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"We-we should go," he said, suddenly finding the floor tiles much more interesting than her. Dene couldn't help finding it cute. Not as attractive as his previous displays, but cute.
The two first left the hall, then the castle and finally boarded a carriage. Their first destination was the locksmith, to remove the collar around her neck.
She witnessed the aftermath of the celebrations along the way. Crumpled up pieces of paper littered the streets, along with half-filled or turned mugs and the occasional pa.s.sed-out drunk.
Young men and women walked back to their homes in fancy but messed up clothes, some having slept in them and others not having slept at all.
All this while the smell of alcohol and p.i.s.s filled the air, more p.i.s.s than alcohol the further they were from the castle.
If the inner city was like this, she could only imagine what the outer city looked like.
Arriving at the locksmith, the old man there bowed and made some small talk with his young Lord before putting himself to work. It wasn't his place to ask questions. He fumbled with the collar's lock for a few minutes until finally managing to open it and then handed it to Jonathan.
Dene was once again able to connect with the outside mana. She cast a simple Mage spell which turned her skin a shade darker, consequently bringing a smile to her face.
It brought her a small sense of comfort to know she was the strongest person in the room.
That being done, they left the shop, heading once again to the carriage. "To Father Anderson's shrine," Jonathan told the coachman.
He seemed to have recovered from her kiss, even engaging in conversation along the way. He acted like an adult version of the Henri boy, asking every sort of question about her and the desert people.
This also made her think about the page boy and the Knight. By now, they should have left already.
"Miss Dene, does the desert people have trouble growing their hair?" Jonathan asked, noting the little hair she had.
She wondered how someone so smart makes such a dimwitted question. Not wanting to offend him though, she answered, "No my Lord. It's just that in my tribe, hair symbolizes a warrior's pride. We were all defeated, so I shaved it."
"Oh," he spoke, noticing he may have stumbled in a th.o.r.n.y subject. They remained silent for the rest of the way.
Fortunately, it only lasted for a few minutes before the carriage stopped and the coachman informed they had arrived.
The shrine was a circular, single story building as large as the castle hall where she was judged. A fire burned inside of a white cauldron which stood atop of an altar at the shrine's center. Around the altar were eight rows of seats facing the fire.
A single middle-aged man dressed in a white robe tended to the cauldron.
"Father Anderson," Jonathan called and the man turned towards them.
He had a smile on his face that immediately froze when he saw the black woman.
"Dene, Father Anderson. Father Anderson, Dene." Jonathan introduced the two, acting as nothing happened.
"Uh, it's a pleasure," he said to Dene. Then addressing Jonathan he asked, "What's going on?"
"Dene here is in need of healing. I was hoping for Father's help."
Father Anderson looked at Dene, took a deep breath, and said to the two of them, "Fine, come with me to the back."
They followed him to a single room at the back of the shrine. It seemed to serve not only as a study but also as a bedroom and washroom. The desk, bookshelf, and a couch occupied the right half. The left half was split, with the bathtub near the front corner, and the bed at the back corner.
The room's two small windows to the outside were immediately closed by the Father. Then turning to Jonathan he asked, "Why did you bring a desert woman here?"
"What's the problem? You don't actually believe that nonsense about they being the demons."
"I don't, but others do. Priest Olliver has been trying to get rid of me, and I don't want to give him any excuses."
"Yeah, not like he already has a list of reasons. Remind me, how much did you gamble away?" Jonathan asked with a bit of a smirk.
That hit a nerve. "Do you want my help or not?", he asked back with a frown.
"I do, I do," Jonathan said with an innocent smile.
"Hmph, smarty. Don't think that I won't give you a spanking just because you're older now," he said while rolling up his sleeves. "You're never too old for a good spanking."
Dene snickered at the last part. 'Never too old indeed.'
"Let's examine you then," the Father said to Dene. At his request, she removed her shirt and Jonathan once again gained a sudden interest for the floor.
With a spell, he pulled a ball of water from the bathtub which he then used to cover her upper body, neck, and parts of the head.
"Fractured ribs, punctured spleen, multiple lacerations, and head trauma... what happened?"
