t think he’d leave someone like Fran to his own devices when I’m not around. I let out a small sigh of relief, happy to hear that I hadn’t subjected Fran to anything terrible.

“So, in other words, are you perhaps saying that the only one impacted by this is Gil?”
“I believe that he may be angry at not having had his expectations of improved treatment met. At the orphanage, regardless of whether one does their work or not, the blessings of the G.o.ds are distributed equally. However, it is not uncommon for attendants who do not perform their duties to be replaced. I personally find the thought that someone could expect to receive blessings as though they were an attendant while not actually performing their duties distasteful.”

Fran, who takes a lot of pride in his work, glances briefly at Gil.

“…So, in your view, there are no problems with things as they currently are?”
“Yes, Sister Maïne.”
“Then, perhaps I shall maintain the status quo for now, and be sure to be careful of how this may inconvenience you, Fran. Does this sound reasonable?”
He pauses for a moment, possibly comparing how things are now to how they would be if I had a room of my own. “…Of course, Sister Maïne,” he says, quietly nodding.

As soon as I start thinking that this conversation is finished, though, Gil starts yapping again.

“Yeah, Fran, Fran, well, what about me?! I’m an attendant, too, just like him!”
“…Don’t you think that’s a little off? You made it quite clear that you don’t consider me to be your master, did you not? Why, perhaps, would you think that I, who am not your master, should provide you with the necessities of life?”

No matter how I look at it, nothing he’s done seems like the actions of an attendant looking to improve his working conditions.

“That’s your duty as a blue-robed priest! Wh… what would be different if I did my work even though you’re not giving me food or a room?!”
“I’d pay you,” I reply.

I’ve been thinking that, just like how Benno pays Mark and Lutz a wage, I need to make sure to pay my attendants. Of course, based on the amount of work they do and the quality of the result, their pay would change. There’s no way I’d pay Fran and Gil the same wage.

“…What’s ‘pay’?”

Gil blinks a few times, tilting his head in confusion. Lutz snorts with laughter, throwing Gil’s words from earlier back at him.

“What, you seriously don’t know? You work, then you get paid. Everyone knows that, right?”
“N, no they don’t!”
“Pay is your reward for doing your work. It’s money that attendants who work for me will be paid.”
“Money? …Ah, ahh, money, huh.”

It looks like Gil doesn’t know anything about money, either, from the way that he’s still tilting his head, but when his eyes briefly meet Lutz’s, he puts on a knowing expression.

“I, for one,” I say, “would of course feel obligated to ask the head priest about acquiring a room for someone hardworking like Fran, but I see no real need to go to the trouble of such negotiations for someone like you, Gil, who does no work at all. No need in the slightest. That would cut into my reading time, now wouldn’t it?”

My mornings are taken up by a.s.sisting the head priest and my lunchtime must absolutely be used for eating. All of that already chews up my limited time to read, so there’s no way I’d actually want to waste even more.

“Now then, Fran. Would you please guide me towards the head priest’s chambers? I will be a.s.sisting him with his paperwork this morning.”
“Of course, Sister Maïne.”

Fran takes the lead, followed by me and Lutz, with Gil trailing behind.

“Hey,” says Gil, “if I do my work, things’ll change, right?”
“Of course,” I reply. “I fully plan to compensate you for whatever work is done.”

“I apologize for the intrusion, Father Ferdinand,” says Fran as he steps through the door to the head priest’s room. “Sister Maïne has arrived to see you.”
The head priest looks up from his desk. “Ah, you made it? How are you feeling?”
“Thank you for your concern, Father,” I reply, “but I am feeling quite well today. This is pure conjecture, but I believe that my earlier collapse may have been an aftereffect of the dedications. Do you know if one’s physical condition worsens when their body is not suffused with mana?”
He puts down his pen, looking off into s.p.a.ce as if searching through his memories. “I know that people have died after their mana reserves are completely exhausted, but I’ve never heard of someone becoming physically weak if they don’t maintain mana throughout their body. It might be a peculiarity of the devouring.”
“A peculiarity of the devouring?”
“It’s possible. It is already rare to find individuals with the devouring, and since they often die young due to having too much mana, it hasn’t been studied in great detail. There are hardly any people with as much mana as you do who have been able to stay alive. It’s something I would very much like to study more closely.”

He fixes his eyes on me, looking like a mad scientist who has just found his perfect research subject, and shivers run down my spine. I fight back the urge to immediately run away from his overpowering curiosity, instead forcefully changing the subject.

“I have another question. If I recall correctly, the blue-robed clergy are sometimes asked to go to the n.o.bles’ quarter to perform rituals, are they not? Is there any particular sort of clothing that I should acquire, or…?”
“There’s rituals that need to be performed yearly, but there aren’t many that would require an apprentice like you to come along. There isn’t any particular clothing you’d need, but it would be best if you were to have ceremonial blue robes made. …Speaking of which, where are your robes?”

