Amelia tightened her grip on Ivan’s large hand, leading him to a nearby table where a sculpture was placed.
“Sit down and talk to me.”
As she sat him down to sit next to her, she seemed unconcerned about the possibility that the place might be dirty from other people’s footsteps. It was an unexpected side of her, according to Ivan.
“Did you go out again?”
It was when he had just sat down beside Amelia. When she turned her head with a glint in her eye, their eyes met.
Apart from the fact that the color was different, they were ordinary human pupils. Yet unmistakably different. Ivan turned his head back and locked eyes with Amelia, lost in thought.
When he didn’t respond, she pressed him for an answer once more, and he nodded belatedly.
“Where did you go? To the tavern again this time? Did you also drink?”
“I did drink.”
Amelia exclaimed, clapping her hands. She had a childlike attitude.
“What does alcohol taste like?”
She was as curious as a calf as if she had never gone beyond the temple walls all her life.
“It varies depending on the type.”
“Some have a bitter taste and smell, while others are made from fruits and have a sweet smell.”
It was natural that alcohol was strictly forbidden in the temple. Even if it were nothing more than a hypocritical institution without any real interest in God, if they were to show any signs of self-indulgence, the Escliffe people would start to harbor suspicions.
“Does it make you feel better when you drink it?”
Ivan pondered Amelia’s question for a moment.
“If you drink moderately.”
“What about if you drink a lot?”
“It can make you lose control of your body or emotions. You might feel good.”
His response showed his disdain for such actions. Amelia naturally sensed that Ivan didn’t like getting drunk much.
“I was curious because I’ve never tasted it. I wonder if it really does make you feel better.”
She turned the conversation.
“What do people talk about when they gather?”
Amelia leaned slightly toward Ivan.
“They just talk about everyday things. This year is a good harvest or a bad one. Someone next door gave birth. Sometimes, they even talk about a dog giving birth.”
Ivan answered nonchalantly.
“Sometimes they even get into fights. They lose money while playing cards.”
“Wow… is that a bad thing?”
“Finding fun can be a bad thing.”
His response was somewhat grim. Convinced that Ivan was a deviant priest, she didn’t bother to try to convert him.
“Sometimes they even bet on one woman.”
“Who can seduce a woman first.”
Amelia’s eyes widened at Ivan’s words, and she blinked.
“Because they want to become lovers?”
“Usually, it’s not about wanting to be lovers.”
Ivan chuckled briefly as if dealing with an innocent young lady who didn’t understand the ways of the world.
“Just for one night of pleasure?”
“That, that’s really bad.”
Amelia furrowed her brow.
“They don’t care about the other person’s feelings. No matter what kind of hurt they might cause… “
“Don’t worry about it. It’s something unrelated to you anyway.”
He cut off her words, saying that there was no need to worry about things as it didn’t concern her.
In fact, more than half of the stories that came out of the tavern were trivial tales that didn’t require careful attention, so it was natural. However, his words sounded chilly and distant, as if revealing his hidden nature deep within.
“Sometimes we also talk about you.”
When Ivan added, turning the conversation, Amelia paused at his words. She slowly rolled her eyes before turning to Ivan again.
“What do they say about me?”
“Are you really immortal? Do you really not age? Are you really God’s agent?”
He responded seriously.
“Is that true?”
Ivan asked, looking directly into Amelia’s eyes. It was a rather insignificant question, yet strangely, Amelia felt her heart sink.
Amelia smiled awkwardly.
While she could easily reveal to Aaron that she wasn’t the priestess, it was difficult to do so with Ivan. She also knew that her purpose lay in that role. That was the reason she didn’t deny being the priestess, even if she asked people to call her by name.
She didn’t want to die because she had served her purpose.
Perhaps Ivan’s innocent question felt like a sharp attack due to her conscience. To conceal her trembling eyes, Amelia lowered her gaze halfway.
“I asked a strange question.”
He added an excuse as if to suggest that he hadn’t doubted her existence. Amelia’s heart throbbed and raced.
Amelia felt a weak sense of guilt towards him.
“You said you were curious about the taste of alcohol earlier. Shall I bring some for you?”
Ivan, who had been watching her, smoothly changed the subject. Forgetting the guilt she had felt just moments ago, her eyes widened in surprise.
“Can you bring it into the temple?”
“If I hide it?”
He replied brazenly. Considering that he had also sneaked into the temple, bringing in a bit of alcohol was trivial in comparison.
“No, it’s not worth the risk of getting caught.”
Amelia replied, shaking her head, considering that the risk was too big. Bringing in forbidden items, especially alcohol, was a different issue from having secret conversations like this. She was well aware of the consequences that rule-breakers faced.
“Just. Instead of that…”
She hesitated as she opened her mouth. To be honest, she still didn’t fully trust Ivan enough to reveal all the truth and seek his help.
It was only their second meeting, after all.
“Next time, too.”
Still, she liked that Ivan, who was the only one in the prison guised as a temple, treated her with ease. He could share stories of a world unknown to her, stories that everyone else kept hidden from her.
“Come to meet me next time as well.”
Amelia whispered, clutching his sleeve like a lifeline. It was more of a request than a suggestion. As he gazed down at the hem of his priest uniform, which was barely caught in her grasp, he could see that her thin fingers trembled slightly, fearing he might refuse.
“As much as you’d like.”
Clouds drifted across the stained glass on the ceiling.
The light subsided into the dark. Ivan’s smile, slanted at the corner of his mouth, remained obscured in the darkness.
“Shall we set a date for our next meeting?”
It was he who suggested first.
As the light came again, Amelia fixed her gaze on the handsome man, mesmerized.
“Let’s meet here every Friday night around 11.”
She nodded to his proposal.
“Alright. Let’s part ways for now.”
For some unknown reasons, the surveillance from Louis and the attendants had somewhat weakened recently. Rarely did they seem to move away from her, so spending about thirty minutes in the prayer room under the guise of prayer didn’t seem to be a significant issue.
“If you leave your post for too long, they’ll come looking for you.”
Despite saying so, she didn’t seem to have the resolve to get up from her seat. It was natural that she couldn’t easily let go of Ivan’s sleeve.
“Seems like I have to go.”
Amelia responded with a wry smile, seemingly unable to get up on her own. Ivan reached out with his free hand and gently pulled Amelia’s hand away. His slender fingers wrapped around her wrist, and his hand moved under hers in no time.
“We’ll meet again next time.”
Ivan whispered softly. Amelia’s gaze lingered on the hand that he held.
While the lingering regret was still apparent in her dark eyes, his response was gentle.
“You go first.”
She nodded at his words and stood up. Ivan’s hand gradually moved away. His long and sturdy fingertips brushed over Amelia’s palm before slipping away.