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45 Refugee Recruitmen

 The peasant burrow outside Wickidor City.

It was not the first time Leah came to this place, but she would frown each time she saw the rundown straw huts and the seemingly lifeless refugees staying within.

Most of them were refugees from Lovenia, Tierra's former capital. Being the nation's former princess, an indescribable dejection would arise in her heard when she saw her former subjects fall to such wretchedness.

While Wickidor's mayor did not allow the refugees into his city, he forked out some resources to help them so that they would not stir trouble.

Still, those scraps of food given out every passing day would not fill the refugees' stomachs. Most of their faces were a deathly gray and despairing, and they waited in their broken huts for death to come.

As hunger and cold tormented them in every waking moment, it was a blessing for them should death claim them in their sleep.

"So? How are you planning to recruit the refugees to become believers of the God of Games?" Leah asked Marni who was sitting in front of the carriage, trying her best to not be concerned with their misery. "Are you preaching in the refugee camp and give food to anyone who becomes a true believer?"

Leah noticed the many rations inside Marni's carriage when she hid inside. There was also a fragrance of grilled wheat.

"No way. Wickidor's city guards would come for me in less than a day if I do that."

Marni smiled feebly. Although he found that Leah had a maturity unfitting for someone of her age, he found her still naïve in thought after spending some time with her. If it was not for the 'Yakaran' name of the former Tierra imperial family above her head, anyone would think that she was a village hick instead of a cold, calculating princess. "After all, now's not the time for the church of the God of Games to go public..."

"There is that..." Leah sighed and sank into the carriage again dejectedly.

"I plan to use the excuse of hiring labor to whisk away some of the healthy youths first, and then talk to them about the God of Games on our journey. It would be fine if they don't want to become believers-we could just have them actually become laborers since we need help with building the town. We just have to make sure they don't spill the beans to other churches."

For his own part, Marni did not hold back and explained everything he was planning. "Actually, it's alright if they flee and spill the beans too. As long as it's not an entire crowd reporting us, those churches would not care about some refugees who hardly have any status."

Moreover, with the generous rewards from the God of Games, there probably wouldn't be anyone who would betray him for some paltry profit.

"Just the youths..." Leah murmured.

"Ah, that's a misunderstanding," Marni paused for a moment before explaining. "After my time serving in the Valla Kingdom's Lacquered Plate Army, I understand that there's going to be problems if there's a major disparity between gender..."

With those words, he lifted his eyes and took a long look at the gloomy skies as if remembering the days in his distant past. "Don't ask me how I know if you don't mind."

Leah did all she could to swallow her own retort.

That was when she realized what she wanted to ask in the first place.

"No, sir, what I mean to ask is what about the children and the elderly?"

"The youths chosen could bring their families along, and any elderly or children could follow if they want." Then, Marni turned to look at Leah. "Still, I must first mention that I won't stop to wait for them if they couldn't walk and fell behind."

"Your Highness," he added somberly, "I trust you would know that it is a dangerous thing to be on the path with the present weather. There are snowstorms that could come anytime and turn humans into popsicles, hungry, fearsome beasts and magical creatures waiting to prey on humans as well as subhuman species who make a living by banditry. That is why I won't risk an entire convoy."

"Yes. Relax, I understand. I won't be unreasonable if something like that happened."

Leah had seen much of the coldness and cruelty of reality herself, and she definitely would not behave like some holier-than-thou saint who never empathized with others. "In the end, my weakness caused everything. Tierra would not have fallen and many tragedies could have been avoided if I was strong, nor would we need to do things like this. I'm to be blamed for everything."

She ignored Marni's surprised look that said 'kid-are-we-on-the-same-channel-here', crossing her fingers tightly over her chest to pray devotedly and quietly. "I'll do my best and become stronger. O God of Games, watch over us."

Xi Wei spaced out for a moment, suddenly realizing that he now had a zealot amongst his believers. However, when he referred to the God Brain, he realized that it was Leah, who instantly ascended from devout believer to zealot.

After a moment of delight, Xi Wei realized that the kid only wanted strength to stop all tragedy. It seemed that the hidden class [Warrior Princess] was not awarded wrongly, because if he had given her the same saintess-in-training class like he did with Eleena, the church of the God of Games would probably have a saintess whose punches split skies and feet tore the earth...

***

While they conversed, Marni and Leah had reached the refugee camp.

Even as Marni thought about how he should encourage the refugees to join his labor force, an elderly voice called out.

"Princess Leah? Surely my old eyes aren't playing tricks on me!"

Surprised, both Leah and Marni turned towards the voice.

In a crude tent sewn from pieces of filthy cloths, a skinny man was staring blankly at Leah, tears flowing freely over his wrinkled, suntanned face.

"I never thought I'd see you again, Your Highness... I have no more regrets..."

"You're..." Leah studied him carefully and found the person who matched his appearance from her memories. "Mister Registrar?"