12: Clean Up
“In the first place, you are always way too reckless in your actions. Can’t you put yourself in our shoes, even a little!”
“We put so much effort into activating that sealing magic, and you just had to go and waste it all!?”
“What were you going to do if that statue went berserk!?”
“About that, I do understand that it would be preferable if you can solve this without sealing her, but what about all our hard work?”
I was forced to sit in a seiza position on top of the pedestal that the Evil God Statue was on, as Leonora and Orlaine both lectured me from both sides at the same time.
I admit it, I was in the wrong in this case. It might have been because of the bloodkin symbol, but there was a part of me that was acting rather impulsively.
One mistake could have lead to a complete disaster, and so I couldn’t quite blame these girls for seeing it as a betrayal. They had worked with me in order to deal with the Evil God Statue.
And so I understood why they were angry.
I could…but I wished that they would at spare me this double lecture. I am not a saint. I cannot distinguish between the two voices when they talk to me at the same time.
“Are you listening, Anri!”
“Are you listening to me, Anri!”
I was listening. It reached my ears anyway. But even so, I would prefer it if they’d talk one at a time.
By the way, the ones lecturing me were only Leonora and Orlaine. As for what the other two were doing, both Tena and Pope were with me, sitting in the seiza position at my side.
There was no actual need for them to sit with me, but Pope had said:
“I will not allow Anri to take this penance alone!”
And he then began to sit next to me. Tena, who had overheard this said:
“In that case, I will sit in seiza as well.”
And so all three of us were now sitting.
This was the second time that those two had to sit in seiza, and they seemed in a lot of pain from being unaccustomed to it. Along those lines, my own feet were starting to feel the pain as well.
Behind us was the Evil God Statue that was being discussed, I have no idea what she was thinking, but she was sitting in seiza too, as if copying us. She was a person(?) who was concerned in this after all, so perhaps it was the proper thing. But seeing the giant Evil God Statue sitting down like this; she started to look a little cute to me.
But since she was modeled after me, saying that comes off as a little self-congratulatory.
I had a strong feeling of eyes on me, so I looked away from the Evil God Statue who I had been staring at and saw Leonora and Orlaine silently staring at me, their smiles were 20% bigger than the ones that they previously had.
Oh, dear. They realized that I had been looking at someone else. Both of them continued their bright smiles, all the while exuding an air of intense anger.
If I may make an excuse, those two were refusing to look directly into my eyes in order to avoid the influence of the evil eye, and so I ended up looking at other things.
“It seems that she is not yet repentant enough.”
“Indeed. What shall we do?”
As this disturbing conversation took place in front of me, I timidly raised my hand without thinking and tried to interrupt them.
“Any room for excuses…?”
They cut me off with a word.
On top of that, Leonora’s left hand and Orlaine’s right hand stretched out and each grabbed my cheeks and started to pinch and pull.
I’m against this violence!
“Please don’t be so cruel to Anri…”
“You shut up.”
“Uh, don’t you think that’s enough…”
“Tena, you be quite as well, you hear?”
Pope and Tena who were also sitting with me, tried to remonstrate with them, but the two angry girls did not listen.
“Now you won’t be able to look anywhere else. And now, let us start this again.”
“It can’t be helped. It is your fault for looking at other things and not listening.”
And so the nightmare began.
◆ ◆ ◆
For two hours after that, the two devils continued to lecture me, all the while pinching my cheeks. On top of that, if I tried to look away even a little, they would pull my cheeks hard.
“Well, perhaps we’ll leave it at that.”
“Indeed. My hands have grown tired, and my throat is dry from the continuous talking.”
I knew that opening my mouth again would only be the cause for yet another round of abuse, so I stayed still and waited for the storm to pass.
My cheeks, which had been pinched for so long were finally released. I massaged them with my hands.
I couldn’t see as I didn’t have a mirror, but I was sure that they were about as red as they could possibly be.
As a bonus, my legs were completely numb aside form a tingling sensation. Any quick movements now would have grave consequences, so I have to move slowly and allow the blood to circulate…
Cheeks aside, both Tena and Pope were in a similar state to me with regards to their legs.
“So, what are you actually planning to do with this statue?”
Leonora asked me as I moved my legs and tried to get rid of the numbness.
“First, I think I will give her a name.”
“Huh? A name?”
