Lord of Mysteries 2: Circle of Inevitability -
Chapter 55 - 55 Persona
If Lumian remembered correctly, Pierre Berry would undoubtedly visit the cathedral to offer his prayers past noon of March 30th. He and Reimund had crossed paths with him during the previous cycle, and Lumian had also encountered him at the village square at a similar hour.
However, it was already three or four in the afternoon!
“When did he leave?” Lumian inquired.
Martie pondered for a moment and responded, “Around the time taken to cover a mile.”
In the countryside, except for a handful of people, hardly anyone owned a timepiece. Time was generally conveyed through specific activities and indications such as grape harvesting season, the duration of a mile’s walk, and so forth.
Obviously, if the timeframe was brief enough for people to perceive it more distinctly, “a few minutes” and “15 minutes” would be employed in verbal expressions.
A mile? That isn’t too far… Lumian speculated that Pierre Berry had already gone to the cathedral around noon and had yet to return.
One mile in Cordu was equivalent to one kilometer in the Intisian metric system.
After bidding farewell to Pierre’s mother, Martie, Lumian departed from the Berry residence and proceeded towards the village square.
He was unsure whether Pierre Berry had visited the cathedral at noon and returned again in the afternoon, or if something had cropped up, delaying his return.
If it was the former scenario, Lumian could sense something brewing. It was highly unusual for Pierre Berry to frequently visit the cathedral to meet the padre. Something dreadful was certainly afoot.
If it was the latter scenario, it would be a massive problem!
Before Lumian, who retained his memories, and Aurore, who already knew the cycle, made an attempt, the history should remain unaltered!
If there were any deviations, it could indicate that the siblings had not completely comprehended the pattern of the cycles, or that there were others who could retain their memories.
With this in mind, Lumian heaved a sigh and raised his hand to strike his face.
He was so startled that he forgot to inquire if Pierre had visited the cathedral at noon.
That was crucial.
It was far too suspicious to turn back and ask now. Lumian could only obtain some information from Pierre when they drank together later. He quickly suppressed his frustration and strode towards the square.
Upon entering the cathedral of the Eternal Blazing Sun, he saw the padre, Guillaume Bénet, standing in front of the altar with several sunflowers. He was conversing with a few individuals seated in the front pew.
As soon as Lumian entered, Guillaume Bénet ceased speaking and glanced over.
Some plot? Lumian smiled as he approached the altar, observing the individuals listening to the padre’s ‘sermon.’
He spotted Shepherd Pierre Berry, the thug Pons Bénet, and a few of his henchmen. He also saw the padre’s mistress, Madonna Bénet, and Sybil Berry. He was surprised to see a man here but also found it reasonable—Arnault André, Naroka’s youngest son, a farmer in his forties.
“Hello, Pierre…” Lumian greeted him with a smile, but he halted midway.
The second half of his sentence was meant to be, “Aren’t you buying drinks? Why are you here?” However, he suddenly became vigilant and remembered that this arrangement had yet to occur in this cycle.
This was something that had only transpired in the previous cycle. This was the first time Lumian had encountered Shepherd Pierre Berry in this cycle.
As Cordu’s Prankster King, Lumian’s reflexes were lightning-quick. He promptly altered his posture and extended his arms towards the altar.
“Praise the Sun!”
Keeping up the facade, his thoughts raced as he conjured up a fresh alibi.
After paying homage to the Sun and receiving a response from the priest, Lumian pivoted and addressed Pierre Berry, who sat at the front row’s edge, gazing at him with bewilderment.
“I heard you had returned to the village, so I went to your dwelling to seek you out. Lo and behold, you’re here in the cathedral.”
He didn’t specify who had informed him, knowing that Pierre Berry would have been spotted en route to the cathedral.
With no witnesses to his lie, Lumian had a fallback option—Ava’s father, the cobbler Guillaume Lizier.
“Why are you looking for me?” Pierre Berry rose to his feet, clad in a dark-brown robe, his blue eyes brimming with gentle amusement and perplexity.
Lumian had already prepared a plausible excuse. He grinned and responded, “I yearn to hear your tales while tending to your flock. Diverse countries, varied hamlets, and sundry locales. They must be enthralling.”
In the past, he had frequently conversed with newly-returned shepherds to enrich his knowledge.
Without waiting for Pierre Berry’s reply, Lumian shifted his gaze from his disheveled and greasy black hair to his brand-new leather shoes.
“Did you make it rich?”
“My current employer was more generous this time and bestowed upon me quite a few things,” Pierre Berry replied with a smile. “I’ll treat you to a drink later.”
“Alright.” This was precisely what Lumian had been angling for.
He even inquired, “When will you be heading there?”
This displayed the panache of a regular patron of Ol’ Tavern. He was unashamed when it came to cadging a glass of wine.
