Ex Strongest, Asking about the Ritual
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Accompanied by Felicia who was dressed as a shrine maiden, Joseph stepped into the wide forest and stopped. He stood at the border between the forest and open space. As he looked at the surroundings, he opened his mouth suddenly.
“I have kept you waiting. Well then, let’s get started.” (Joseph)
It was shortly after that, the Elves, who had turned their eyes to the Joseph, began to move. They began to gather behind Joseph… No, it was behind Felicia.
It was a spectacle enough to realize that something will be done from now on, but that was the only thing he could tell. As usual, Soma wasn’t informed of the details, so he was only tilted the neck on the spot.
Even so, if he continued to look at the scene, he would know what they were trying to do. The gathered Elves lined up in a row, knelt in front of the eyes of Felicia and started to put my hands together. The scene was almost like–…
“It looks like they are praying…” (Soma)
“Well, it’s just like that. It may be better to say that they are praying or wishing.” (??)
Soma was completely going to speak to himself, but he turned his gaze to the words that came back. It was understood at the time of voice, but a man sat down without changing there. Soma wondered if a man had gone there as well, but he did not go there.
“Hmm……. Are you sure you don’t want to go?” (Soma)
“I’m too late to go out. It will be the same if I go or not. In that case, I’ll just stay here, and will go when the number of people reduced. Well, I guess I can’t leave Mr Guest alone.” (??)
“Is that so… then, can I ask you a few questions?” (Soma)
“Aah, I don’t mind. It will take a while until there are few people left.” (??)
“Thank you. Well then…” (Soma)
While wondering what he should ask from that man, he turned his eyes to where Felicia and other people once. This might be heard if he asked later, but… for the time being, he should ask what he was concerned about.
“In the end of the day, what are they doing? You said they are praying.” (Soma)
“It’s basically the same as what I said earlier. This is a festival to give thanks and prayers to the Forest God… well, are you asking about we entered preparation stage? That is still not the first step.” (??)
“So, in preparation for the festival to pray to the Forest God or something, you wish for something to other people?” (Soma)
“Aah, that is… how should I say it?” (??)
“Well, if you can’t stay it, you don’t have to say it, alright?” (Soma)
“No, it’s not like that…” (??)
The man looked at Felicia and others and crossed his arms. He, then, started to talk.
This got something to do with exclusivity, and there are certainly some regulations among the Elves. There was no problem if the man didn’t explain since he was only half-interested as he didn’t want to get involved, but… it seemed that wasn’t really the case.
The man scratched his head and exhaled a sigh. Then, he began to tell the reason.
“Aah, no. I thought to explain in an easy-to-understand manner, but it seems impossible with my head. It’s a long story, do you mind?” (??)
“I don’t mind. I’m the one who asked you.” (Soma)
“First is… yeah, the girl where everyone is offering a prayer is the protagonist of this festival. It’s because she was chosen as the shrine maiden of the Forest God.” (??)
“Shrine maiden…?” (Soma)
I thought she was wearing shrine maiden attire, but apparently she was really a shrine maiden. However–…
“What is a shrine maiden?” (Soma)
I have at least one thing in mind when it comes to shrine maiden.” (??)
“However, that is supposed to be done in the holy city… No, I see…” (Soma)
The shrine maiden in this world was what connected the God and man, and was what connected man and God. At least that was what Soma knew about the existence called shrine maiden. It was sometimes called the messenger of God.
In a word, it was a person who obeyed God, delivered God’s voice to people, and was responsible for delivering people’s voice to God. There was always only one shrine maiden, and if she died, her roll would be taken over by another.
And by its nature, the shrine maiden was supposed to be in the holy city. The holy city was the Holy Mountain of the Goddess Doctrine. It would be a matter of course if the shrine maiden was considered as a messenger of God. In the strictest sense, a shrine maiden was an old term. They were called Saint or Saintess now, but… there was no mistake they were only at the holy city.
Nonetheless, the reason why the shrine maiden was only in the holy city was because there was only one of the existing God, which was the Goddess. In other words, if there were other Gods, it might not be strange if there were other shrine maidens. It was just that the destination served was different.
“…By the way, you said that she was chosen as the shrine maiden, but who chose her?” (Soma)
“Aah? That is decided by the Chief, of course. He also plays a role in religious service.” (??)
