This chapt𝙚r is updated by 𝓯𝙧𝓮𝓮𝔀𝓮𝙗𝓷𝓸𝙫𝓮𝙡.𝒄𝓸𝒎
Chapter 26: Foolish Saintess
The next morning arrived, and with it, a sense of purpose as Meralda and I swiftly boarded a carriage.
"A student? Where are you headed off to, young master?"
the coachman inquired, curiosity lacing his tone. It wasn't a common sight for students to take a carriage, especially when they could easily walk or take the academy's internal transportation.
"To the slums, please," Adrian replied with determination.
The coachman hesitated, concern etching his features.
"A-are you sure?"
"Yes, I have some business there, you see."
The coachman didn't press further and steered the carriage toward the slums. Adrian gazed out of the window, watching as the scenery transformed before him.
Meralda, who had seen this route the night before, still couldn't contain her awe at the sight in the daylight. Adrian, on the other hand, observed the familiar sights with a sense of peaceful familiarity.
Contrary to what one might expect, the academy did indeed have its own slums section. Its origins were rooted in the aftermath of various wars that had forced refugees from neighboring countries to seek shelter elsewhere. The academy, known for its neutral stance and vast grounds, became the perfect haven for these displaced individuals.
Initially, the coexistence between the original academy residents and the newcomers was harmonious. The refugees found a new home, and the academy's resources provided a safety net. However, as the academy expanded and more people arrived, finding employment and sustaining themselves amid a rapidly changing economy became increasingly challenging.
Although the academy offered minimal support, it soon became insufficient, especially as the number of refugees continued to rise. Eventually, the once-promising community began to deteriorate, transforming into the slums – a place where those who couldn't keep pace with the ever-evolving world struggled to survive.
The carriage gradually slowed its pace as it delved deeper into the academy's slums. With each passing moment, the atmosphere underwent a stark transformation. The bright, sunny ambiance gave way to a dark and gritty one, and even the coachman himself struggled to maintain a neutral expression. He wore a somber look, likely grappling with the oppressive and unpleasant atmosphere that hung in the air.
I couldn't help but notice the intense scrutiny they faced from the slum residents. It was a marked difference from the curious but generally friendly gazes of the commercial district. While I entertained the idea of offering these people a better life in the embrace of my mother, I understood that such an action would result in a devastating loss of life, a genocide if you might say and that's something I couldn't justify just yet.
The coachman, seemingly affected by the unsettling environment and the piercing stares of the slum inhabitants, couldn't help but voice his curiosity.
"What exactly brings you all the way to visit here, young master?"
I considered the question for a moment. I could have brushed it off, given the coachman's prying nature, but instead, I chose to respond.
"Nothing special, really. I haven't been at the academy for long, you see, and I've made a small acquaintance with someone who lives here. Embarrassing as it may be, this person actually saved me once, and I wanted to see what kind of place this is out of sheer curiosity."
My reply was intended to help ease the coachman's nervousness, providing him with an explanation for our unusual destination.
As I observed the people around me in the depths of the academy's slums, I couldn't help but feel a sense of disappointment. The individuals I saw appeared to me as the embodiment of failure.
They didn't merely glance or walk past; instead, they moved with heads hung low, a tangible air of fear and apprehension about them. Instead of emanating envy or resentment, their gaze was filled with worry, a fear that they might unintentionally cause harm to the students who ventured into their territory.
Harming a student within the academy was an unthinkable transgression, a surefire way to seal one's fate and invite swift retribution. I couldn't discern the intricacies of each person's story, but the overall atmosphere was far from uplifting.
Meralda, my ever-observant companion, commented on the stark contrast between this environment and the more privileged districts of the academy. "This place is awfully different compared to the central and commercial district master" she noted.
I couldn't resist a smirk at her use of the title "Master." "Yeah, I agree. By the way, you're calling me 'Master' now, eh?" I teased.
Meralda responded with an annoyed glare and a curt "Shut up." The dynamic between the two of us was a mix of playful banter and genuine camaraderie.
Despite our brief visit to the slums the previous night, this deeper part of the slums was uncharted territory for us. We had enlisted the help of some individuals near the outskirts to assist with our plans today, but I couldn't help but wonder if everything was proceeding as intended.
