9 Anneliese II
Saintess Nandini was trying her best to evangelize about the return of God Maugus. It was as if she were promoting Tupperware in various villages and towns. She came across a village which appeared so dilapidated and run down that she would have thought it was an abandoned one had she passed by during the Era of Kalwar Empire's peak prosperity.
But she realized that the situation was now completely different. The current six Overlords of the Eastern Islands were not all citizen loving rulers like the Emperor of Kalwar in the past. She had been just an ordinary village girl before she caught the attention of God Maugus as his Saintess.
God Maugus had given her the power to improve the lives of exploited common people. During the period of Preserver Church's peak power, she had enough power to even dismiss hereditary dukes and earls if she ever found incidents of exploitation of common people in cities and villages. She had often went in disguise to make inspections of the lives of the common people. The nobles had even privately nicknamed her as "The Black Nun". Every noble in the Kalwar Empire had dreaded her visit to their fief.
She had risen from the lowest rungs of the society and had never forgotten her roots. Apart from her unmatched devotion to God Maugus, she had an unimaginable affection and sense of belonging towards the ordinary people. She had always worked for their sake. To improve the lives of the common people of The Eastern Islands was her life long pursuit.
"Lady, what is your business here?"
Nandini turned towards the voice to find a battle-hardened, middle-aged man standing several feet away from her. His face was so skinny that he appeared no different than a skeleton. However, his eyes were so sharp that even Nandini felt uncomfortable under his stare. She was a Gold level warrior and to make her feel so, with just a stare, the middle-aged man must be at-least a veteran soldier of Silver level.
"My name is Maria! I am a nun from the Creation Church." Nandini declared, drawing out a fake-decree she had already used many times in her journey to learn of the true state of affairs in towns and villages. "I am here to collect the tribute tax for the Gupta Empire!"
When City Lord Shantanu had bent his knee to The Gupta Empire, he also forfeited his right to collect taxes in his fief to the Creation Church. To show their loyalty to The Gupta Empire, the church collected taxes in the fief, out of which, fifty percent would be sent back to The Gupta Empire as tribute every month while the other fifty percent would be given to Lord Shantanu.
The middle-aged man gave Nandini a long, hard look and shook his head in frustration. "As you could see for yourself, these lands are incomparably barren. The support we used to receive from the Kalwar Empire has long been terminated and our mining rights in the Himalaya Mountains were taken by you people! Everyone living here in this village are so poor that they can not afford to eat! In fact, they are biting off tree barks to satiate their hunger-- you are not going to earn even a copper of tax here. Lord Shantanu has bent his knee to you foreigners, not us indigenous people of Eastern Islands. In the name of God Maugus, I won't pay you invaders a single copper even if it means death. Our whole village will fight to the last man. Leave, nun! You are not welcome here."
Nandini knew that the middle-aged man was trying to warn her. She had heard that coming alone to take taxes in the fief was considerably dangerous for the clergy of The Creation Church. This was due to the backlash from the common people. They would make it look like as if the clergy member had an accident on their way, which was why most clergy from the Creation Church preferred to bring along an escort of Knights when they went to collect taxes in the fief.
"Are we, from the Creation Church, this hated!? We don't oppress you, it's your own Lord Shantanu who has ordered everything." she said, persuasively calming the other. "Why do you hate us so much?"
"You've misunderstood me, Lady." the middle-aged man replied, shaking his head again. "I am a proud soldier of the true Sander Legion. You Creation Church wretches, go around the whole territory hunting for us! Making us slaves! Do you think you will actually leave here alive?" He smirked.
"WHAT? The Creation Church knights made our Sander Legion soldiers slaves!?" Nandini asked in anger, her Gold level aura leaking out.
"Yes, Lady." The middle-aged man said quickly, blinking his eyes in surprise at her aura. "Who are you really, Lady? You are not from The Creation Church, are you? Otherwise, with your Gold level strength, I would have died at your hand right at the start, to be made an example for the rest of the village."
Nandini controlled her anger and she kindly said. "God Maugus survived! He has awoken from his slumber by my continued prayers. I am Saintess Nandini. I have come to recruit people to construct a city in his name near the Rakshasa Forest and rebuild his army!"
"I bow down to the Lord who resides in the hearts of all beings." The middle-aged man immediately knelt down and prayed out aloud in excitement. He looked up to Nandini and continued. "I have fought alongside you in the final battle, Saintess, but I was never fortunate enough to see your face up-close! This Manjesh pays his respect to the Divine Saintess. I speak for the whole village when I say that we are willing to follow you anywhere! There is no life left for us here anyway. I would rather die fighting for God Maugus in glory than starve to death here!"
[Congratulations! You have earned the recognition of all the villagers.]
[God Maugus is looking at you from his Divine Kingdom. He has blessed you with a variety of building blueprints for which you only have to collect the required material and resources, and his faith energy will help you build them until the construction of the city is complete.]
[Please choose a name for your City.]
'Anneliese' She thought in her mind and said. "Rejoice Manjesh! For we have been blessed by God Maugus. Come let us gather all the villagers and travel back to The Last Church."
While she traveled with Manjesh to the center of the village, Nandini learned that he was the village chief, and that it was the years of oppression from The Creation Church as well as the war between the Ultimate Gods Trinity, wherein most young men from the village died, reducing the small but relatively thriving village into its present state.
There were quite a number of houses, but most of them were left rundown following years of zero maintenance and vacancy. The roof tiles were falling off from time to time with foxes or rats scrambling from the weeds growing underneath.
In fact, there were only three hundred twenty-one villagers left, including Manjesh, and they were mostly elderly, women, or children. When the village was still thriving they used to have at-least a couple thousand villagers!
Nandini and Manjesh gathered all the villagers and started their journey back to The Last Church. With renewed hope and belief, Nandini once again strengthened her resolve to kill all the enemies of God Maugus and rebuild the Kalwar Empire from their blood.
For God Maugus and the common people!