"Richard happened, along with those idiots who follow him."
"Urgh, I understand." Done with the examination, the Father proceeded to do the healing. "That brother of yours... there's someone who needs a spanking. Preferably with a steel rod. To the head."
He continued, while Dene and Jonathan laughed, "I told your parents, 'you're spoiling that boy,' but they didn't listen. Now, it'll be much harder to correct him. Mark my words, he keeps going like this, he'll get himself killed and it'll be his own d.a.m.n fault."
"Yeah, but he got what he deserved," Jonathan said with a chuckle. "Dene hit him with a full kick to the crotch."
"Oh, really?" The Father looked up towards her. "Good job. Hopefully, he'll remember this lesson."
Dene answered with a smile. She was starting to like the man.
"Not only that, she broke Heddwyn's neck while he tried to help Richard, and then kicked him in the crotch again."
"Wait, what?" Father Anderson now had a serious look on his face. "When he was trying help… you mean when he was casting a spell. Did you kill Heddwyn?"
He moved his gaze from Dene to Jonathan and back to Dene, clearly waiting for an answer.
She didn't know what to say. Should she apologize for killing the b.a.s.t.a.r.d? He better not hold his breath.
Fortunately, Jonathan came to her rescue. "He deserved to be killed."
"No one deserves to be killed. Life is the Holy Flame's greatest gift, and we must always strive to preserve it."
"A minute ago you were talking about hitting Richard in the head with a steel rod. How is that any different?"
"The difference is that that way he may learn something. Let me show you." Father quickly cast a spell aimed at the bathtub.
Suddenly, the water rose up in the form of a tentacle. It grabbed a wooden back scrubber and in a whip-like movement, flung it at Jonathan, hitting him in the side and bringing a cry of pain.
"See? You just learned something." He ignored Jonathan's angry mumbling and spoke to Dene. "You too, Miss. The desert people may have different beliefs, but here we don't agree with taking a life when it can be avoided."
Dene didn't speak. The only thing she wanted Richard and his lackeys to learn was how many stab wounds it takes for them to die.
"Fine, killing is wrong," Jonathan spoke while ma.s.saging his now bruised side. "But what about your gambling, isn't it also wrong?"
"Sure it is, but not as wrong as killing. A small vice won't condemn me to eternal d.a.m.nation, at most I'll atone through a bit of suffering, then to heaven I go." He spoke, the healing coming to an end. "Besides, if a person can't have a bit of fun once in a while, wouldn't that just be another form of h.e.l.l?"
All this while Dene didn't try to argue. She knew better than to discuss theology with a clergyman. Hopefully, that would be the lesson Jonathan learned from this.
After it was done, Jonathan recalled the small box he had been holding.
The Father took the tooth from inside and reimplanted it. Rolling down his sleeves, he commented, "By the way, I noticed some sort of coin embedded in your arm."
"Yes, that's an old custom from my tribe." She tried to sound as normal as possible.
He didn't ask anything further.
Jonathan probably thought of doing it but held himself back, not wanting another awkward moment like when he asked about her hair.
His job done, the Father walked then to the entrance, asking Jonathan to visit again. Trying not to sound offensive, he asked of Dene the opposite. Not that it made much difference, as if she had any freedom to come and go, she'd use it to get as far from here as possible.
"Congratulations on your victory, by the way."
That seemed to be everything as Jonathan called the coachman and told him to take them back to Dragonblood castle, but stopped midway. He had paused to look at Dene. More specifically, her oversized clothes.
From this, Dene took a guess for their next destination, which was confirmed when he told, "Take us to the tailor."
Arriving there, the clerks congratulated Jonathan and tried to act friendly towards her. The tailor tried to sell him a few pieces of clothing as well as enticing him with some new fabric she had received but he simply told her to attend to Dene.
The tailor took Dene's measurements and promised she would start working on her clothes immediately. Unfortunately, they didn't have anything ready in stock for someone of her proportions, save for a couple of dresses and Dene wanted nothing with that.
Everything having been taken care of, they returned to the carriage and finally made their way back to the castle.