As I disembarked from the carriage, I realized that the slum residents showed no inclination to challenge me. I had appeared as an upper-class figure, which, in reality, I was. These people lacked the resources, stamina, and audacity to pose a threat to a student of the academy. They had seen enough of the world to recognize the stark differences in our appearances and resources.
That sense of security continued even after I left the carriage behind. The slum inhabitants instinctively dispersed, creating a wide berth around me. There was no desperation or pleas for alms, only wary avoidance. I couldn't help but acknowledge the stark divide between the privileged students and the destitute slum residents.
As I walked deeper into the slums, the atmosphere grew darker and more oppressive. The people here stared at me with a mix of curiosity and resignation. They weren't hostile, but rather fearful of my presence. Hushed conversations followed my every step, and I couldn't help but feel like an outsider intruding upon their world.
It was a stark reminder of the divide between the academy and the slums, a divide I had rarely ventured into despite the proximity. It was one thing to know about the struggles of these people academically, but experiencing it firsthand was an entirely different matter.
As I strolled through the area, my keen senses picked up on a gathering of people nearby. The scene was curious enough to capture my attention. In the midst of the impoverished crowd, there stood a figure so incongruously clean and well-kempt that she immediately stood out. It was the saintess.
I hadn't expected to find the saintess here so early. Her robes bore traces of dust and dirt, suggesting that she had been in this place for a while.
She seemed to be offering the people her healing and food services, and they were all too eager to oblige. It made sense why she preferred to work here secretly as a sideline.
The moment the church higher-ups found out; she would surely face trouble. She didn't even have her personal paladins guarding her. Just how much did this girl trust people?
"These people are just the trash" I muttered without realizing it.
"I agree," Meralda replied unexpectedly.
I was taken aback by her response. It was quite unexpected to hear such a sentiment from Meralda, a spirit. I had assumed she would be more compassionate toward the people in the slums. After all, spirits often embodied ideals of empathy and compassion.
However, as I looked into her wondrous green eyes, I saw that they were filled with something else entirely: disgust. It was a stark contrast to what I had anticipated. Meralda's gaze seemed to penetrate through the fa?ade of the slum residents, seeing their true intentions and underlying selfishness.
I couldn't blame her for her reaction. The people here, while undoubtedly facing challenging circumstances, had displayed a certain level of opportunism and a willingness to take advantage of the saintess's kindness. They were quick to gather around her for free food and healthcare, some even resorting to deceptive tactics to secure a better share. It was clear that the saintess's generosity was often taken advantage of, and Meralda saw through it all.
In a way, Meralda's response served as a reminder that appearances could be deceiving. While on the surface, it might seem like the slum residents were in dire need of help, their actions told a different story. It was a harsh reality that even someone as benevolent as the saintess had to contend with.
I couldn't help but silently agree with Meralda. The more I observed, the more I understood her perspective. The people here weren't necessarily victims of circumstance; they were opportunists who had grown accustomed to relying on the saintess's charity. It was a complex issue, one that went beyond the surface of poverty and need.
I sighed, realizing that our mission here might not be as straightforward as I had initially thought. There were layers to this situation that I hadn't fully comprehended, and the truth behind the slums was far more intricate than I had imagined.
As I approached the saintess, the atmosphere around us seemed to shift. The people who had been gathering around her quickly noticed my presence, and their expressions changed. Fear and unease washed over them, and they began to squirm nervously. It didn't take long for all the eyes in the crowd to fixate on me.
The looks I received from the people were far from welcoming. Instead, they bore an unmistakable sense of danger. It was as though they saw me as a threat, an intruder in their world.
I could sense the tension in the air, and it made me acutely aware of the divide between their harsh reality in the slums and my privileged position as a student of the academy.
I could almost sense what was going through their minds as they regarded me with suspicion. My appearance was a stark contrast to the locals of this place. Unlike the people here, who struggled to maintain personal hygiene and cleanliness, I was clean and well-groomed. My school uniform, though a far cry from the ragged clothing of the slum dwellers, marked me as someone who didn't belong here. freewebno(v)el
I understood that in their harsh world, the mere fact that I stood out as different could be enough to provoke hostility. However, I wasn't here on a charitable mission or to offer assistance.
Despite their circumstances, it wouldn't be acceptable for them to simply gang up on me or touch me without consent. My academy uniform served as a sort of barrier, a reminder that I was a student and not to be trifled with.