A Saint who was Adopted by the Grand Duke - Chapter 44
After a short exchange with the visitor, Beth returned to Esther. She hesitated, seeming somewhat reluctant before she could finally open her mouth.
“My lady, it’s Hera. She has something she’d like to say.”
“Who is Hera?”
“She is a maid in charge of maintaining the third floor.”
“Tell her to come in.”
After Esther permitted Hera to enter, her complexion seemed terrible. The maid incessantly crouched her head, unable to make eye contact with her lady.
‘She seems familiar.’
Esther recalled the face she’d witnessed multiple times, if not often.
Suddenly, Hera quickly crawled towards Esther’s knees and knelt as she wept endlessly.
“Hick, my lady… I’m sorry. I was wrong. I truly mean it.”
“What’s going on? What’s wrong?”
Esther had no idea of the meaning behind Hera’s confession. She panicked whilst trying to raise her from the floor.
“My sin is worthy of death. I didn’t mean it with any bad intentions. Please don’t kick me out. I beg you, spare me. Hick.”
Hera’s unceasing tears continued to drop.
Highly strung, Esther turned to Dorothy.
‘Why is she doing this?’
‘I don’t know either.’
As they exchanged conversation while lip-syncing, it turned out neither Esther nor Dorothy had an idea of what was happening.
When there seemed no sign of ending her small fit, Dorothy, annoyed, began to reprimand Hera.
“Hey, why are you making my lady go through such an uncomfortable disturbance? Cease crying and speak of what you have done.”
“Yes. I will.”
Hera continued to sob, unable to speak steadily.
“Actually… I am in charge of cleaning my lady’s room. In the meantime, I discarded the pictures my lady drew…”
Hera’s stiff shoulders were trembling. She seemed to realize better than anyone else of the sins she committed.
“I was going to throw them away at first. But such great paintings would be a great waste to leave in the trash… hick. I brought the drawings out and accidentally sold them to the market; I earned money through them.”
“Have you gone insane?”
Dorothy, who was silently following Hera’s words, covered her mouth while overtaken with shock. It was a very serious crime, no one dared secretly sell items from the Grand Duke’s residence.
If punished accordingly, one’s hands could be cut off.
“I must have been crazy for a moment… hick. What’s wrong with my brain?”
However, Esther did not intend to punish Hera.
Since they were mere sketches she’d intended to throw away, it didn’t matter much if someone sold them.
“Is that all?”
“No… Actually, the paintings sold very well. There were those who were seeking a premium as well… There must have been rumors spreading throughout the collectors of these paintings.”
Hera stammered as she shamelessly declared what she had done.
Although she thoroughly realized how great her wrongdoings were, there was a reason behind confessing to Esther.
“That’s why… an errand worker from the temple arrived at my house a few days ago.”
Esther, who had been listening indifferently, leaned her head as she began to reveal interest.
“Since then… They heard that the famous painter was in my house, so they paid for the drawing in advance. My mother accepted the request without letting me know… I’m so sorry.”
“Then you should return the money back!”
Dorothy exclaimed, astonished at Hera’s shameful actions.
“I can’t do that. My mother asked them to treat my sick brother using their mana abilities instead of the money, so they did that right away… Hick.”
Hera’s words were understandable.
Her family couldn’t even dream of treatment coming from the temple because of their financial difficulties, yet this one-in-a-million incident treated her brother’s health.
Esther grabbed Hera’s shoulder and lifted her face.
Tears were flowing down her face and her nose was runny.
“Is your brother feeling better?”
“Yes, he is…”
“That’s a relief.”
Esther smiled as she wiped Hera’s tears with her hands.
“M, my lady…”
“That’s enough. You said it was for your sickly brother. Those were things I didn’t need anyway.”
Dorothy leaped in frustration, asserting it wasn’t a problem that could be simply looked over. However, Esther shushed and kept her from speaking any further.
“Since you’ve been paid in advance, did they say they’d come back?”
“No… I am to hand the portrait to them. They told me to come to the temple myself.”
Hera hurriedly pulled out a voucher from her pocket.
Looking at the piece of paper, it was not the Central Temple where Esther had been. It was a temple within the Grand Duchy.
“Alright, I’ll head there.”
“Thank you, thank you very much. This won’t happen again. I’m so sorry… Hick.”
Hera cried endlessly, relieved she’d finally been freed from her overwhelming distress.
“My lady, are you sure you want to visit the temple?”
“Yes, I wanted to do so anyway.”
“No matter what the circumstances, this is considered theft! There’s no reason for my lady to lend her a hand.”
Dorothy’s eyes darkened; she was frustrated that Esther forgave Hera without becoming irked in the least.
“It’s not because of Hera… something has been bothering me since a while ago.”
Esther looked down at the voucher, her eyes filled with unreadable emotions. The temple again.
Somehow, she felt like she had already been woven into a thread of inevitable fate.
