The party cut through the wind and continued to fly.
It had been a few hours since they left Bayreuth. They took breaks and continued their journey, making it past the Melt mountains before sunset
They had to go around the mountains, which took longer than if they had flown directly over them. It was inevitable, since the dragons were not full grown and the party did not want to anger the Melt mountains’ guardian, the Mist Garuda.
The elder dragons that Vizzy brought had yet to reach adulthood.
She had intended to bring adult elder dragons, but it was breeding season. It was not possible to remove them from Rashugum.
That was why she had brought the younger ones, who weren’t ready for breeding yet.
Aside from their sizes, they weren’t that different from the adults. However, their smaller stature impacted their flying abilities.
They weren’t as fast as the adults, nor could they fly very high.
If the elder dragons were adults, it would have been possible to fly over the Melt mountains easily.
There was a variation in the pack’s colors, because there weren’t enough green elder dragons – the fastest ones. Aside from that, having a set of dragons with different specialties was better for an emergency.
“We should set camp here tonight.”
“Just in case, I’ll set up a 【Barrier】 and 【Wall】.”
“Right. I’ll pitch a tent.”
Shin took out a tent for camping from his Item Box.
It wasn’t a personal-sized tent, but for a party or a group. Since the tent comes out fully assembled, there’s no need for extra work.
Still, some players enjoy assembling tents during game play.
The tent was large enough for a party of 6, the party limit, to the extent that they could all huddle up and sleep together. However, in this case the tent was divided into two sections. Men and Women.
There was simple bedding provided inside, with adequate temperature control. Obviously magic was involved.
“…it’s from Berett.”
A message arrived from Berett, as Shin set up camp. He had asked for more information about the church from the Golden Company that Berett managed.
Shin looked over the information.
The firm had a branch in the city of Sigurd, where the church’s headquarter was based. Berett had ordered his workers to spy on the church’s movements. So far nothing was out of the ordinary.
The church had gained support from several different regions, after being involved in revival movements post – “Dusk of the Majesty”.
There were many religions across Eltnia, like those who worshipped indigenous gods and heroes. Still, church followers made up the majority of the population.
The Pope was at the top, with several cardinals and priests below him, dispatched across Eltnia and its many smaller countries. Due to the volume of followers and the expansion of the church organization, Sigurd alone felt like its own city state.
Of course, other countries did not approve of this way.
That was why the church’s knights acted like a standing army, clearing out the monsters in the area as a way of keeping balance with the surrounding countries. Rumor has it, that there was even a special military force composed of only Chosen Ones.
Some individuals also possessed their own Chosen Ones.
Perhaps Bulk and Eline’s relationship was just another form of that.
“I’m sure that they’re already there. Who knows what they’re doing.”
It was hard for Shin to decide whether Millie’s abduction was Bulk acting out rashly, or the will of the church.
He felt like it was probably the former, but when he also considered Millie’s abilities, it was entirely likely that the church’s upper echelon had their own personal agenda.
Berett had already been notified that a child with special abilities had been abducted by a father of the church. It would take some time though for the details to become clear.
They were up against the church though. It would be irresponsible to drag in those who were not involved to begin with.
Was Bulk alone? Were there others? It was necessary to make it clear.
Regardless of who was responsible – whether it was just Bulk or a few others – it had to be stopped. And it had to be stopped at all costs.
“It’s impossible to know how Millie’s doing, or how much the church really knows.”
“The inside of the church has more intense security than castles around here. Besides, on this continent, the church definitely has the most Chosen Ones. Even if we have friends in the Golden Company, it’s not going to be easy.”
If it were just a numbers game, the adventure guild had an advantage. However, the church had more Chosen Ones under its command that were free to do as they pleased.
This force was quite potent, especially since the extent of each individual’s abilities were unknown. The church could easily take over any of the countries in the vicinity.
“If all of the church is in on it, it means that we have to take everyone down… that’s annoying. Should we take them down all in one sweep?”
“There shouldn’t be too many of them. Perhaps that would be easier for us to maneuver.”
Shin was talking to himself, and Schnee responded while cooking.
This was if the church was in on it, or if the upper echelon of the church had been a part of it. If this were the case though, the church would have to go down.
“Wait, wait, wait! Shin, I mean you guys, are starting to sound a little crazy!”
Tiera had to intervene.
Of course Tiera was upset about Millie.