“Hmm… Is that so?” (Soma)
What Soma ascertained at that time was the Forest God or something wasn’t really a God. It was because the shrine maiden was chosen by the God himself. Which was why the shrine maiden was treated as the messenger of God.
However, that was not necessarily a secret fact. It was rather widely communicated. People who knew what was shrine maiden would be hard not to know about this fact.
In that case…
“…Well, are you sure that is fine? Leaving that aside… is that a prayer that brings everyone voice to the God? Besides, it looks like no one has spoken a single word…” (Soma)
Thus, even while talking, some people prayed and after they finished, they returned to their original places. But all they did was praying. They didn’t say what they wished for.
“Does she learn a mind reading skill once she becomes a shrine maiden?” (Soma)
“No, the shrine maiden also doesn’t know what the people are wishing for, you know? But, by praying to her, it seems that the wish is transmitted to the Forest God. “…Well, that’s what I have been told, but in the past, they may have been able to read mind.” (??)
“Oh, that possibility is improbable.” (Soma)
The God of this world was, if anything, seemed to be the administrator’s side. It meant that they weren’t the Creator. Therefore, their authority was limited. It was far from being omniscient and omnipotent. It was impossible to hear and deliver all the prayers addressed to them.
That was precisely because there were people as a shrine maiden, and even the Goddess worshiped in the Goddess Doctrine. Even more so, there was something called the Forest God. It would be natural to think that the Forest God was able to know what they were praying for.
Perhaps, what they had been praying from the beginning had never come true even once. In that case, there was no need to know the contents of prayer.
However, if it was completely unfulfilled, there was no meaning in praying in the first place…
“Well, it’s not worrying about, isn’t it?” (Soma)
“Yeah. No matter what happen in the past, there is nothing we can do but to pray for now.” (??)
“Perhaps I should say that this is the first time we’re having such a festival in hundreds of years.” (??)
“Hmm… I see.” (Soma)
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Soma was wondering was it because of several hundreds of years of not doing it, and that was why they doing it now? Or was it simply because there was a need to do it? Well, that was something he could have expected in the middle.
“May I ask you the reason for that?” (Soma)
“Sure. It’s not really a big deal… aah, you don’t know it. It is something that we immediately understand since we are always with the forest, but… well, it is normal not to understand under the current situation.” (??)
“What do you mean?” (Soma)
The man closed his mouth at that question. He looked as if he was afraid of something–…
“…Do you notice something very dreadful from this forest?” (??)
“Hmm… well, if I have to answer that, yes, I certainly feel it.” (Soma)
Whether how dreadful it was or not, it was all depend on the respective individuals, but it was true that Soma felt some kind of huge presence. While listening to the man, he also thought that that was probably the existence of the matter they were currently talking about, but… as he thought of such a thing, he understood why these people were here. The man nodded once.
“Aah, yes… that is the Forest God-sama. We decided to do this festival in order to calm the Forest God-sama. Like hundreds of years ago.” (??)
The man, who spoke such words, seemed only to be afraid again. However, Soma tilted his neck on that spot.
“I’m sorry if you feel hurt about this, but… why are you afraid that much?” (Soma)
“Yeah… you also probably don’t know about that. We have lived in this forest for a very long time, and we understand it well since we borrow its power. The Forest God-sama’s power isn’t like this… I mean, we are beings that can be destroyed on a whim.” (??)
When worshipping powerful existence, it was normal to be afraid at the same time if people knew the extent of its might.
However, Soma felt that the face of the man, who said so, contained feelings other than that. It was completely–…
“I’m sorry, it’s almost time for everyone’s prayers to finish. Thank you for spending time with me.” (??)
“I think that is my line, you know.” (Soma)
While seeing the slightly awkward man off to where Felicia was, Soma shrugged his shoulders and he muttered. It was about what he should do from now on.
As expected, he couldn’t leave it alone while being accompanied by someone, but he wasn’t sure how long he should have waited since he was bored anyway. There was no way for Soma to go where Felicia was and prayed.
“…No, maybe there is something I can do? I’m going to ask what I should do next.” (Soma)
Soma was worried for a moment whether he should carry out his plan or not, but in the end, he gave up.
Soma was an outside who was only brought here. He wasn’t reluctant to pray if it is necessary, but he probably shouldn’t disturb a festival that had been done for the first time in several hundred years.
