The Cult Leader in the Clergy Academy - C.197


The group entered the restaurant and ate their food. While waiting for the food to come out, they naturally started talking about Sun-Woo and Ha-Yeon.

"By the way, are Sun-Woo and Ha-Yeon close?"

"No? I don’t think they are."

"How would you know? Are you even close with Sun-Woo?"

"No, it's not about being close... You can tell just by looking, that's all."

"Oh, isn't In-Ah close with Sun-Woo?"

In response to her friend’s words, the students simultaneously turned their attention to In-Ah. She was the only one who was somewhat close to Sun-Woo.

It wasn’t that Sun-Woo distanced himself from others, but at the same time, he wasn't the easiest person to approach. Although everyone wanted to befriend him, no one actually did that.

Everyone was waiting for In-Ah's response, but she forced a bitter smile and shook her head.

"I don't know either. We haven't been in contact much lately."

"Ah, I see. He does seem like the type to be bad at keeping contact."

"Huh? Well... kind of."

In reality, he was someone who didn't keep in touch. They gradually lost contact, and it was only recently that they stopped communicating. However, In-Ah didn't mention that part and moved on. There was no need to explain such a trivial matter, but somehow, it hurt her pride a little. In-Ah didn't say anything and just ate her meal.

"Where should we go now?"

"Yeah, where should we go?"

After finishing their meal, they started walking outside. They didn't have a specific destination in mind. They would just walk and talk, and if they saw a café, they would go in and chat. They had a good time, even without going to a specific place. Time flew by quickly, although all they were doing was just chatting.

However, In-Ah didn’t feel that well today, which made it harder for her to participate in conversations. It also felt a bit awkward to converse with boys whose names she didn't even know.

"Oh, by the way, are you also in the Department of Priests?" a boy asked during the conversation as if the question had just popped into his head.

In-Ah, sitting in the corner sipping her coffee, nodded her head.

"Yeah, I'm in the Department of Priests."

"See, what did I tell you? All the smart kids are all in the Department of Priests."

A girl who had been listening retorted bluntly, "Well, that doesn’t mean all the kids in the Department of Priests are smart, seeing that you’re a part of them as well."

She was from the Department of Crusaders.

"That's true, but is the average intelligence in the priest department higher, you know? We don’t have any weak links in our lineup. Yu-Hyun, Ha-Yeon, and In-Ah’s there as well."

“Why are we talking about average intelligence? And if we're talking about the people with the highest marks, then the Department of Crusaders did well as well. Min-Seo and Jin-Seo are good at studying, and so is Su-Ryeon."

"Don’t talk about anyone if they are below Yu-Hyun."

At that moment, a boy who had been quietly listening to the conversation crossed his arms and spoke solemnly. "As the temporary representative of the Department of Paladins, I declare that we won't participate in such low-level conversations."

It seemed like he was imitating Dae-Man's tone. The boy who had been fervently inciting that the Department of Priests had the highest intelligence chuckled mockingly as if he found his efforts pathetic.

"What's up with you? Isn’t the Department of Paladins all about using their bodies because they lack cognitive functions?"

"Nope. Sun-Woo’s good at using his body, and his written exam scores are great as well."

"Well, Sun-Woo is a special case... Honestly, Dae-Man just isn’t it."

"...Hey, even if Yu-Hyun is smart, if he'll die with one punch from Dae-Man."

"If you put it that way, wouldn't Dae-Man die if Jin-Seo stabs him with a blade?"

"Look at Dae-Man's body. Do you think a mere blade can penetrate his body? Plus, it’s over if you break the blade anyway."

"Do you think Dae-Man is a bear? He can't be stabbed with a blade?"

"I mean, they are similar in how they absolutely tear people apart."

In-Ah laughed while listening to the conversation. At first glance, it appeared to be a serious and heated debate, but upon closer inspection, the content was childish and had no context. The boy from the Department of Priests saw In-Ah's laughter and took it as an opportunity to link his arm with hers.

"Look, In-Ah from the Department of Priests is laughing at you. That's how pathetic you look."

"Huh? Hey...! I'm not laughing at them!"

"Oh, speaking of which, In-Ah, did you do well on the test too? What rank did you get? You know, just for the written exam," her friend asked.

In-Ah hesitated, but she decided to be honest because it seemed like she was overthinking when she was worrying about such things.