** ━━━━━━━⋅•⋅⊰∙∘☽༓☾∘∙⊱⋅•⋅ ━━━━━━━**
There was not one place in the whole empire that did not receive the influence of the temple.
Although they were certainly found less frequently amidst the territories of the Grand Duke, a place that was self-governed; there was at least one temple in every place to commemorate the goddess.
Esther muttered to herself as she observed the temple, which could already be seen from a distance.
“It’s bigger than I thought?”
It wasn’t comparable to the central temple. However, it was rather surprising the size, considering the Grand Duke was not on good terms with the temple.
“Yes. The temple also represents the wealth of the territory. I’ve heard that the Grand Duke made sure to thoroughly construct the building.”
“Right. The temple’s presence is powerful.”
Esther nodded after listening to Dorothy’s explanation.
Even though it wasn’t a notable day, the temple was fully packed with guests. People were constantly entering and leaving through the wide openings.
“My lady, do we have to hide our identities?”
“Yes. We’re going to disguise ourselves as Hera’s family.”
Esther tied the cloth she had brought behind her ears and covered her face. Dorothy grumbled sulkily while imitating her lady’s movements.
After they reached the temple, Esther glanced around.
There were a total of three doors as ways to enter the temple. One for insiders, one for donors, and the last for general entrance.
“Where are you heading?”
“The insider’s door.”
Esther strode towards the distant entrance guarded by the gatekeeper.
The guard who was patrolling the entrance blocked Esther and gaped at her, confused as to what she thought she was doing.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
The eyes that scanned her exhibited signs of disregard.
It was evident, due to the commoner clothes she had borrowed from Hera.
Esther laughed inwardly at the gatekeeper as she held out the voucher the maid had given her.
“They said you’d know if I showed this.”
The gatekeeper accepted it with dismay. It wasn’t before long, though, that his eyes widened in astonishment.
“Y, you’re Priest Shin’s guest? Kugh, wait a minute.”
The man hurried inside the temple. After a while, he returned with his face a red color.
“Let’s enter. Priest Shin is waiting for you.”
Esther nodded calmly and followed the gatekeeper’s steps.
“Do you see the line of people arranged out there?”
When Esther didn’t follow his notion, the gatekeeper agitatedly pointed outside the window with his finger.
There were so many people lined up that they couldn’t fit in Esther’s eye of vision.
All of them held things such as eggs, meat, and fruits in their hands.
“That’s the number of the people who want to see the Priest, at least once, while you get to see him right away.”
Esther nodded indifferently.
“Oh lord, why is your reaction so dull? For a commoner like you, this is a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity!”
The gatekeeper overflowed with pride as he boasted of the temple. He kept working to instruct Esther while wearing a profound expression.
“You mustn’t offend the Priest, alright? His position is so high, it doesn’t even make sense for him to meet you privately.”
Worried Esther would make an unforgivable mistake, the gatekeeper kept nagging her throughout the tour.
‘These people don’t even realize the reality of the god they believe in.’
Esther disregarded the man’s empty talk and blankly observed the statues of the goddess placed throughout the temple.
The last day she spent in the temple, Esther recalled herself fiercely resenting that very goddess.
“What a goddess.”
As Esther murmured, the gatekeeper turned around and tilted his head.
“What did you just say?”
The deeper they proceeded into the temple, the darker Esther’s expression shifted. The unique air penetrating inside the temple cluttered her mind.
Priest Shin’s room was in the innermost part inside the shrine.
“Go on in. You, stay here.”
Dorothy ended up standing outside, as only one person was allowed to enter per the agreement.
Esther nodded to Dorothy and entered the room.
As the small girl stepped in, she noticed a middle-aged man preparing tea.
She was anxious whether they’d seen each other before. Fortunately, this was the first time Esther met him.
“Welcome. Welcome to the arms of the goddess.”
Priest Shin smiled kindly and gestured towards Esther.
As Esther approached the sofa, he shook her hand lightly and recommended she take a seat.
“Do you like tea?”
“I like it.”
“That’s a relief. This is an herbal beverage I grew myself; it’s quite fragrant.”
Priest Shin poured hot water directly into the pre-prepared teacup.
Esther sat quietly and observed the steaming cup.
“Did you bring this voucher?”
Esther turned her head and stared at Priest Paras Shin.
Her gaze revealed no emotion as she and Shin’s shimmering black eyes intertwined.
Paras was taken aback by Esther.
After he was appointed as a High Priest, he could roughly interpret people’s thoughts just by making eye contact. He used the power of the goddess to do so.
He originally perceived Esther as a normal child, but it was strange he couldn’t read her mind.
“You are a special child.”
“Yes. You have been blessed by the goddess.”
Priest Paras meant it as a compliment, however, Esther had no pleasant feelings regarding such a phrase.
If she stayed here for long, she would wind up recalling her old memories. Esther intended to receive the wanted request and leave immediately.
She didn’t delay it for one moment and asked Priest Shin, “Why did you call for me?”