The only thing he could ask the man was the outline. Nevertheless, it was a situation where he could determine whether it was correct decision or not. He shouldn’t do it more than necessary.
“Hmm, anyhow…” (Soma)
Even if he asked more than this, there would be no one who would talk like the man earlier. Furthermore, when he lightly looked around the area, those, who had finished their prayers and came back to their original places, didn’t resume their drinking. They were looking at Felicia as if they were waiting for something. There was no way for Soma to be a hindrance in that kind of atmosphere.
And as he thought of that, it seemed that the man’s turn had arrived. Soma saw a man kneeling on the ground in front of Felicia and praying with his hands crossed. The sight seems to be very sincere, and it was unbelievable that the man was laughing while opening his big mouth just now.
Still, the prayer ended in a few seconds. When the man stood up and turned around, he noticed that Soma was watching him. Since the man smiled because he was observed, Soma shrugged and returned the smile.
Apparently, the man was the last person to pray. The praying line completely disappeared, and Felicia, who looked down as if she was holding something in her heart, looked up. She took in a breath, and their eyes locked.
At that moment, she turned her eyes, and that made Soma tilted his neck. Perhaps, Soma understood why since he was observing her… besides, rather than being embarrassed, she looked like a kid who had been caught being naughty. No… maybe, a mischievous child was trying to hid it, so that it couldn’t be understood?
However, he couldn’t continue to observe Felicia any longer. It was because Joseph moved ahead of her, and the place had changed.
“Alright then, have you given your prayers to the shrine maiden? In that case, let’s move on to the next ritual.” (Joseph)
Joseph glanced once at Soma, but since he didn’t say anything, it seemed to be good for Soma not to participate in the next event. Nonetheless, nothing was said. It was just that the ritual and the things proceeded ahead.
Other people also didn’t say anything. Even if the festival was conducted for the first time in several hundred years, the Elves didn’t make a mistake when moving probably because they had heard it in advance. Well, that didn’t change the fact that Soma still didn’t know what was going to happen next–..
“So, what are they going to do this time?” (Soma)
The Elves had begun to form a line again even though the previous line formed had disappeared. But what was the difference than the earlier was everyone holding something in their hands.
Soma didn’t understand well what those were, but it seemed that everyone was having something different from each other. Some had things like knives, others had things like seashells. Soma had things like fur, while others had a bow. There was no sense of unity there.
Then, they came forward and handed it over to Felicia. It was completely–…
“It seems they are giving her gifts.” (Soma)
“Well, yeah. In a sense, you got it right. Technically, it’s an offering.” (??)
When he looked at the voice, it was that man who was there again. Soma thought that the man had gone somewhere else, but for some reason, he came back here.
“Hmm… were you here alone? So the voice talking to me just now was…” (Soma)
“Who is alone? There is no way I can leave you, Mr Guest, alone. Even if I leave you to others, they seem wary about you.” (??)
“Well, that’s completely normal, isn’t it?” (Soma)
“Then, I’m just going to stay with you.” (??)
“Were you discussing about it with them?” (Soma)
Certainly, there was a slight delay before he returned. For that reason, Soma thought the man had gone to another place, but…
“I was being asked.” (??)
“Asked? By who?” (Soma)
“The Chief. That man earlier.” (??)
The Chief mentioned was surely Joseph. Was the reason for that interaction due to him being distracted by Felicia?
If there was something to be done, it was normal to ask within that gap. However…
“By the way, do you have something else to say?” (Soma)
“Hmm? Aah, I was told to give you a place to sleep tonight. You haven’t decided where to stay, am I right?” (??)
“Hmm… that would certainly help.” (Soma)
There seemed to be nothing else. In other words, there was no direct explanation from Joseph to others.
…No, considering that he was given a place to stay, that matter was a very important matter indeed. There was no need to keep Soma here in the first place. That meant that Soma and Felicia might meet in person at some point in time.
He had a lot of questions and he wanted to ask, but for this time, it should end at this point. It seemed that there was a need to wait for the time while watching the ritual.
“…Well, I can personally carry the plan when the necessity arises.” (Soma)
“Oi, I think I heard something from that murmur of yours?” (??)
“It’s in your mind. Leaving that aside, what does the offering mean?” (Soma)
“No matter how I think of it, that is not in my mind… forget it. Yeah, the offering is…” (??)
It was probably fine to spend the time like this until the end. While listening to that man, Soma looked at Felicia and others.
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