"I got second place this time," she said nonchalantly.

In reality, she hadn’t been satisfied with the second-place rank that she had gotten because she had been pushed from first place to second after the sudden shift in Yu-Hyun's rank. The students looked at her with their mouths half open, silently staring at her. A moment of silence hung in the air.

In-Ah blinked, wondering if she had made a mistake. The one who broke the silence was In-Ah's friend.

"...H-How is that possible?" her friend asked, genuinely surprised.

They had expected her to do well, but they didn't expect her to do that good of a job. Then, the other children started to chime in with their own comments.

"Was it just me, or was this test hard?"

"You’re not the same as her. Anyway, that is crazy impressive... I would be satisfied with just 20th place."

"2nd place? Nothing special. I'm 222nd. You could say I'm 111 times better than you."

"Here we go again."

"Anyway, this proves that the Department of Priests is superior."

"What? What does In-Ah's good test score have to do with the Department of Priests?"

"Huh? Are you, a member of the Department of Crusaders, talking back to me? From now on, anyone with lower test scores than In-Ah should shout, ‘May I speak?’ before speaking..."

"You should do that too, then."

It was a lively conversation. The kind-hearted group would talk about In-Ah whenever it seemed like she was being left out, leaving room for her to jump into the conversation whenever she wanted. In-Ah quickly blended into the group, as they were all bright and kind. She participated in the conversations, occasionally exchanged jokes, and slowly and naturally became friends with them.

They left the cafe and naturally moved toward the bowling alley. Bowling had come up in one of the conversations in the cafe, and they had nothing else to do until dinner.

A boy who seemed quite familiar with the bowling alley suggested, "Since we're bowling, should we make a bet?"

"What kind of bet?"

"How about hitting each other with bowling balls?"

"Are you crazy? Do you want to die? Let's bet with game fees."

"How should we divide the teams?"

"Let's divide by departments. It just happens to be two-on-two-on-two."


In-Ah was paired up with the boy who was joking about the superiority of the Department of Priests and how others should ask for the right to speak. The boy handled the ball with ease, took his stance, and went to roll the ball but came back without casting his throw.

"What are you doing, you little shit? You're ruining the flow!"

"No. Hey, can we use blessings?"

"It's a bet. We should play fair and square."

"But then the Department of Priests is at such a big disadvantage."

"Didn't you say earlier that the Department of Priests has the highest intelligence? Then play using your intelligence!"

"Oh... that’s dirty. I'll just go for it."

Such trivial conversations like this continued to go back and forth. They threw the ball in the order of the Department of Priests, Department of Crusaders, and Department of Paladins, accumulating points. In-Ah had hardly played bowling before, but she did pretty well. She wasn't completely unathletic, so she quickly learned through watching the other kids. The result was second place. Since the third place had to pay for the game, the Department of Crusaders ended up paying.

"That proves it. The Department of Crusaders is far inferior to the Department of Priests..."

"What do you mean inferior? It's only a 5-point difference!"

"I don't listen to the words of the loser."

The boy on the same team as In-Ah made jokes non-stop until they left the bowling alley. The impatient girl tried to hit the boy, but he skillfully dodged the blow. In-Ah quietly laughed while watching. She was having fun.

The students were kind and lively, and seeing them talking among themselves made her burst out in unintentional laughter. Wandering around without a plan and playing as they pleased wasn’t as bad as she thought it’d be. She had to think about too many things lately, but today she was able to have fun without worrying.

"...Ah, I think I should start heading back soon."

However, strangely, she didn't feel like she was content. Although she was having fun, she couldn't erase the feeling that she was an outsider who had intruded on their group.

"Why don't we just eat together until dinner? Is there something wrong?" In-Ah’s friend responded in disappointment.

"Um... yeah. Sorry, but I planned to have dinner with my family."

"Really? I guess family comes first. That's a shame."

The other students in the group also looked at In-Ah with disappointed expressions. In-Ah smiled faintly and waved her hand toward the group as she walked home.

"Anyway, I'll start heading out. Have fun!"

“Yeah, keep in touch!"

"Will do~"

In-Ah returned home alone, without eating dinner, and laid down on her bed. The evening twilight seeped in through the window. She wasn't tired, but she didn't feel like doing anything.