Pierre Berry glanced at Guillaume Bénet, the priest, and received a corresponding hint.
“How about after dinner?” he suggested.
“Agreed,” Lumian assented readily.
Thereafter, under the scrutiny of the shepherd, priest, Pons Bénet, and company, he seated himself in the second pew closest to him.
“…” Pierre Berry was momentarily taken aback. “Aren’t you going back?”
“I haven’t prayed in ages. I’ll seize this opportunity to pray, lest the deity thinks I’m not devout enough.”
“Carry on, carry on. Pretend I’m not here.”
Saying so, he closed his eyes, lowered his head slightly, and crossed his arms over his chest.
Pierre Berry, Guillaume Bénet, Pons Bénet, and the rest exchanged glances, at a loss for words.
After patiently waiting for an extended period and observing Lumian still engrossed in prayer, the priest turned to Pierre Berry, gesturing for him to inquire.
Pierre Berry approached Lumian’s side and patted his shoulder.
“How long do you intend to pray?”
Lumian opened his eyes and stated gravely, “I plan to pray until dinnertime. Since there’s nothing else to do, I can make a confession later.”
Guillaume Bénet’s forehead twitched upon hearing this.
Gazing at Madonna, Sybil, Pons, Arnault, and the others waiting for him, he exhaled slowly. He signaled to Pierre Berry and gestured towards the door.
Pierre Berry comprehended the priest’s unspoken message and hastily informed Lumian, “I’m done praying. Shall we proceed to Ol’ Tavern now?”
“Absolutely!” Lumian stood up, grinning from ear to ear. There was nary a hint of solemnity or piety in his demeanor.
Previously, he had discerned that his arrival had impeded the padre and his accomplices’ machinations. In a mischievous attempt to play a prank, he feigned interest and lingered until Pierre Berry was required to depart prematurely.
He surmised that the padre saw through his act, but what use was being the Prankster King of Cordu if he didn’t create a bit of mischief in such circumstances?
He had to maintain his persona to avoid arousing suspicion!
Lumian lamented his sister’s probable departure to Berry’s abode to confer with the three sheep. Had she been present, he could have dispatched White Paper to the cathedral to clandestinely overhear the padre’s scheme and glean valuable intelligence.
Perhaps I can undertake this in the next cycle, but would Pierre detect our surveillance? Pierre is no simpleton. He is certainly more capable than an ordinary person like the padre… Lumian’s thoughts raced as he trailed Pierre out of the cathedral and towards the Ol’ Tavern.
In the sheep pen behind the Berry household.
Aurore, donned in a white gown, circumnavigated the woods and vaulted the wooden fence.
As an alluring woman seldom seen in the village, she had to choose this relatively secluded path. Otherwise, she would be subjected to small talk or worse, suspicion.
When will I learn the spells of invisibility and shadow concealment? Aurore ruminated wistfully as she advanced towards the three sheep that had huddled beside a haystack.
Speaking in Highlander, she said, “Do not fret. I am the adversary of Shepherd Pierre Berry.”
The eyes of the three sheep, whose coats were besmirched with filth, underwent a rapid transformation. Their initial vigilance and apprehension gave way to hope and perplexity.
Despite their initial reservations, they did not retreat and permitted Aurore to approach.
Aurore continued, “I discovered your peculiarities through certain means. You were once human, were you not?”
The eyes of the three sheep were suddenly imbued with shock, elation, hope, and skepticism. They instinctually bleated.
Aurore surveyed them.
“You cannot speak, but you can write, can you not?”
One of the sheep was stupefied for a moment before hastily inscribing on the ground.
It scribbled a simple Highlander word: “Yes.”
The sheep was confirming that they were once human.
“What transpired? Why were you transformed into sheep?” Aurore pondered briefly before adding, “Write the beginning, middle, and end separately to save time.”
The three sheep divided the task and inscribed different portions of the narrative on the surface of the soil using their hooves.
Before long, they had each completed a sentence.
“We were caught.”
“A ritual was conducted.”
“Swaddled in sheepskin and metamorphosed into sheep.”
A ritualistic sorcery that can convert a human into a sheep using sheepskin? Hmph. That is decidedly easier than transfiguring a person into a sheep. The only question is, which deity was the ritual invoking? Aurore queried as her mind raced, “Did Pierre Berry capture you? Is he alone?”
She wished to ascertain Pierre Berry’s current strength.
“Yes.” One of the sheep responded.
The other sheep added more: “He has an accomplice. They were both exceedingly formidable.”
Pierre Berry was already immensely powerful before his return to the village? Aurore suddenly detected something amiss.
Why did Pierre Berry appear to be under the sway of Guillaume Bénet, the padre?
Guillaume Bénet was still an ordinary person!
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