When he points it out, I suddenly remember that I haven’t actually put on my robes yet.

“I have been told that it would be dangerous for me to wear my robes out of the temple, so I was intending to put them on when I arrived here.”
“What’s dangerous about that?”
“I may be mistaken for the child of n.o.bles, kidnapped, and held for ransom. One moment, please, if I may…”

I stick my hand into Lutz’s basket, which he’s set down at his feet, pulling out my bundled up robe and sash.

“What are you…?” asks Lutz.
“I’m putting on my robes,” I reply.

I stick my head into the robes, carefully arranging the cloth so that it won’t tangle on my hairpin, then pull them down over me like I usually do. When my head pops out, I notice that Fran, at some point during this process, has knelt beside me. He has his hand stretched out, an awkward expression on his face.

“Is there something wrong, Fran?”
“…I was intending to a.s.sist you in getting dressed,” he replies.
“Ah, um… could you a.s.sist me with my sash, please?”

I probably shouldn’t mention that this is something I could easily do myself. I need to figure out what an attendant’s job actually is, somehow. As I hold still, my arms raised as Fran ties my sash around me, the head priest stares at me in exasperation.

“Maïne, please get changed in your own room. This is unsightly.”

Unexpectedly, the topic of having a room of my own has come up on its own. Since I know I’m going to have to get changed every day, I wonder if I could borrow some sort of locker room or storage room?

“…Will you be giving me a room?”
“No, I misspoke. When discussing your situation with the Reverend, I was able to secure you the right to live at home by asking if he would rather you instead be given a room in the part of the temple reserved for the n.o.bility. Since he seemed happy to refuse that to you, I can’t give you a room.”

I didn’t actually know that the head priest was the only priest who’d thought that letting me do something convenient like commute to work was a good idea. It seems like he’s been bending over backwards for my sake when I haven’t been around.

“Um, Father Ferdinand, are there no rooms outside the n.o.ble areas that I could use?”

This idea seems to take him completely by surprise. He scowls at me so intensely that I think he might have completely misunderstood me. As he stares at me in total incredulity, I frantically try to explain my thinking.

“As you well know, although I wear blue robes, I am not a n.o.ble. As such, I have no expectation that I would be given a room that would otherwise be used by the n.o.bility. If I could have a place to store my belongings and get dressed, as well as to have Lutz or Benno wait for me in if they come to visit, that would be more than plenty. Is there perhaps a storeroom that I could use for this purpose?”
The head priest’s eyes fly open. “You want to receive guests in a storeroom?!” he yells. “How rude can you get?!”

Sure, it would be rude to my visitors, but no more so than things are right now.

“I understand what you are saying,” I continue, “but at this moment I don’t even have a storeroom. When Lutz has come to meet me, has he not been asked to wait for me outside the temple gates? I believe it is just as rude to ask a visitor to stand outside the gates as they wait for me, is it not?”
“Even if it’s just for a short while, having a blue-robed priestess’s guests do that is unthinkable…” He rubs tiredly at his temples. “At the very least, I’m going to instruct the gatekeepers to bring them to a waiting room.”

It seems that commoners who are visiting for some unknown reason are treated differently from people visiting a blue-robed priestess. I can tell that right now, he’s reminding himself of how I am not just a poor, ordinary girl, but an apprentice blue-robed priestess.

“…Father Ferdinand,” says Arnaud, “might I suggest that Sister Maïne be allowed to use the orphanage director’s office? They are far from the parts of the temple used by the n.o.bility, but they are rooms previously used by a blue-robed priestess, so it is my belief that there would be no problems in having guests visit those rooms.”

When he says that, a quiet disturbance ripples through the other priests in the room. The head priest makes a difficult expression, thinking for a moment, then nods.

“Very well, then. Maïne, you may use the orphanage director’s office. Please use those from now on when you change your clothes or receive visitors. When your work here is done, Fran will show you to them.”
“I’m very sorry if I am speaking out of turn,” I say, “but could we perhaps do that first? Lutz has come with me today to speak with Fran about the matter of managing my physical condition. They will need someplace where they can have such a conversation.”

I’d thought that this was a perfect opportunity, but the head priest shakes his head.

“The director’s office has been locked up for quite some time, so it is in need of enough work that it can’t be used immediately. Since you’re going to be working here in this room, it should be fine to them to have their discussion here. Fran, use that table there, please.”
“Thank you, Father Ferdinand,” says Fran.

Fran and Lutz move over to the table that the head priest points out. As I watch them go, I notice that Gil, looking tremendously bored, follows along.