She checked her phone. She had received a text from one of the boys she had hung out with, asking if she had gotten home safely. Sun-Woo still hadn't contacted her. She turned off her phone without replying. Then she turned off the lights and closed the curtains, and her entire room was completely engulfed in darkness. In the darkness, In-Ah closed her eyes.

She heard someone's voice.

"Remember me. It might be disgusting, but still..."

"...Shut up, please."

In-Ah covered her ears and huddled in the blanket.


I got up from the bed and turned on the lights. A fun-sized Damballa was looking at me, wagging her tail.

[What are you looking at, child?]

"You were the reason I had nightmares," I said, recalling the nightmares I had just dreamed of.

The Loa could be broadly classified into good and evil. However, the criteria for good and evil were not absolute since they were created by humans. Generally, the Loa that had a negative influence on humans were considered evil, and the Loa that had a positive influence on humans were considered good.

Damballa was one of the Loa who were considered to be evil. She deceived and manipulated people and fed off the negative energy of those consumed by despair. Instead of offerings, she demanded despair.

At first, she would give despair. When they became accustomed to it, she would give them even more profound despair. Once they grew accustomed to that, she would give hope and then despair. When they became accustomed to that again, she would give despair and hope. Living in hope yet fearing when despair would come, humans would willingly throw themselves into the pit of despair. That destruction was what fed Damballa and what I needed to offer her as a sacrifice.

When I was young, I broke the contract with Damballa because I didn't want to have nightmares.

[That breaking of the contract was so one-sided, little one... Do you know how much it hurt me?]

"I'm sorry for what happened back then. It's just that the nightmares were driving me crazy."

[Those nightmares were parts of your unconsciousness that weren’t expressed. I consumed them to help purify your mind.]

"Ah, I see... Then you should have just given me my nightmares and left. Why have you suddenly appeared in front of me?"

[Must you phrase it like that? That really hurts, little one. You seemed so kind when you were young...]

Damballa bowed her head as if she genuinely felt hurt and spoke in a voice devoid of life.

When I was young, I was easily swayed by Damballa. I was terrified of the nightmares back then. But now, the nightmares didn’t scare me as much. Perhaps it was because I had grown accustomed to them.

Back then, I was afraid that the nightmares forced me to remember things I didn't want to remember. However, now I was more afraid that I would forget what I wanted to remember.

"... People can't always stay the same."

[But it would be nice if you could speak more kindly.]

"I will try my best. Anyway, why did you come?"

[Don't you remember? We made a contract last time as payment for helping you.]

Only then did I remember the incident at the practical examination site where Damballa had helped me. More precisely, she had helped Jin-Seo, not me. Anyway, she fulfilled my request, and we forged a contract as payment. Come to think of it, I hadn't clearly stated what the contract meant and what would change because of it.

"Was this what you meant by contract?”

[Yes, little one. No matter how much I swallowed your nightmares gleaming beyond your subconsciousness, my hunger couldn't be quenched. It must be because you've become accustomed to nightmares. So, I plan to change the way sacrifices are received.]

"What... Does that mean you'll continue to stay by my side like this?"

[If there is something I need to help you with, I will temporarily return to my original form. If not, I will continue to stay in this state.]


Was I allowed to keep a snake in the dormitory? No, I don't even know if the Romanican Church allowed snakes as pets in the first place.

Meanwhile, Damballa’s long, slender body slithered up the flower pot I had been tending to.

I heard Granbwa's urgent voice in my head. [D-Don't let it climb up! Hurry! What if the flower pot falls?!]

"Damballa, Granbwa says not to climb up there."

[Granbwa? There's no need to listen to that child's words. She worries too much.]

[Ah, ah! No! If you go up anymore, it will fall!]

[Don’t listen to her, child. Believe me.]

“...” I didn’t respond to either Damballa or Granbwa.

I watched silently as Damballa climbed the flower pot. The thought of Damballa and Granbwa clashing in the future gave me a headache. Furthermore, Damballa didn't get along well with Baron Samedi. More accurately, Damballa alone disliked Baron Samedi.

Amidst the voices of Damballa and Granbwa, I heard Legba quietly laughing.

[Didn't I say summoning Damballa was a mistake?]

“I didn’t know it would end up like this.”

If I knew this was what would have happened, I wouldn’t have made any contracts.

Contracts should always be carefully examined.

The source of this c𝐨ntent is fre𝒆w(e)bn(o)vel