The Elf Saint is a NEET, so I Forced Her to Work in Another World, Vol. 15
***The railway line to the port city of the Mouth of Calabria…***
Upon realizing that they had one of the six demi-gods of Chersea and the Other Realms on the train, everyone (save the elves’ party) quickly knelt to give their respects. Nevertheless, the Elf Saint tried to put them at ease.
“Please don’t be so formal!” she told them, chuckling. “I went to the exhibits as a normal elf, not a saint.”
“Still, our apologies for not knowing,” the paladin captain replied. “Had we known that you are with us, we—or at least I—would have been more vigilant.”
“It’s fine! If anything, it’s me who should give apology since your companions were nearly killed because of me,” Lady Hinwe reassured her, “By the way, I haven’t introduced them yet. This is Meanor, my faithful servant in the tree palace. And the other elf is my guard, Gerard of Yusave.”
“Your Holiness,” Gerard finally spoke, “while I don’t object to you getting chummy with other people, remember that we’re not yet out of the danger. Please keep your hat back on your head!”
“Y-Y-Yes!” the Elf Saint, with the help of her maid, complied with her guard’s request.
“Sir Gerard!” the paladin captain saluted him with her sword, “Please allow us to join you in protecting Her Holiness!”
“Yeah, an extra hand is great,” then he turned to her companions, “But you have to look on your own. Aside from you, the other ladies don’t even know how to fight!”
“Hey, wait a second there, elf boy!” it was Salis, “I know you’re jumpy because Her Holiness the Elf Saint is in danger, but you can’t just talk down on us like that! We’re only surprised by those villains, but it won’t happen again.” Then, she pulled out a beastman knife from under her owl-wings, as well as small gun-like weapon, “If you want to try my strength, then I can show to you how deadly the beastfolks like me can become.”
“That’s a derringer!” Gerard blurted out.
“Huh? What are you saying?”
“Err…nothing,” the white-haired elf turned his gaze away, focusing on the other girls. “But how about these demons and the human girl? Can they even fight?”
“Tama can squish a human if she wants to!” the orc-girl flexed her muscles, before saying about Nari, “And Nari is a Tambara! She can transform into a powerful wolf!”
“Yeah, and I have to save your necks from being slashed by those villains earlier,” the elf guard pointed out.
“W-Well, haha!” Tama’lee scratched her head, “Tama was surprised, and she was restrained with magic, much like Nari, right?”
Nari nodded to back up the orc-girl’s claim.
“I may be a girl who loves make up and doing household chores,” Eris said when she noticed Gerard’s disbelieving eyes on her, “however, I must tell you Mister Elf, I can betray your low expectations of me.”
The white-haired elf glared at them for a few moments, but as he knew they were already involved with their predicament, he had no choice but to accept their help. He cocked his revolver once more and told them, “The port of the Mouth of Calabria is still hours away from our position. Since we already dragged you ladies into our mess, please stick with us to the end. And the most important, keep yourselves alive.”
When she was younger than her current self, Eris’ mother told her stories about the ‘beautiful elf saint’ who sent armies of her people to help the humans turn the tide of battle against the demon forces from the 11th Human-Demon War. As a child, it fascinated her at how the elves would come whenever men needed their help the most. And so, she formed an idea that the Elf Saint was some sort of a powerful and mystical protector of humankind.
Growing up, Eris also read books describing the benevolent and peaceful reign of the same saint—her life unusually prolonged by serving as Cherwoods’ demi-goddess, just like the other holy ladies. The praises for her written in those pages glowed in contrast to the then chaotic and bleak land of Chersea, a bloody battlefield of human kingdoms and their armies. In fact, if Eris remembered well, the Lady Madelaine was inspired by the steps taken by the Lady Hinwe to keep the elves united in her vision of a harmonious Cherwoods…along with the principles of the hero, Cassandra David.
She can’t believe that the time will come when she will see Her Holiness the Elf Saint in the flesh. As someone who is interested in history, meeting a person who witnessed the legends happen, and is a legend herself, is a blessing in itself.
Eris had a lot of question in her mind that she went speechless and confused, trying to find the right historical event to discuss, for she knew her time with the Elf Saint was not unlimited. Still, when she finally decided on the topic she would ask…
“Your Holiness,” it was Salis who beat her to it, “pardon me for my way of asking, for I will not mince words. Aren’t you the one who’s home is at the Saint’s Tree?”
