Chapter 1: Decorative Saint
“Marianne-sama, please accept this bouquet. Although it is nothing compared to your beauty…”
The girl in Saint’s white robe smiled vaguely at the bouquet of crimson roses offered to her.
“Well, I am not Marianne-sama, my name is Sylphia…”
Immediately the knight’s gaze, which had been watching Sylphia with rapt attention, turns cold.
“Huh? You are not Marianne-sama?”
“I’m sorry, I’m the substitute for Marianne-sama.”
“What, no wonder you’re such a shabby girl. Give this to Marianne-sama. I’m Curtis from the Order. Tell her I’ll be back.”
“Yes, I understand.”
Without looking at Sylphia’s bowed head, the knight who introduced himself as Curtis walked away.
There was no time to be hurt by his rude words. This was an everyday occurrence, and Sylphia was used to it.
She took the bouquet of flowers that Curtis had brought and went to the altar in the center of the temple.
The altar is filled with other gifts for Marianne, such as jewelry, dresses, hair ornaments, perfumes, etc.
Since Marianne became a saint, the weather has been mild and the nobles have been blessed by the spirits, which has enriched their pockets.
On either side of the altar, red and blue patterns were painted.
This is a temple, and Marianne is the Saint who presides over this temple. However, Marianne is rarely seen in the temple.
Sylphia held a bouquet of roses in her hands, walked to the red-patterned wall, and bowed. She then walked to the blue-patterned wall and bowed as well.
Returning to the center, he placed a bouquet of roses on the altar and knelt with folded hands.
“To Valtis-sama, the spirit of the earth, and Titia-sama, the spirit of the sky, I respectfully offer this bouquet. Look at the color of the bright red roses. And the fragrance. We give thanks to the sky that sends down rain of blessings to the earth where plants take root.”
Sylphia utters a poor prayer.
In truth, there should have been a more dignified and ancient prayer. But Sylphia, not the saint, knows nothing of it.
Sylphia Harvest was a decorative Saint.
While Marianne, the actual saint, was not in the temple, it would not be good if no one was there, so she was stationed there in her saintly garb to receive gifts and so on.
And the reason why Marianne is away from the temple is—
“Sylphia! Let me see what you have for me today!”
A figure appeared at the entrance of the temple and called Sylphia in a sharp, piercing voice.
Sylphia rushes to greet her. Marianne, the true master of the temple, strode up to the altar and took a glance at the offerings.
Marianne walked up to the altar and glanced at the offerings.
“Well, there are some nice things here today.”
She selected some jewelry and a dress and gave them to the lady-in-waiting who was accompanying her.
“The roses are nice, but I don’t need that many.”
“This is from Curtis-sama of the Order. He said he’ll be back.”
“Yes. That’s a new name. I wonder what he’ll buy me. I’m looking forward to it, fufufu.”
Marianne raises a shapely eyebrow and smiles as she holds the card in front of her.
Then she grabs Sylphia by the collar and glares at her menacingly.
“You don’t really think you’re a saint, do you? I am the real saint. You’re just a fake saint for decoration.”
“Y-Yes. Of course I am.”
Long fingernails dig into her throat. Sylphia groans in pain, and then Marianne pushes her away with a sly grin. Sylphia slumps to the floor and manages to stand up, leaning on the altar.
“The carriage is ready now, Marianne.”
A man calls out to Marianne from behind. Sylphia remembers him as the man who had given Marianne a gift before, just as Curtis had. He was the third son of a marquis named Cedric, who had given her a gold necklace.
Marianne, wearing the tiara and jewels from the altar, turned to Cedric.
“Does it look good on me?”
“You must be one hell of a Saint to make man compete with you like that.”
This was precisely the reason why Sylphia Harvest was dressed as a decorated Saint.
Marianne, the saint, is engaged to Antonio, the first prince. But Antonio dotes Marianne and is willing to do anything she asks. Many nobles thought selling flattery to Marianne would help them in the future.
Sylphia protects the temple and prays in place of Marianne while Marianne, who is supposed to be the real saint, enjoys reminiscing about her last days as a bachelorette.”
“Marianne-sama, there’s a gift left…”
“I don’t want it!”
Sylphia shouted, and Marianne made a gesture with her hand as if to ward her off, then walked out of the temple, while leaning on Cedric.
What was left on the altar were handmade cookies brought by the children of the orphanage for the saint.
“They look delicious…”
Her stomach rumbles.
Sylphia, who is forbidden to leave the temple, has not eaten since last night.
Grabbing a bag of cookies, Sylphia walked to the red-patterned wall. Touching one hand to the wall, she takes out a cookie with the other hand and puts it in her mouth.
Sugar is too precious to use, but the dried grapes gave it a hint of sweetness. And the smell of burnt wheat and milk. And a little butter. Sylphia prays that the innocent thoughts of the children will be conveyed to the spirits.
The same is repeated on the blue patterned wall, and Sylphia puts her hands together when she has finished all the biscuits.
“Thank you for the food.”
The empty altar is cleansed and covered with a new cloth.
Will the children’s thoughts be heard?
According to the legend, spirits work on human beings through those whom they recognize as Saint. On the other hand, the gibberish prayers of Sylphia, a decorative saint, may not reach them.
A few generations ago, Sylphia’s own family, the Harvests, also produced a saint. But their superficial prayers drew the wrath of the spirits, and they were no longer produced saints.
(I wonder if it’s OK, I hope the spirits don’t get angry because of me…)
Incidentally, if a major natural disaster occurred during Marianne’s absence, Sylphia would be executed as a false saint for angering the spirits.
That was the rule.
(…I’d better pray a lot so as not to offend the spirits.)
Prayer begins with purification.
Sylphia, having switched her mind, took out a broom and a rag, and scrubbed the temple from top to bottom.