The girl accepted Dalis moving towards her shoulder. Rather, she did not want to imagine the consequences of not letting him do so. She could only endure as Dalis put an arm over her shoulder, closing-in his head a breath away from her vulnerable ears.
Then he began his hypnotising preach of his universal bible.
"Listen to me sweetie, Sister Edna is not weird at all, nor is she imperfect in anyway. Sister Edna is the goddess incarnate, if not the goddess herself. Although she worships Caleyar, maybe it should be him worshipping her instead," Dalis whispered, gradually increasing his tone.
"Sister Edna is the culmination of all things bright and holy, the Pedlar continent is nothing more than an impure stain upon the soles of her feet, and people like you and I are tremendously lucky even to be breathing the same air as she. We should be grovelling daily in gratitude to both Caleyar and Sister Edna for such a blessing, you understand me, right?
The girl was struck mute with fear, and Dalis took the silence as an agreement.
"Understood? Then let us recite the first Psalm from the Gospel of Edna! Repeat after me."
Sister Edna is love, Sister Edna is life.
She lives far above, For her we must strive
Purer than doves, Greater than wives
Worth all our lives is a glance at her thighs . . .
Although she had meekly resisted during the first few minutes, the words continued to recite in her mind, forcing her to embrace the profound readings engraved in the bible. Eventually, she fell into a trance. Dalis was no longer required to guide her in the sacred teachings.
Satisfied, Dalis casually walked back to his former place, leaving behind not only the girl but also the curious crowd. Bits of gossip spread among those folks wondering what exactly had transpired between the two.
When he returned, he found Sienna gazing at him with an inquiring look.
"Dalis where did you go?"
"Just went on a little stroll."
"Oh? I guess even you enjoy showing off to a large audience." Sienna expressed a mysterious smile.
Dalis did not say anything to correct her. If she were to find out, he would have no choice but to . . . .
"Candidates your time for chatter is now over."
General Zelgius’s solemn voice breached across the stage, quickly silencing the mass. It was finally time for the closing statements.
"Congratulations to all of those who have reached the top thirty rankings of the Pre-Soldier Exam. Out of two hundred and forty-seven candidates, you thirty have managed to come up on top. You thirty have definitely achieved a great step towards becoming future Vanquishers. It is a pleasure to see the results were contrary to our expectations. It only means that there are youths with greater aptitude than we initially thought. Please continue to surprise us, and that goes for everyone else! This is only just the beginning!" General Zelgius announced. He faced Apostle Wrau and received a nod in response.
"Dalis, Sienna Glatalas, Melvin Serven and Stilla. For your valiant efforts of successfully slaying The Monster, the four of you will be rewarded. Within next week, you will be notified to collect your reward."
Before the mass of children could express their full awe, General Zelgius interrupted.
"I'm sure there is no need for me to go over the complications and other matters pertaining to the evolved wolf. But if need be, General Maria will be there to accompany you all."
The remaining chatter that was progressively dwindling from the sudden break had become void with utter silence.
General Maria felt partially displeased by everyone. She gazed at the crowd like a hawk looking down on its prey at bird's eye view before throwing daggers at General Zelgius for bringing her up.
General Zelgius let out a dry cough and quickly proceeded with the next announcement.
The Pre-Soldier Exam ended, after one and a half hours of miscellaneous talk. It discussed the future and present for the Church, and its children. Hot topics that arose were the plannings for more joint collaborations with other nations, namely the upcoming 93rd Knights of Kingdom Tourney, revealed more by Crown Prince Kayle Relza. There were also talks of the annual expedition, where soldiers-in-training and Vanquishers take groups of children out into various parts of the Pedlar continent for experience and voluntary Church work. Of course, only the most capable were allowed to partake in this experience.
A week and a half passed by.
The talks of the Pre-Soldier Exam had significantly decreased at this point in time.
This was not solely due to the passage of time.
There was an announcement a few days ago disclosing the orphans who are required to be prepared for their travel in the upcoming annual expedition. As a matter of fact, there were sixty confirmed orphans. Fifteen other spots were vacant, and yet to be decided. Thus, almost all of the orphans who have failed to enter are fully concentrating in displaying their utmost worth to be chosen for those spots.
Many of the rankers for the Pre-Soldier Exam have a positive association between academic tests and combat tournaments. They tend to perform very well in both. These children were all assigned into Group 1 and Group 2, fifteen in each, and were privileged to be set off earlier than the other three groups.
It was because of the 93rd Knights of Kingdom Tourney. Only these thirty were eligible to participate as they were the cream of the crop.