The question surprised the Lady Hinwe, and Meanor was indignant at how the owl-girl put up her question. But, the Elf Saint implored her servant to remain calm, and answered, “Yes, it is my home.”
“Do you have someone there whose name is ‘Kuro of Arles’?” At that moment, the Lady Henristone heard them, and tried to stop Salis from talking rude.
However, Lady Hinwe didn’t mind and replied, “Yes, he is my adviser.”
The ladies from the palatial gardens dropped their pretense and gathered around the Elf Saint. Gerard, who was supposed to guard the wide open train car along with the Lady Henristone, called out to her, “Oi, we’re still not out of danger, paladin lady!”
But, the Lady Henristone dismissed his protests, and went back listening.
“Milady,” Eris forgot what she was about to ask earlier, and shifted her focus on the Lord Kuro. “Pardon us for asking, but see, that man…the…L-Lord Kuro…”
“Oh, he’s really a human lord, then!” Lady Hinwe exclaimed.
“Also our eternal king,” Salis added.
“And our special scholar!” Tama’lee chirped in.
“Wait up and shut up!” the owl-girl rebuked the others. “Let Her Holiness answer our questions one by one! She doesn’t have a lot of time, you know?”
“Sorry…” the orc-girl could only say.
The Braunhauer duchess continued, “Er…Your Holiness, the Lord Kuro is…supposed to be dead.”
“Dead? How so?”
“Her Holiness the Lady Madelaine tells us so,” Salis told her, preempting Eris, who was about to narrate the story of the saints during the last days of Cherflammen. “The Beastman Saint, the Demon Saint and the Saint of the Flame also supported her statement.”
“Lady Seirna?” the elf’s eyes widened in surprise. “Now that’s a first! She always keeps to herself, and for her to get involved in a mortal’s business…hmm…”
“Milady,” it was Meanor, “a statue and painting made by the Human Saint herself honoring the Lord Kuro of Arles is at the center of the exhibits.”
“I see…” Lady Hinwe nodded and closed her eyes, as if meditating on her memories. “This man sure is someone special, huh?”
The ladies of the Holy Palatial Gardens unanimously agreed to Her Holiness’ words. Salis then revealed to her, “Your Holiness, we are now on a mission to come to Cherwoods to see for ourselves whether this man who claims to be ‘Kuro of Arles’ is true. This is to prove—once and for all—that he is dead, and will stay dead.”
“Lady Salis!” the paladin captain lightly hit the owl-girl on the head, “Mind your words!”
“Come on! I’m just saying the truth, and in a way that is easily understandable!”
Realizing their sentiments about him, the Elf Saint smiled and said, “Alright, then how about this? Why don’t you guys come with me to the Tree Palace and check him for yourselves?”
“Milady!” this time, the elf-guard, Gerard, protested. “We can’t take additional souls to be protected!”
“I did not say you’d protect us, Mister Elf,” the Lady Henristone pointed out. “I thought it is already clear to you that we’re here to escort Her Holiness to safety, while we head to the Saint’s Tree as well, not the other way around.”
Gerard, however, stared only at his mistress, the Elf Saint, obviously passing the decision on her. The Lady Hinwe looked back at him, and though smiling, everyone could feel the tension emanating from the two. As they square off against each other, it prompted Nari to ask Meanor, “Are they fighting?”
“L-Let’s say Gerard gets overzealous in protecting Her Holiness occasionally,” the elf maid whispered back.
Nevertheless, the awkward atmosphere finally died down when Lady Hinwe confirmed her decision to allow the palatial garden ladies to come with them. Gerard had to back down; it was useless to go against the wishes of the Elf Saint, anyway.
After informing the train crew of what just transpired, the rest of the journey to their destination went uneventful. Though the group were offered a ‘change’ of carriage—since the windows were wrecked in the attack, there was a consensus between all of them that they were better off continuing to the Mouth of Calabria as soon as possible, than risk the dangers of switching cars. And like what they expected, the train arrived at the port just before the hour of the long sleep, though there was a little delay because of the incident (the train operator had to check the railroad-worthiness of the damaged car before continuing).
