That pain isn’t the punishment
※ It’s a post-epilogue story from Lily Lilium’s POV.
114. X. That pain isn’t the punishment.
※ It’s a story from Lily Lilium’s POV.
Knock knock, I knocked on the wooden door.
In the dim light of twilight I saw a feather that’s the symbol of the Spirit Faith decorating the door to the building.
This is the Sousa North Abbey of the Sousa branch of the Spirit Church.
“Yes, who’s there…?”
“A sister of the Spirit Church, name is Lily. For a certain reason Lily is on a pilgrimage, would you be able to share food”
I stutteringly explained to the elderly sister who stuck out her face from inside.
The sister fixedly stared at me like she was examining me.
“To go on a pilgrimage these days, how pious of you. I’m Sister Rilette. Of course, I will share food with you. Here, enter”
Then the wrinkles around the outer corners of her eyes deepened, and she told me that.
“Thank you very much. It is a great help”
I offered my thanks and after dusting off my habit entered the abbey.
In comparison to the Bauer Cathedral, the Sousa North Abbey is a very small building.
Well, every abbey will be invariably smaller than the cathedral, but this one appears particularly small.
The building is old, it has an appearance that makes it seem it’s better to think of renovating it soon.
While walking behind Sister Rilette I casually observed the interior.
“Were you surprised by how run-down it is, I wonder”
“Eh, yeah, yes… Not!”
Sister Rilette’s words were so nonchalant I inadvertently let what I really thought show.
I tried to hurriedly gloss over it, but I’m not too good with words.
While I was flustered.
“Ufufu, it’s fine. It’s the truth. Same as me, this abbey is also a granny”
Saying that Sister Rilette smiled undauntedly.
“W, why don’t you renovate it?”
“I also thought about it, but this abbey is supposed to be closed in my lifetime. A new big abbey was built nearby”
“Is, is that so…”
“Yeah. That’s why I think of leaving this place as is. I’ll save the money and use some of it to tear it down”
Fundamentally, abbeys are rarely wealthy.
Money is entirely shared within the Spirit Church, nonetheless there’s still the order of priority.
Two abbeys nearby are unnecessary.
Perhaps the Spirit Church of Sousa specially built the new abbey because they old one had gotten aged.
“Ah, I’m sorry. Not many people come here, so I unintentionally became too talkative”
“N, no, please don’t worry”
“Fufu, thank you”
“D, does Sister Rilette live here alone?”
“I live together with two other younger sisters. Let’s see… I wonder if they’re approximately Lily-san’s age”
And just when Sister Rilette said that.
“Sister Rilette, a visitor?”
Two nuns a little taller than me appeared from the back.
I thought my breath would stop.
The taller nun of the two looked so much like Rei-san it’s like she was an exact copy of her.
When I abruptly shouted, the nun who was just like Rei-san made a dubious face and the other one hid behind her.
“My name is Irie though…”
“… Not Rei”
I came to my senses as both of them denied.
That’s right, there’s no way Rei-san would be in such a place.
She’s now in the middle of a newly married life with Claire-sama.
Right, newly married…
“… Uh… Uh…”
“Hey… What is it!? Why are you suddenly crying”
“No, Lily was reminded of something slightly painful…”
“… Emotionally unstable person…”
Rei-san’s lookalike worried for me, while the other person was exasperated.
“Ara ara… What should we do. You only asked us to share food, however I wonder if it’d be better if you stayed the night?”
Watching over us, Sister Rilette said so leisurely.
“N, no! L, Lily mustn’t cause such an inconvenience…”
“Do not hold back. Irie, Mari. Prepare a room for Lily-san”
For some reason the talk began moving in the direction of me being given a lodging.
“It, it really is fine!”
“This is where you presume on Sister Rilette’s kindness. Besides… I’m sorry to tell you, but you better fix your attire a little”
Unexpectedly my back was aggressively pushed by Irie-san.
Told that, I looked down at my appearance and noticed that my habit was worn all over and considerably dirty.
By the way, it seems the taciturn person is Mari-san.
“Can you sew?”
“Ugh… L, Lily is not very good at it”
“You have such an impression. For now, change in this room. I’ll patch up your habit”
When I smiled wryly, Irie-san gave me a loungewear she’d chosen.
“It’s natural to help a fellow sister, right? Then, call me when you get changed”
“… Meal will be soon…”
Saying that, both of them left the room.
“… Let’s presume on their kindness, maybe”
On the journey until now there were several times I was given lodging in abbeys.
But, because it’s the first time I’ve received such an assertive kindness, I felt the inside of my chest grow warm.
