Eirinn the Divinely Favored
Leguna felt like dozing off on the chair. The inn wasn’t near Sacred Light’s Wish’s payer hall, so he had had to get up at six that morning.
Such hours were par for the course for Eirinn, so she was as energetic as usual, but Leguna had become lazy since coming to Chino. It had been a long time since he’d had to get up early for work.
He had recovered very quickly from the worst of his injuries thanks to being a gifted. The only remaining symptoms currently were occasional headaches, but it would take him another fortnight to fully recover. The semi-finals were still a ways off, so he should be fully recovered by then.
Innilis usually slept like a log despite how energetic she was. Had she not desperately asked Leguna to bring her along, he wouldn’t have bothered with the trouble of waking her!
She sat on his lap, head buried in his chest, snoring contently. She refused to sit on the ‘too hard’ chairs. His arms were numb. She was slightly too large to fit on his lap comfortably, so he had to hold her the whole time. His body was completely exhausted. He’d be asleep already if he weren’t afraid of dropping the girl.
He sat, waiting for Eirinn to finish her first prayer. Madin sat off to the side, praise bubbling out of his mouth like so much puss. He’d been at it for two hours, but Leguna had yet to hear him repeat any words. He was clearly a practiced preacher and worshipper, he didn’t even stop to take a sip of water, not once in the whole two hours. Leguna wondered if he’d die of dehydration if Eirinn prayed for two more hours, which it seemed likely she might do.
Pyro’s idol finally began to lose its luster and the pressure in the hall slowly faded. The god had left. Leguna was the first to notice, both because of his affinity to the opposite of the god’s aspect and the clash in his fundamental beliefs and those of the god. That had to be why he was the only one obviously adversely affected by the god’s presence. The others did feel the slight tingle of the god’s presence, but it was accompanied by awe, rather than Leguna’s discomfort.
He sat up anxiously when he felt the terrible itch in his body and on his heart slowly fade. Eirinn rose slowly.
“Is it over?” he asked as he shifted beneath Innilis.
“Yes,” Eirinn answered.
She felt much more invigorated. Leguna expected this, she had been bathing in her god’s light for two hours, after all. It was very beneficial to someone of her disposition, even more so now that she was his devotee.
“What’s that?” Leguna asked when he noticed a pigeon-egg-sized gem in her hand.
“It’s... it’s nothing.”
Eirinn hurriedly hid the gem. She instinctively knew it was the mysterious blessing and immediately put it away. She had sacrificed so much for it, she could not risk losing it even if it had been just a handful of mud.
Leguna shrugged nonchalantly. He had no mind to press her on it since she was unwilling to speak. She would tell him about it in time if it was something significant.
“What did God say?” Madin asked hurriedly. He had convened with Pyro many times, but it had taken him many years to do it successfully for the first time. Eirinn, however, succeeded on her first prayer, before she’d even become a devotee. Envy and jealousy were not words adequate to describe his feelings.
“Umm... God made me a priestess. I should have the power of ten strata... I think that’s what he said,” Eirinn answered after some ponderance.
Pain pierced through her skull and spread out like a hand through her head. A mass of information flooded her brain. All sorts of teachings, miracles, methods of Breathing, and the daily prayer quota were some of the things that rushed into her head.
Pyro unceremoniously dumped information that would have taken Eirinn years to learn the traditional way onto her.
“What?!” Madin and Leguna exclaimed together.
She was a mid-order priestess! Was she not a normal, powerless girl just moments earlier? How could she get so much power with just one prayer? This was unfair! Leguna had had to fight for three years to get 14 strata, and his speed was already considered unfair by normal people.
Leguna suddenly felt like he was mud. How could he match this little girl who could grow as much in two hours as he did in two years? She was cheating! She was definitely cheating! Pyro was a cheat! He’d pray to a god too, regardless of whether he believed in them or not, if it would get him this much power. He wouldn’t be greedy, they just had to raise him into the saint level.