Because of this, their plan of securing the seats on the last ferry trip to Galad for the day was spurned. Only two spots were available by the time they came to the harbor, and the two guards of the group decided they stay in the Mouth of Calabria for the duration of the long sleep.
“So, where do you suggest we stay?” Gerard asked the Lady Henristone, as she’s the one who the city well.
“Tell me who’s after Her Holiness first,” she answered. “That way, we can coordinate our skills and connections to provide the best security for her.”
The elf guard fell silent for a few moments, before saying, “I guess those assassins got something to do with the guys at Her Holiness’ tree palace.”
“What do you mean?”
“Those crooks—I mean, the palace officials—wanted to control access to Her Holiness,” Gerard explained. “So, upon the advice of that human, Mister Kuro of Arles, she slipped away from her room, to prompt those people to move against her. I can’t say it’s the best idea, but I think nipping the bud before it grows is a good course of action. I’m just hoping that Mister Kuro’s plan will succeed, and when we return, the filth is already cleaned.”
Lady Henristone couldn’t help but chuckle, “That guy’s really stirring up trouble wherever he goes.”
“You seem to be fond of him,” the elf guard commented.
“I worked with Mister—no, the Lord Kuro,” the paladin guard’s eyes had a dreamy, yet poignant expression to it. “He may be a commoner, and his looks not that dashing compared to the knights of our old fairy tales, but he always gets the job done. And I like him for his heart; his determination to save everyone he can…I mean, I’m a paladin, so yeah, you know what I mean…”
“It’s just a pity that he—a baron—won’t even consider working in my household!” Lady Henristone’s ‘reminiscing’ aura suddenly took a drastic turnaround. “I offered him higher pay, and even a chance to marry me! I’m the Duchess of Henristone, for goodness’ sake—one of the richest and most powerful ladies in the Eastern Confederacy!”
“Aren’t you humans marry up to five times?”
“I want him in my household; so meaning, he’s the one marrying into my house, not the other way around.”
“A-Alright,” seeing that the paladin was going off the topic, Gerard quickly changed it back, “Anyway, if my hunches are correct, we can be up against an organized band of contract killers in the payroll of those treacherous palace officials at the Saint’s Tree.”
“Riiigghhht,” the Lady Henristone was surprised by his turnaround, yet she immediately recovered. “Since there’s no ship crossing the waters of the Eastern Approaches by this hour, waiting for the next one at the harbor will be dangerous to Her Holiness. I recommend we spend the long sleep at the nearby Holy Consulate to the east of this city. As I am the Captain of the Paladin Guards, the people there knew me, and they’d give accommodations.”
The elf, however, was apprehensive, “Oh? Wouldn’t that reveal to Her Holiness the Human Saint that our mistress is here?”
“Hm? Why? Is the Lady Hinwe trying to hide her presence from the other saints? I’m actually mulling the idea of sending for a reinforcement of two companies of the Paladin Guards.”
“No one’s supposed to know we’re here,” Gerard admitted. “That’s why Her Holiness the Elf Saint dropped by your exhibits unannounced. I just don’t know why she blew her cover earlier to your group.”
“Perhaps she trusts us?” Lady Henristone offered her explanation. “She can read our minds; she knew I am the captain of the paladin guards before I even spoke to her.”
Gerard heaved a sigh and walked back towards his companions, “Yeah, whatever. Just keep your ladies safe; I’ll protect Her Holiness and Lady Meanor.”
The port city of the Mouth of Calabria was strategically placed at the tip of the northern landmass of mainland Chersea. Originally, it was a ‘gate city’—a fortified stronghold of the kingdom of Calabria in times of war, as the island kingdoms of Galad, Shent and Hareth had small armies and couldn’t be relied upon to defend themselves once an invasion army put up a determined offensive to capture those lands. However, in the time of the ‘Saint’s Peace’, the city grew into a bustling port city as she was now, because of its proximity to the border crossings to Equality (the land of the dwarves) and Cherwoods (the realm of the elves).
So, aside from the Calabrian capital of Sekhtem, the Holy Palatial Gardens maintained a consular office in that part of the eastern kingdom. The reason was simple; for easier processing of the papers of elves and dwarves trying to visit the Human Saint’s grand residence and cathedral. Of course, as the head of the security detail of Her Holiness the Lady Madelaine, Lady Sylvia Henristone was in-charge of providing the paladin guards for the consulate, and their group had no problems gaining access to the facility once they appeared at its gates.