“We thank the Lord of Spirits for granting us our daily bread――”
In the room too small to imagine from the word dining hall I had dinner together with three nuns.
After reciting the before meal prayer, I reached my hand for a bread roll.
What we’re having is bread rolls and broad bean potage with boiled eggs – it’s the standard in the Spirit Faith abbeys.
It seems it was Irie-san who made it, I felt slightly miserable as it reminded me that Rei-san too excelled at cooking.
“I wonder if you’ve calmed down a little”
When I finished the first bread roll, Sister Rilette spoke to me gently.
“Y, yes. Sorry for before”
“Fufu, it’s fine. Did you recall something sad?”
“… A, actually, a broken heart…”
As I reluctantly confessed, Sister Rilette gave me a pleasant look.
“To reject a cute person like Lily-san”
“… No eye for people…”
The other two showed sympathy.
Unable to endure I tried changing the subject, but.
“Say, what kind of person was that?”
“… I want to hear it…”
Irie-san and Mari-san got into it.
I guess the two who live in the abbey are starved for new topics.
The unexpected girls’ talk must be just right for the dessert.
“A, a wonderful person. Very much so. But, she’s already decided on a person…”
“… That’s painful…”
As I mumbled the words, Irie-san and Mari-san’s sympathy for me further increased.
However, I did not notice I carelessly messed up greatly.
Sister Rilette caught it and questioned me.
Although her expression wasn’t stern, she clearly made a face wishing for a detailed explanation.
Like this… should I confess or not…
“Perhaps, Lily-san fell in love with a woman?”
“… Y, yes…”
At Sister Rilette’s tone, calm yet allowing no deception, I had no choice but to answer honestly.
The Spirit Faith is negative towards homosexuality.
Even if it doesn’t openly persecute them, the way of thinking that love is between a man and woman is dominant.
I resigned myself to being censured.
“I see… That’s right”
However, Sister Rilette quietly returned to eating without saying anything more.
Somehow the atmosphere has gotten strange.
It certainly is awkward, but that doesn’t seem to be all.
Not understanding what this atmosphere means, I ultimately finished the meal without saying anything.
“Lily-san, are you awake?”
That night, when it’d already gotten past bedtime, I heard knocking on the door to my room.
“Y, yes. Lily is still awake”
I got up from the bed and adjusted my clothing.
“May I enter?”
“F, feel free”
Who knocked was Irie-san.
“Sorry, it’s already late at night”
“N, no. What brings you here?”
“… I wanted to ask you for advice a little”
Irie-san had a very serious face when she said that.
Rei-san’s lookalike making such a face made me feel like it was Rei-san herself being depressed, and so I couldn’t calm down my feelings.
“If, if you are fine it, Lily will give you advice. Please talk about anything”
As a cardinal of the Spirit Church I studied how to give advice to others.
Because I was treated with great caution in the cathedral, I didn’t have many opportunities to put that to use, but this might be a good opportunity.
“Thanks. What I want to ask you about is… Um…”
Irie-san was hesitant to say.
I guess it’s something difficult to talk about.
“Irie-san, please sit here”
I shifted my position on the bed to make space and beckoned Irie-san there.
Irie-san showed slight hesitance, but before long she sat next to me.
“What’s troubling you is something hard to say, isn’t it”
“The person Lily loves who came up during dinner – Rei-san is a person who had saved Lily from exactly such troubles”
First of all I talked about myself to Irie-san.
About my meeting with Rei-san, being saved from my sense of inferiority as a homosexual, exposing unjust nobles together with Claire-sama, and – my betrayal too.
Although I concealed my social status and the identities in consideration for privacy, I gave Irie-san a summary of what had happened before I set out on a journey.
“Lily-san, you walked such a stormy path in life? Despite this, you don’t seem distressed”
“Y, you’re cruel!”
Saying that Irie-san laughed a little, then she again slightly tightened her expression.
“I want to ask for advice regarding Mari”
“… So it’s about the other person who lives here. To Lily you looked very close …”
Mari-san, who tried to hide behind Irie-san’s back, appeared to trust Irie-san a lot.
“Yup, we have a good relationship. It’s good, but Mari’s feeling for me and my feelings for Mari are… probably different”
By any chance.
“I think I’m probably a homosexual too”
Irie-san made a lighthearted face, but despite smiling she looked to be in pain.
“I’ve always been with Mari since we were young. Both of us were abandoned by our parents”
She said that both Irie-san and Mari-san grew up like sisters with Sister Rilette as a substitute for their mother.