I had called her an Evil God Statue all this time, but as she had a will, I didn’t think that such a way of referring to her was still appropriate. And I didn’t want to refer to her as ‘that’ either.
“What name will you give her?”
Hmmm. It was an idea that had just come to me, so I didn’t have any good names yet.
But at that moment, the Anryl Armour that I had been in appeared in my vision.
This was it.
I stood up, ignoring the numbness in my feet and said to the Evil God Statue, who was even now, still sitting in seiza.
“From now on, your name is Anryl Keeper. The Guardian of the Theocracy, Anryl Keeper. What do you think?”
Hm? The reaction wasn’t great. Not only the Evil God Statue’s but Tena and the others as well.
Maybe it was because, in spite of saying that I didn’t want to refer to her as if she were an object, I gave her a name that sounded more like a job title. But a name like Josephine or Charlotte for an Evil God Statue that looked like her, well, I felt that that would be awkward as well, I thought this was a nice compromise.
But everyone should relax. I have an idea.
“Aki for short.”
I took the first characters from each word, ‘A’nryl ‘K’eeper and connected them to make Aki. Perhaps it sounds cheap, but now no one could say anything about objects or job titles.
She seemed to be satisfied this time, and the Evil God Statue -now Aki, raised her right hand. It appeared like she was fond of the name.
“Aki then. I think that it is a good name, but what do you mean by Guardian of the Theocracy?”
Pope asked, appearing to still be fighting the numbness in his legs.
“I will have her remain and stand here, in times of need she can be part of my defense force.”
Though I said defense force, a statue of this size who was mobile was likely to prevent anyone from attacking by just standing there. So she might actually have more of an effect as a deterrent.
This country, as it is now, has almost nothing that could be considered as a fighting force. It’s made me quite wary of the possibility of an attack, so I would be quite relieved if Aki took this responsibility.
“I see, that’s a great idea. That would help us a lot as well. If you require it, we will allot some of the defense budgets to this purpose.”
“Dispatching fees can be discussed at a later date.”
As they would be dispatching one my own, it was only proper that I would receive the dispatching fee. And if necessary, I could use some of it to pay her a salary.
But it was likely that Aki would not require food or anything that involved money, so she wouldn’t need to be paid anything.
However, she was no ordinary bronze statue, as she had a will. It would be necessary to lay out some labor conditions. Even if she wouldn’t be paid, I think I could allow her rests and vacations at least.
Though, after seeing her so happily collect those giant gold coins, there was a risk that she might start asking for money. I’d have to negotiate when the time came.
Right then Tena, who had finally recovered from her numbed feet, raised her hand and asked:
“Uh, it’s about Aki…if you had her stand here, wouldn’t we start receiving complaints from other countries?”
In truth, it was something that I had considered but had pushed to the back of my mind.
Aki had walked around in a wide area that included the domains of humans and mazoku, destroying buildings and wreaking havoc. Even if you ignored that, she had still unmistakably created chaos among the other countries. Saying that I will keep her installed here in the Theocracy was likely to be met with complaints. The only saving grace was that she hadn’t hurt any people yet.
However, as I’ve already resolved to help her, there was nothing to do but for me to take responsibility, apologize and make reparations until they were accepted.
…What little amount of money I have will inevitably disappear.
I looked at Leonora as if to check her mood.
“Our country has no intention of asking for reparations. While chaos may have been caused, no actual harm was done.”
Thank god, for now at least there would be no trouble with the mazoku. Now I could concentrate on dealing with the humans.
I went over to Pope and made a single order.
“I need you to send a message to all of the countries. Tell them about the current situation, and that I am thinking about keeping Aki…as a Guardian Anryl Keeper for the Theocracy. Also that I am willing to make amends through financial means.”
“Understood. I will do it immediately.”
Pope also seemed to have recovered from his numbed legs, as he got up, bowed and left in the direction of the Evil God Temple.
“Are you sure about that?”
“About the money?”
“Yeah, reparations between countries. Though you may have amassed some money the other day, I think the price may be too steep to pay by yourself.”
“That may be true, but I have to settle this.”
Yes, in order for Aki to be able to be able to stay here, I had to settle this once and for all. I would have to accept a certain degree of monetary compensation.
…it may be a lot more than I expect, but it’s my responsibility as I made her my kin. I can’t escape this, even if it means living in debt.