“Lady Henristone, I bid you welcome!” the consul, an aristocrat named Lady Darabelle, Marquise of Curzon, herself greeted the new arrivals. “What brings you here to this part of Calabria at this hour?”
“Milady,” the paladin captain curtsied, which was followed by her entourage, “we come from the Holy Palatial Gardens, on our way to the border crossing of Chersea and Cherwoods. My companions would like to seek accommodations for the long sleep before we travel to our destination tomorrow.”
“Ah!” the consul exclaimed when she noticed the three elves behind the duchess. “Erm…forgive me for asking, but those elves are with you?”
“Yes, milady, but please don’t ask for their identities.”
“I…I see…” Lady Curzon forced out a smile, though she asked, “…if it’s alright—and I won’t force you to give me her name, that elf lady with a big hat, is she an Elf Lord?”
“You can say she’s someone like that, or something similar…”
“Er…” the consul then turned to one of the paladin guards nearby, “Can you please get their baggage and lead them to their rooms?” At once, the paladins followed her orders, before the Lady Curzon turned to Lady Henristone and whispered, “Milady, if it’s alright with you, can you and that elf lady talk to me for a moment?”
The paladin captain suspected something was amiss, so she glanced at the Elf Saint and her guard, “Lady Curzon, that elf guy with us is her guard. Can we bring him along?”
“Oh? Sure! I think he needs to know this since it’s pretty much about his mistress’ safety, after all.”
The consul led the Duchess of Henristone, Lady Hinwe and Gerard to an inner room of the consulate office. One look at the area, and the three already made a conclusion that what the diplomat was about to tell them was something not meant for other ears. The Lady Curzon went past the two paladins guarding the hallway, knocked two times at the heavy oak door, and then entered.
“Ah! The paladins roused from my sleep—” The person inside stopped once she saw the newcomers, led by Lady Henristone. Likewise, the paladin captain smiled once she saw the individual who waited for them in that inner room.
“Lady Malvette!” she exclaimed, “I didn’t know you’re here!”
The former First Admiral of the Kingdom of Cherwind, as well as its current ambassador to Cherwoods, Lady Jeanne, Duchess of Malvette, rose from her seat and exchanged pleasantries with Lady Henristone. “Well, it’s a good thing you’re here, milady,” the Cherwind diplomat told her, “I think you should know…”
The paladin captain noticed that the Lady Malvette’s attention focused on the elves behind her. She tried to hide their identities by explaining, “They are guests from the exhibits, on their way back to Cherwoods.”
“Oh, my!” However, the ambassador quickly kneeled in front of the saint, “Pardon my rudeness, Your Holiness! I didn’t recognize you there!”
“Y-Your Holiness…?” Lady Curzon’s eyes fell on the elf with the enormous hat, “Y-You mean, t-this is the…”
“Yes, milady,” Lady Henristone shook her head, admitting to the identities of their elf guest. “My apologies for keeping it a secret; meet the Lady Hinwe Tal-Inwir, the Elf Saint of Cherwoods.”
The consul and the other paladins were in shock; they surely didn’t expect that the elf standing before them was the Elf Saint of Cherwoods herself. They immediately followed the Cherwind ambassador’s example, much to the amusement of Her Holiness and the regret of her guard, Gerard.
He looked at his mistress with a silent ‘I told you so’ expression on his face.
Lady Hinwe, for her part, reassured them, “It’s fine! I’m here as a normal elf; please don’t be so formal! And nice meeting you at this place, Lady Malvette! What are you doing here, anyway, far from your post?”
“Milady, it’s a good thing to see you safe in this consulate,” the Duchess of Malvette began. “I’m actually a guest of the Holy Ambassador to Cherwoods, the Lord Simeon, Duke of Gibbon, as we are forced to evacuate our offices near the city of the Saint’s Tree.”
“Why?” it was Gerard who asked, briefly forgetting his rank compared to the ladies inside the room, “I-I mean…why did you evacuate, milady?”
