3 Chapter 3: The Temples
Inside the carriage were two women seated, one young, one old.
The carriage interior was broad, not too extravagant, but with a generous air.
"Mom, what were you talking about with old man Johann previously? What are the temples?" The girl named Kathrin stared at her mother with a hint of curiosity.
"There are multiple kinds of temples, but you probably heard of the pontiff before, right? The pontiff is the head of the Christian temple and acts as the lord protector of the realm. His martial prowess far surpasses the powers of anyone else in the empire. If he wanted he could take over the reigns and political power of the empire at any time he wanted." Melissa explained.
Kathrin was puzzled, "What's supposed to be so amazing about temple disciples then?"
"You know that the level of martial prowess a practitioner reached is defined by military ranks. First rank practitioners are called private, which is also the minimal requirement for a trainee of the army to leave the training and enter the ranks. The second rank corporal, the third rank being a sergeant, fourth lieutenant, fifth captain, sixth major, seventh colonel, eight chief and ninth being the last rank as general." Melissa continued her explanation.
"I always wondered about those ranks. Why do they sound so strange? Couldn't they have named them in a simpler fashion?" Kathrin questioned.
"Those names were defined during times of war, where the main body of martial practitioners were soldiers. The executives back then decided to link the rank of their military officials to their martial prowess. Now that the dynasty is united and we are at peace with our neighbors, and although the military still exists, the main body of martial artists is composed of common people who just rank their fighting prowess by those titles. Do you understand?"
"I understand, but you still didn't explain what this got to do with temple disciples."
"In order to become a temple disciple, you have to exhibit astonishing martial talent from childhood, reaching the martial prowess of a sergeant by the age of 10. Although sergeant is a common rank any martial artists can reach after a while of training, the common people can only reach it by their twenties, if they start training from a young age. Most of the mercenaries protecting our caravan are around this rank."
"It's that amazing? Old man Johann managed to find a pretty strong bodyguard for us this time." Kathrin's eyes shined.
"Haha, that's right. Although he is no temple disciple anymore for some reasons his martial prowess is still the real deal." Melissa smiled.
"Why did he leave the temple?"
"I don't know. There are many kinds of temples throughout the country and every one of those temples has their own set of quite severe rules the disciples and priests abide by. Maybe he didn't like following those rules and simply left the temple by his own volition, maybe he got thrown out by breaking them."
The sun was going down in the west and a red tone gleamed through the sky.
The caravan stopped at a clearing and established a camp.
Most of the mercenaries and merchants gathered around a few campfires and sat around in small groups, while others entered their tents and went to bed early.
Kathrin strolled through the camp while looking around earnestly. Upon spotting a familiar figure her eyes lightened up and she ran towards the seating spot he was sitting at.
Kael was drinking a bottle of booze with the merchant called Michael and enjoyed himself. When Kathrin got closer he lifted his head and looked at her.
"Can I sit here?" Kathrin asked with a smile.
Kael nodded and turned his head back towards the merchant to continue chatting with him. They mostly chatted about their drinking habits and the taste of the best liquors they came across before.
She tapped Kael's shoulder with her index finger and asked, "My mom told me that you are a temple disciple."
"No, I'm not." Kael replied shortly and turned back to the merchant.
"Then how are you so strong?" Kathrin didn't give up.
"I trained hard." Still a short reply.
"Why did you train?" She continued asking.
"To become stronger."
Kathrin's mood fouled by the minute after failing to engage in a proper conversation multiple times and after a while shouted with an annoyed tone, "Do you have no other topics to talk about? My mom told me that adults that only know how to drink are failed people."
Kael looked at her and replied with a slight smirk, "You are quite an annoying girl. Your mom is quite right about that. I'm a failure of a person. Now go back to your mom and let the adults enjoy themselves."
The girl's face darkened and growled, "Don't treat me like a child."
"But you are a child." Kael answered with his continuous smirk.
"I'll turn 16 next month and officially reach adulthood after fulfilling my coming of age ceremony." Kathrin replied with a pleased smile striking a victory pose.
"Hooh... A person who has never drunk liquor before is just a child in my eyes." Kael replied.
"Who said I never tried liquor before?" Kathrin was enraged to her limit.
"Then you surely have no problem with taking a sip with us." Kael's smirk became wider. "Naturally that is after you asked your mom whether you're allowed to."
"W... who said I need to ask my mom whether I'm allowed to?" Kathrin became embarrassed. She really wanted to go to her mother and ask whether she could drink a bit. "Give it to me."
Kael's smile became as wide as could be when he saw his coaxing succeed and went to the merchant whispering something into his ear.
Moments later he came back with a bottle of crystal clear liquid and handed over to Kathrin.
She sniffed at it suspiciously and the stinging smell pierced her nose, her face contorting, but after looking up and seeing that annoying smirk on Kael's face, she steeled herself and drowned the whole bottle. The liquid burned as it slid down her throat and a few moments later she passed out and fell over.