“Father Ferdinand,” I say, “if those rooms are so in need of maintenance, then is that not still more reason why it would be best for me to gain access to them now? If I could do so, then perhaps this morning, while I work here, I could have Gil sweep them out.”
“What? Me?”

Gil points at himself, shocked at how he’d been suddenly a.s.signed work, looking around to see if I’d actually meant anyone else. The other priests in the room glance at each other, shocked. “She’s trusting him to do that?” mutters one. “I heard he got sent to the reflection room for refusing to sweep out the hall of worship,” whispers another. It seems that Gil’s lack of work ethic is famous.

“…Hm?” I say, lightly. “Do you not know how?”
“Of course I do!”
“Ah,” I respond. “I look forward to seeing what you can do, then. Do your best!”

As I encourage Gil, the head priest hands a key to a young, gray-robed apprentice priest, who then leads Gil out of the room. The head priest watches them go, then, when the door clicks shut, turns to look at me.

“Are you sure that was a good idea?” he says.
“If I don’t give him any work, then I can’t give him a proper a.s.sessment,” I respond.

By the time the apprentice priest returns with the key, Lutz and Fran are already deep in their discussion about managing my condition, and I have already started helping the head priest with his paperwork.

Today, the work I’ve been a.s.signed involves balancing the ledgers. “Since you’re a merchant, this should be simple,” the head priest said. The calculations themselves are simple enough, but no matter how much faith he’s putting in my ability to handle this all by myself, I’m actually a little stumped. In particular, there are a few things in here that don’t match up with anything I’m familiar with.

“The calculations are the same as what I am used to,” I tell him, “but it seems that the temple’s accounting differs in several ways than what I usually encounter. What might this item here, 'the will of the G.o.ds’, be? At a glance, it seems to be the most common entry in the expenses.”

Some of the other expenses are things like “offerings to the G.o.ds”, “flowers to the G.o.ds”, “water to the G.o.ds”, and even “the G.o.ds’ affection”. The thought of managing this account book, filled with cryptic G.o.d-related line items, is pretty scary.

The head priest, in response to my question, looks at me with a perfectly blank expression for a short while. “Maybe it’s too much,” he mutters to himself, then points out a small section of the ledger.

“…I’d like you to go over these numbers for me today,” he says.
“Of course,” I reply. “…Lutz, might I borrow your slate? I seem to have forgotten mine.”
“Huh? Oh, yeah, here.”

Lutz rummages around in his basket, then pulls out the slate from his apprentice’s set. I borrow it from him, then start working through the numbers in the indicated section of the ledger. As I work, the head priest looks on as if something’s unusual, but since he doesn’t ask me any questions, I ignore him and focus on my work.

“…You’re quick at that,” he remarks.
“Ah, am I?” I reply, noncommittally.

I’m just used to it after having done so much of it at the gates. Doing all of this math like this only makes me yearn for an actual electronic calculator.

As I continue wholeheartedly grinding through these numbers, I hear the fourth bell chime, signaling that it’s time for lunch.

“That’s enough for today,” says the head priest. When he says that, the various priests in the room start bustling around, tidying everything up.

“Maïne,” he says, “this is the key for the orphanage director’s room. Please leave it with Fran so that you don’t lose it. Also, here’s your portion of the donation you brought.”

He hands me one large and six small silver coins. He mentions that it might seem strange that I’d be getting a portion of the money that I donated, but since it’s divided amongst all of the blue-robed clergy, it’s mine to keep.

“Since you have a room now, this is as good an opportunity as any. Bring those with you, too.”

He glances over at one of the shelves in the corner, where the gifts that Benno had brought are neatly stacked. Since I’d collapsed before anything could be done with them, it seems like they’ve been just sitting there ever since. Finely-woven cloth, a pot full of rinsham, and a stack of vegetable-based paper are all neatly wrapped in bundles of cloth.

Fran picks up the packages, Lutz shoulders his basket, I take the key in hand, and the three of us head towards the orphanage director’s office. As we walk, Fran starts explaining a few things about the room we’re approaching.

“The two three-story buildings to each side of the hall of worship belong to the orphanage. The boys and girls are separated into the two buildings, with the hall of worship between them. The director’s office, which you will be using, is in the boys’ dormitory.”
“Huh? Wasn’t the person previously using those rooms a priestess? Why would it be in the boys’ dormitory?”

Fran looks troubled for a moment, his eyes wandering around the halls, then he lets out a small chuckle.

“Perhaps it might be best if you didn’t know the full details,” he says.
“…I see.”

I’m curious about what he’s hiding, but given how tightly and obstinately he’s pressed his lips together, it doesn’t seem likely that I’ll be able to get it out of him.