“I’m the older sister, Mari is the younger sister. That’s what it surely looks like from the side, and both Mari and Sister Rilette too think so. But, it’s different for me. I’ve noticed something is different”
The feelings of guilt over seeing somebody who’s like her little sister in sexual way.
The terror of realizing it.
And the teachings of the Spirit Faith that preach her feelings are impure.
Irie-san narrated like the world itself tried to deny her.
“Say, Lily-san. What should I do? I abhor myself for thinking such things…”
Unable to pretend to smile any longer, Irie-san cast down her face while sobbing.
I couldn’t sit still and hugged her body.
Irie-san continued crying like that for a while.
While stroking her head, I fervently thought.
How can I get closer to her wounded heart.
“Irie-san, the first thing you should know is that your pain is not the punishment”
At my words Irie-san raised her face with a surprised look on it.
“Falling in love with somebody isn’t logical. It’s not something a person can help. And, it’s by no means a sin”
“But, the Spirit Faith is――”
“Irie-san, do you know what the most important teaching of the Spirit Faith is?”
I stopped Irie-san from trying to object and threw the question at her.
While making a puzzled face, Irie-san thought for a while.
“That everybody is equal under the Spirit God”
“Exactly. It’s what’s most important. Other doctrines were only added later in the course of history”
“If everybody is equal, is it not strange that homosexuals are denied their feelings?”
It seemed like for her it was an unexpected way of thinking.
I felt just like looking at my past self.
“Lily feels like Rei-san affirmed homosexually more logically, but Lily cannot do that. But, there’s just one thing Lily can say with confidence”
“What is that?”
I carefully chose the words and said.
“God did not make this world just to make you a sinner”
This is the answer I arrived in my life in faith.
Perhaps it might not be medicine for those who don’t believe, but it’s a serious, important truth.
“For Lily or Irie-san who are fond of the same sex, this world certainly may seem like a harsh place. But, what makes the world harsh are people, not God. Do not get that wrong”
The core of faith is the trust in God.
For people living in faith, feeling denied by God is nothing else but an absolute denial of self.
The fate of such people is denial of the faith, denial of the world, and in the end voluntary escape from self – namely, death.
“First of all, accept your feelings. Everything starts from that”
Irie-san seemed to deeply ponder.
The night in the monastery was calm, inside was silent like we were left behind by the world.
But, we who live in faith understand.
God always watches from next to us.
“… But, I may not be able to make Mari look at me”
“That cannot be helped. Even heterosexual people not always accept other’s feelings, right? The world is not so sweet”
However, because social norms normalize heterosexuality, it’s an undeniable truth that it’s harder for the feelings of homosexuals to bear fruit.
Having said that, it is not the other party’s fault, and I believe changing such social normal is our duty in life.
At least, the person who I respect has always been fighting.
“… I can’t organize my thoughts yet, but I feel like I understand a little. I’m happy to have been told that my pain isn’t the punishment”
Muttering so, Irie-san wiped her tears and smiled.
“I don’t know how Mari will respond, but… Yup. At least I won’t deny my feelings. Thank you”
Looking like she’d become unbound by something, I thought that after all she very much resembles that person.
“And and!? What happened afterwards!?”
“You are too greedy, Claire-sama. Lily-sama is drawing back”
When I returned from the journey, I intruded on Rei-san and Claire-sama’s home to renew old friendships.
One of the stories from my travels seems to be a big hit with Claire-sama, she got amazingly into it.
Perhaps unable to watch me having no spare time to drink the served tea, Rei-san chided Claire-sama.
“U, unfortunately, Lily does not know what happened afterwards. The next morning Lily departed for the next destination”
“Let’s send a letter to Irie-san!”
“Y, you don’t have to go that far…”
“No, no. That child and Rei are like two peas in a pod, right? I want to see her once, no, twice!”
Is that what that was about.
Claire-sama really loves Rei-san.
No, my love for her won’t lose either.
“No way… Claire-sama is cheating!”
While brewing tea gain, Rei found fault with what she’d heard and said that.
“There is no way, right. I am forever madly in love with Rei”
“I do not need an honorific!”
“… It may be better to go home soon”
With a somehow distant look, I tasted the tea Rei-san had brewed again.
I myself am curious about Irie-san, but I feel a little scared to check what happened afterwards.
I’d meant to say all there was to be said, but I can’t predict what will become of people’s feelings.
There is no guarantee whether Irie-san’s feeling bore fruit or not, and what happened afterwards in either case.
But, I believe.
No manner how painful it is, God never forsakes people who believe.
Thank you for reading.
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