“I guess the news hasn’t arrived in the Holy Palatial Gardens yet?” Lady Malvette mused. “Well, it’s because there was a palace coup d’état in the Saint’s Tree, and the leader of the coup plotters, a man who calls himself ‘Kuro of Arles’, executed the palace officials and sent the ambassadors a written demand to leave Cherwoods within two long sleeps. I came with Lord Gibbon to report to Her Holiness the Human Saint that someone is using the name of the Lord Kuro to commit atrocities in the land of the elves.”
Shocked by the news, Lady Henristone, Lady Hinwe and Gerard exchanged stares, and the paladin captain decided to tell the Lady Malvette, “Milady, there’s…something I’d like you to know about the Lord Kuro…”
***The Saint’s Tree, Cherwoods***
With the opposition to his seizure of the tree palace complex gone, Kuro now turned his attention to bringing the elf cities under the Elf Saint’s control. It was not a mystery that Her Holiness the Elf Saint’s weakening god-powers were the consequence of her people dropping their support on her. A combination of the Lady Hinwe’s attitude towards sainthood, greedy palace officials and servants, and natural disaster melted the elves’ patience, and instead, they shifted their praises and worship to the other saints…most especially the Human Saint of Chersea.
This is like the biblical case of King Jeroboam fearing the people of Israel shifting their support from his kingship, if he allowed them to worship their God in Jerusalem, as is their custom. Though in this case, it is only a matter of time before everyone turns their backs on the Elf Saint…
His solution? Close off the border crossings between Cherwoods and the other realms, starting with the expulsion of the diplomats. Once the envoys were gone, the pilgrimage of the elves to the other saints would become considerably difficult, as no one would be there to process their papers to cross the borders, discouraging them from going to the other worlds for their ‘religious needs’.
Kuro doesn’t like forcing anyone to abide by his goals. It sickens him, enough to feel like vomiting. However, this is an emergency; if he doesn’t step up, Cherwoods will certainly end, along with its people.
Uh, this should be a temporary arrangement. Once the Lady Hinwe returns, hopefully, everything will be back to normal.
And, of course, he had to put some focus on the irrigation network. While restoring the Elf Saint’s god-powers was his primary goal, Kuro knew of the dangers of being the lone human amidst a land populated by another race. So he had to make sure that the grand project for bringing water supply into the frontiers of Cherwoods was constructed. Not only would this appease the anger of the elves towards their ‘non-ruling’ saint, it would also ensure that their support for her would return. However, for this to happen, he needed the approval of Her Holiness herself.
Speaking of the Elf Saint, it’s been several long sleeps since the Lady Hinwe went to Chersea with her maid and her guard. And their agreement says she will only go there to see the rumors of a grand exhibit, maybe buy some stuff, then return as quickly as she can.
With time going against his plans, Kuro had to act fast. He called the captain of the Elf Saint’s Life Guards and asked, “Sir Eldarv, do we have spies at our disposal?”
“Sire, while Her Holiness disagrees dealing with dishonest people, we can get some individuals to do your bidding. For a price, of course.”
“Right,” the human handed him a folded paper, sealed with the signet ring of the Elf Saint. “I want you to hire some of them. My instructions are inside that letter.”
“Yes, good sire. Consider it done,” the captain bowed and made his way to the door.
However, Kuro called out to him, “Sir Eldarv, we may have removed some of the causes of the problem of your people, but we’re still not out of the danger. I implore you to hurry, for we haven’t got a lot of time in our hands. Her Holiness needs to wake up soon…if not, then your people should consider a new saint to rule over them, or this land will end.”
Sir Eldarv said nothing, but the words of the Elf Saint’s human adviser resonated within his heart. Deep inside, he was of the same opinion—as were the others in the Life Guards, that’s why they threw their lots on him, even though he was from a different race. Her Holiness the Lady Hinwe Tal-Inwir had to step up to protect her people, or they should remove her as their saint.
Personally, Sir Eldarv couldn’t wait for Her Holiness; the encroaching sands were threatening the frontiers at an alarming rate. Cities in those areas were being depopulated, with elves migrating towards the shores of Cherwoods faster than the coastal settlements could adapt. Food supplies dwindling. Conflicts between the old residents and the migrants erupting. Someone more ‘active’ must take charge now. And they—as the Life Guards of the Elf Saint—had the power to bring forth the elves’ salvation…
And for that to happen, the Lady Hinwe must die.