Madin’s gaze bled craze and terror. It took him several minutes to calm himself. His ritual ended with a long, deep sigh.
“Congratulations, child, you are divinely favored. It is the only thing I can say. Pyro has hundreds of thousands of devotees. God favors some more than others. Those he favors most will receive great blessings the moment they submit to Him. Naturally, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t treat his disciples fairly. He only gives those worthy His divine favor. God is fair and just, and those He favors are just one part of His greater edifice.”
“But...” Eirinn instantly understood what he meant, “I don’t remember doing anything... I wasn’t a devotee before...”
“But you believe in his light. Your faith has not wavered despite a decade of suffering. God is not just a god. He is the embodiment of benevolence and light. Believing in kindness, gentleness, and benevolence is the same as believing in Him by name.”
Madin smiled kindly.
“Child, I don’t know your past and I don’t need to. God’s favor is enough proof of your character. He has done nothing but give you what He believes is a fair reward for your faith. That these qualities have manifested in you without God’s guidance shows their strength in you. You were born, destined to be a follower of God. He will naturally take special care of you.”
Eirinn was happy. Her mother had taught her to be gentle, and she had never doubted or lost faith in her words. However, her experiences had birthed disappointment in the world. She had doubted whether being kind and gentle was useful years earlier. There were many bad people who lived far better lives than her. Fortunately, her mother’s teachings did not let go of her and she never gave up her gentle heart.
Now, finally, she had received her reward. God had affirmed her beliefs. Most importantly, she had gained His favor. Whatever doubt or uncertainty she may have had in the past, it was all gone now. God was the true way and He would triumph over everything in the end.
He had strived to better his character under Pyro’s light, but he was no saint. He’d been disgusted by the girl when he’d first met her, but their interactions had softened his heart. Her looks could not tell one how pure the soul was. And, to a Pyronian such as himself, the soul’s purity was far more important and attractive than outward appearance.
“I have a proposal.”
“Please tell me, Mister Madin.”
“You need a mentor on your path to becoming a proper priestess. I am more than willing guide you.”
If he could help the girl along and become entwined with her, her guaranteed progress would drag him along. Besides, he was getting on for age, and it was time he chose someone to whom to pass on his knowledge and legacy and what better candidate than someone so favored by God?
His only concern was that the girl would not accept him. High-order priests were rare, but they could not compare to someone favored by their god. She would be flooded by offers once word got out of what had transpired today.
Eirinn had never held strong opinions. She had always been forced to choose for herself, but she wanted others to make her decisions for her. Leguna was the logical choice now.
“Apologies, Mister Madin,” Leguna said apologetically, “If taking you as her guide means she will have to accompany you on a pilgrimage and leave me, then we refuse. Her place is by my side, nowhere else.”
Leguna knew most priests took their disciples on a pilgrimage, both to temper them and to spread their god’s glory to obtain more divine favor.
“No, Eirinn is divinely favored and already a mid-order priestess. I don’t think she needs to go on a pilgrimage. I mean she can come look for me if she needs help or has questions. I’m not divinely favored, but I have worshipped God for over 20 years. I have vast experience and should be able to help her with most troubles she may encounter.”
[So the old quack has his eyes on Eirinn’s status,] Gahrona humphed.
[Will it hurt Eirinn?] Leguna asked.
No matter how much Leguna refused to admit it, he had grown to respect his teacher. They had never spoken face to face, but she was always there, like a bird sitting on his shoulder, and he’d relied on her a lot since they’d met. She’d also never failed him. She was certainly far more of a teacher than his first.
[Don’t worry, it’s fine. Those divinely favored don’t only have their god’s favor, they are also favored by mortals. Madin wants to connect himself to her so he can gain the benefits showered on her. Being her mentor, even if only nominally, will gain him his god’s favor as well. At least, I think he should be a far better choice than any of the others that will no doubt come running soon since he knows not to be too nosy. I don’t think any of the others will accept her not going on a pilgrimage, for example.]
“Then we are very grateful to accept you as Eirinn’s guide.”
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