“The orphanage is real close to the gates,” says Lutz. “You’ll be able to get changed right after you get here, so this is actually pretty great for you, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, looks like it,” I reply.
“Sister Maïne,” says Fran, “the entrance to the director’s office is on the far side of the building from the gates, so that there is a straight path from it to the n.o.bles’ section of the temple. It is separated from the other entrances so that the orphans do not mistakenly come barging in, so please take care not to mistake the entrances yourself.”

I try to hide my mounting agitation. Based on how Arnaud referred to the room, the fact that the head priest was reluctant to let me use it, and the fact that it’s in the boys’ dormitory—even if it uses a separate entrance—all combine to give me the unshakeable feeling that this is some seriously unwanted property.

“This is it, Sister Maïne.”

Gil must have been sweeping, I guess, because the front door is slightly cracked open. When Fran pushes the door open, Gil is standing right there, his chest puffed up proudly.

“Heh heh, how do you like it?”

On the other side of the door is a small hallway that seems to serve double duty as a reception area, and a little ways past that I can see a staircase leading upward. Half of the room has been swept spotlessly clean, but the other half leaves something to be desired.

“This part is really clean,” I remark.

When I move to open a door on the right side of the hallway, Gil stops me. “I haven’t gotten to that one yet,” he says. I look around the room and spot another door, this one on the left side. When I turn to face it, Gil stops me again. “Didn’t get that one either,” he says. I look around again, but don’t see any other doors on the first floor.

“Gil, where exactly did you clean?”
“Your room, obviously! Why shouldn’t I put off the rooms the rest of us are going to be using for later?”

Gil heads up the staircase, grumbling about how he’d put so much effort into cleaning the half of the hallway that leads from the door to the stairway, and how the only thing I’m paying attention to is how dirty everything else is. It seems like he gave preferential treatment to the rooms that I, his master, would be using. He might have an unexpectedly cute side after all. When I look at the staircase, which has been polished so thoroughly it gleams, I can’t help but chuckle a little.

At the top of the staircase is a n.o.ble’s room. It is quite clearly large, with a variety of furnishings placed throughout it. In the center of the room, positioned for receiving visitors, is a round, luxuriously decorated table with four chairs set around it. Along the walls is a wardrobe, a set of shelves, and a wooden box carved with a large, magnificent tree. In the corner sits a large bed.

There isn’t a huge difference between the way this room and the head priest’s room is laid out. Judging by the fact that there is so much extravagantly finely-crafted furniture in here, it’s very easy to see that this room’s previous owner was a young n.o.blewoman.

“n.o.body else is using this furniture?” I ask. “These are all very, very nice.”
“They belong to the room’s previous owner,” says Fran.
“The previous… well, whatever. I won’t ask. I shall be happy to use it myself.”

I don’t feel particularly inclined to waste a bunch of money replacing it with furniture of my own, so I should probably not ask any questions I don’t want answered.

I ask Fran to leave Benno’s gifts placed on one of the spotless shelves. I’ll use the wardrobe for storing my blue robes and nice clothes.

“Thank you, Gil. This place looks great.”
“Um?! Ah? Y, yeah. I mean, I cleaned it, after all, so of course it looks great.”

He strikes a proud pose, throwing his chest out, but he’s very obviously blushing fiercely. He has his face turned a bit away from me, but I can still see his face burning, as if this is basically the first time he’s ever been praised before. He keeps quickly glancing at me, a look in his eyes as if he’s trying to tell me to praise him more. It’s immediately obvious that he is not used to hearing praise. Since he was a.s.signed to me as a way to hara.s.s me, it’s not hard to imagine that he was a problem child who was constantly scolded, and never praised.

One of the foundations of home discipline is heaping praise on a kid when they do things correctly.

“Gil, I’d like to praise you some more, so crouch down for me, please?”
“Huh? Like this?”

Gil takes a knee. It briefly occurs to me that the fact that he went so quickly to the stance used for prayer is probably due to how he was raised here. Now that his head is lower than mine, I reach my hand out towards his light blond hair. Gil, having no idea what I’m about to do to him, watches my hand as it approaches, a dubious expression on his face.

“You’re such a good boy, Gil,” I say, stroking his head. “You did such a good job.”

If I were to try this on Lutz, he’d probably tell me not to treat him like a kid and get all sullen. Gil, though, looks momentarily startled, his eyes going wide, before starting to look like he’s on the verge of tears. He looks down, hiding his face, which causes me to pull my hand back, but when I do, in a quiet voice, he says, “more, please.”

“It looks so nice in here,” I say. “You must have worked really hard to do it all by yourself.”

Gil’s ears are bright red as he kneels there quietly, having his head stroked. I really, really want to take a peek to see what kind of face he’s making right now, but I smash down that urge, ordering myself not to try.

I have learned a valuable lesson. The things I should be giving to Gil aren’t just food and shelter beyond what the orphanage is providing him. What he needs are my thanks and praise.

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Ascendance of a Bookworm Chapter 87 summary

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