Wow! What do you know?
Dalis and the rest managed were chosen to be in these groups.
Nobody could've expected that!
Currently, Dalis, Stilla, Melvin, and Sienna were in the Town of Vanquish. They were notified by the authorities to visit the resource chamber to collect their reward.
"I wonder if they will let us have the first slice?" Sienna asked.
"I'm sure they will!" Stilla optimistically shouted. It was hard for anyone to believe that she had just gotten out of her period of convalescence.
"It will depend on their attitudes. At worst they may have predetermined our recompense," Melvin commented.
Sienna naturally glanced towards Dalis. He noticed the pair of eyes and briefly glimpsed back. However, he did not comment. Seeing this, she understood that he was not planning to say anything. Hence, she refrained from asking him directly.
Sienna was aware that she had unintentionally instigated a bad habit. She was constantly relying on Dalis for his advice, decision, or comment. Majority of the time, she would end up agreeing with anything he said. At this point, it became like a belief: what Dalis says must be correct. Thus, she is striving to remove this bad habit of hers.
(It's harder than I thought,) Sienna sighed inwardly.
The truth was Dalis had also noticed this but didn't overthink about it. He had no plans in mind as of present to change that. He believed that Sienna could probably deal with the problem herself. In addition, he actually enjoyed the attention from somebody that was not Stilla, Melvin, or Sister Edna.
Though the main reason as to why he had only exchanged eyes was because . . .
He couldn't be bothered.
Although he enjoyed conversing, he was nowhere near the type to constantly open their mouths like Melvin, Stilla or Alexia.
When they were just a few minutes away from reaching their destination, they had discovered a dozen or so merry children crowding around an elderly man.
When they took a closer view of the elderly man, their eyes widened.
He wore a white robe adorned with multiple golden glowing tassels and interlaced ribbons that wound down and hit the floor. He had long white hair that reached the waist, a well-kept beard that framed his stoic expression, and steely ivory eyes.
This elderly figure was the Product Apostle- Jeremiah Ricco.
"Product Apostle!" Melvin and Sienna simultaneously exclaimed.
"Ooooh," Stilla responded.
(That's not someone you see everyday . . . )
The four stood a couple of meters away from the crowd. Usually, Melvin and Sienna would definitely send their greetings to such an important figure. Stilla was the same, but that was more so of her being herself. Dalis did not care much, but he was curious to hear about his work. However, the prestigious elder was occupied.
A golden carving knife was in his hand, whittling a log of wood clasped in his other hand. From afar, it may look ordinary, but it was not simple. The Apostle used his knife very peculiarly compared to the average craftsman, to the extent that one would consider it as bizarre. He would poke, jab, chop, and even change gripping positions as he carved the wood . . . No one could not simply label it as "carving". At times the wood appeared to squash, squirm, twist, and even meld to form its intended produce. Not a single strip or little bit of wood was removed or neglected in the process. Eventually, he created many little toys for the children to take. It was like seeing Santa work in his workshop, but there were no elves. He only needed himself!
It was an enchanting and outlandish scene for the children, including the onlookers. Everyone was clapping, cheering, and amazed. In response, Apostle Jeremiah expressed a satisfied beaming smile on his face, and it only continued to shift to other similar expressions.
It would be inappropriate for Dalis and the rest to interrupt this merry scene.
"He is such a nice elder. Look at how happy the children are! They're so cute.The toys are so amazingly done!" Stilla cheerfully said.
"Yes," Melvin agreed. "He is indeed a master craftsman and artisan," he added. Melvin continued to stare.
"It is said that out of all the Apostles, the Product Apostle was the most proud of his achievements and the greatest benefactor of the Church. People consider him as a philanthropist because of all the good deeds he has done for the Church," Sienna marvelly stated. She then moved a hand towards her chin and said in a pondering manner, "If I remember correctly his dad was a carpenter. Back when he was a child working with his dad, he would sometimes be given little toys by his dad. Although his dad never cared much about him, this was one of the few fatherly things he had done for him. Because of this, he wanted to do the same thing as his father. He wanted the children to experience and feel the same way he felt back then."
"Wuuuu. So touching," Stilla cried. She rubbed her eyes to remove the few leaking tears that managed to escape.
When Melvin heard Sienna's recount, his countenance became somewhat solemn. He appeared to be musing about the past.
Dalis was silent and had not made a single comment. In spite of this, he never looked away from Apostle Jeremiah and the crowd of children. It was unknown what he was thinking.
*Psst there's an author note.*