Through the Christmas Glass
Kuro's sleep was restless. He had yet another nightmare this narrator would prefer to censor for the time being; his nightmare was connected to the secret gift of the Goddess of Prayer, after all. He suddenly woke up, in agony. He almost rushed to Laura to tell her all about it but no, he wanted to have some proof first.
An hour or so later Laura knocked on his door.
“Bosu are you awake? It's lunch time”, Laura said from behind the door.
“One minute Laura, I'm coming”.
When they entered the huge dining room less heads were turned. It seemed some monks and sisters were already starting to get used to Kuro. They sat two tables away from the bishop table after being served what looked like beef stew with onions and vegetables and some rice bread.
“Bosu is it me or do you look more nervous than usual since your morning training? What did the Goddess sa... Sorry, forget I asked, that's a taboo question; it's a private matter between you. Never disclose your private conversation with any Goddess. You might be cursed by that Goddess if you do”.
“Really?” It was a good idea to keep his mouth shut after all.
”Yeap. Betraying a Goddess' trust is not a trivial matter; you may share what a Goddess told you only if she gave you permission. Did she?”
“She did not”, Kuro looked troubled.
“Do not breath a word to anyone then; not even the Cardinal“.
“Thank you for letting me know Laura”.
When they finished their lunch they walked to the Great Hall. It was 12:50 p.m.
“The Cardinal will probably teach you how to speak with the Goddesses of Water and Fire today. Depending on your progress he might teach you about the Goddess of Wind too.
An hour or so prayer to each should be enough for them to speak to you. So by 5 in the afternoon you should be finished for the day”, Laura explained to Kuro.
Soon the Cardinal arrived. He trained Kuro like Laura said. Kuro learned three different litanies -each complete with self-debasing phrases ranging from ‘vile stinking trash’ to ‘pathetic gutter crawler’- for the three Goddesses and it took an hour on average for each of them to start speaking to him and give him their blessing.
He received no ‘extra’ gift or any other kind of information from either of them, but he was now ready to learn how to cast fire, water and wind based spells.
“You've made quite a lot of progress Mr Kuro in just one day! You are dismissed for now. I'll see you again tomorrow early in the morning, right after breakfast. The rest of the day is free for you to do as you wish”, the Cardinal said, and took off. It was 4:40 in the afternoon.
“Hey Laura, I'm not particularly tired, can we ride Auli to go see the city for a spell? (pun intended) I mean if you are up to it”.
“Sure bosu, I'll show you around my favorite spots of the city. I did not get the spell reference but it's fine”.
Kuro wanted to have a bit of fun, to decompress. He suspected the attacker would make his move tonight. They hopped on Auli and Laura started showing him around the Black City. The city was dark, very dark. The violet sunlight probably made it look even darker. But it was gorgeous. And almost unbelievably clean.
They stopped by one canal to taste its water.
“Are you sure I can drink it? What if someone just peed upstream?”, Kuro asked.
“The Goddess of Water -along with two dozens of water magic specialists- keep this water constantly clean. Taste and you'll find out”.
Kuro took a sip. The water was cool, crystal clear and tasted like it was cleaner than the best mineral water from his world. ‘Magic is handy I guess’, Kuro thought.
They wondered the city for almost three hours. They saw many dark purple and blue castles, with a few cyan or green details here and there, along with multiple dark grey and brown mansions that looked -and did not look- like they escaped from the pages of a fantasy light novel.
Laura finally showed him a pub that was reportedly the only red building in the city.
“Why is this red?”, Kuro asked.
“The pub's owner said she wanted to make a difference”.
It was getting dark, so they thought it was time to return to the Church. Showing Kuro around Minas Táril was a bit tiring for both. Auli seemed to have been tired as well.
As Laura was about to ride Auli she accidentally cut her leg with the edge of the right stirrup; it was not properly smoothed at that point, a small metal prickle was protruding.
Laura cursed silently as bright cyan blood gushed from her wound. Her blood was as brightly cyan -or turquoise- as the suits of Santas in Kuro's dream. When Kuro saw her blood he thought they were even more different than he assumed. Laura quickly healed it with a spell, but not before it stained her boot.
On the way back to the Church Kuro was contemplative. He tried to think of ways to process the hot info-dump of the Goddess; he could not disclose it to anyone, unless he took the Goddess' permission.
So his options were to do that and then tell Laura the secret or try to find some proof. And such proof should emerge sooner rather than later. After some internal conflict Kuro decided on option B.
“Proof it is then”, he whispered.
“What?", Laura turned her head.
“No.. nothing. I was just lost in thought".
They returned to the Church less than an hour before the evening supper.
Kuro asked to remain alone for a while. He had a bath -bless the Goddess of Water and her magic pumps which allowed running water to every room of the Church, and the Goddess of Fire for keeping the water warm- to relax and be ready for the night.
He rejoined Laura, they had a simple supper, barely talked, and finally the time came for Kuro to spend his second night at the Church. At 10 p.m. he was in bed. Not sleeping, waiting. For Laura's traps to activate. Or, at least, he hoped they would, so he would be done with the entire traitor issue once and for all.
One hour passed. Nothing. Another hour. Still nothing. Then, a while after midnight, by which time Kuro was barely holding his eyelids open, he heard the door of his room slowly opening.
Kuro closed his eyes almost entirely, leaving just a tiny sliver to see the attacker; he was laying in a supine position and his room was dark but not too dark for dark-adjusted eyes .
He first saw a hand holding a knife entering; then a leg, which was about to step on the magic mine. The attacker wore light blue vestments. Even then Kuro thought ‘It can't be, perhaps the Goddess was confused and it's one of the others, not him!’
As the assailant had half entered Kuro's room he stepped on Laura's door trap. The magic ring activated and burst into bright red light, which illuminated the entire room. The assailant started to convulse as his face was made clearly visible, verifying the words of the Goddess.
Laura arrived in 5 seconds, tops.
“Cardinal?!? Cardinal Laicolassë?!? You are the traitor?!”
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