However, it was worrisome hearing Shin and Schnee practically declaring war on the entire church.
But of course, it wasn’t as if Shin and Schnee were going to attack the church right now, at this instant. Still, it was nothing to joke about.
“Well, I’m sure that it’d be easy for the two of you.”
Unlike Tiera, Wilhelm couldn’t hide the astonishment in the tone of his voice.
Of course he was still bitter, but time had cooled down his temper. In comparison to before they had taken off, he had controlled his emotions much more.
“You too Wilhelm-san, please refrain from saying absurd things…”
“It can’t be helped. If we’re getting Millie back, the end result will be the same for anyone who gets in the way.”
Wilhelm glared towards Sigurd.
The only two that he knew would be a handful, were Father Bulk and his loyal pet Eline. Aside from those two, Shin and company did not know; what other war potentials they had, why they were after Millie, and why they possessed Exvaine.
One thing was for certain, and that was Shin and his party’s purpose.
They had to get Millie back. That was it.
The enemy could be the whole church, or part of the church. It didn’t matter. They knew what they had to do, and they had the strength to do it.
Shin heaved a sigh like he was letting out all of the heat in his body. He loosened his shoulders.
“…It’s not like we need to make decisions right now. We should eat. Sorry Tiera.”
He hadn’t lost his cool, but he was aware that he was more aggressive than usual.
He apologized to a concerned-looking Tiera and tried to focus on something else.
“But when master and Shin say such things, it’s never to be taken lightly. Besides, dinner is served. Master, how did you do that.”
Schnee had never stopped working throughout the conversation.
Shin looked over at what Tiera was talking about. The table was set and the food was ready.
“Oh, this is nothing. Vizzy! Dinner’s ready.”
Schnee called on Vizzy who was tending to the elder dragons.
Vizzy fed the 5 different colored elder dragons, and Shin and his party couldn’t help her.
The dragons each bit into their own pile of meat, that would have come from at least one cattle.
“Sorry for the wait~. Wow~. What a feast~. It doesn’t feel like we’re camping out~.”
Vizzy walked towards Shin and the party, and smiled at the meal.
“Aw Schnee~ this is impressive. I’m glad that you’re finally able to show off after all that practice while Shin was gone~.”
She had known about Schnee leveling up at cooking.
“Vizzy, did you see Schnee often during that time?”
“Yes~. We cooked~ we’d knit too~. By the way~ did she give it to you yet~?”
“What do you mea~n!”
Vizzy was cut off abruptly.
Schnee had stopped her from finishing her thought by blocking her mouth.
It was out of the blue, and Vizzy tried to get out of Schnee’s hold. after all, she works for Cashmere in the Rokuten. She’s much more adept than most upper class Chosen Ones.
Schnee however had been born and raised for combat. Vizzy’s resistance was useless, given the class difference.
“Mmmmm! Mmmmmm! Mmmm….” Vizzy was growing weaker. She was out of breath.
“I don’t know what Vizzy was about to say, but can you let her go now? She’s starting to look a little limp.”
Vizzy didn’t look ‘a little limp’. The moment Schnee let go of her, she gasped for air.
“Ah, haaaa, Schnee that was heartless~.”
“You really should keep your mouth shut.”
“Really~? But you worked so hard— Okayyy~. I won’t say anything anymore~.”
Schnee was raising her right arm with a gritty smile on her face, and Vizzy raised both hands as a gesture of surrender. Schnee was smiling, except she wasn’t.
Not only did this exchange ease the tension, but it left Shin aghast.
Perhaps Vizzy understood what was at stake, and she was trying to lighten the mood in her own way…perhaps…
“I don’t get it, but let’s eat.”
Once they were finished eating, they prepared for the journey ahead and went to bed. No one was on guard duty. They had set up both 【Barrier】 and 【Wall】 spells, and no one stood a chance against this party.
At the rate that they traveled, it was possible for Shibaid to join them and for the party to arrive in Sigurd by the end of tomorrow.
Contact had been made with Berett already. If any new information were obtained through the Golden Company in Sigurd, it’d be relayed to Shin promptly. While he doubted that anything new would come up overnight, he still had the investigation continue.
The dawn came and the party was heading toward Kilmont.
They had left early in the morning, so before noon, they were a field away from the royal capital of Kilmont.
“(I can see the capital. We can get off our ride soon. How about you?)”
“(I’m ready. I’ll leave the capital now. Where should we meet?)”
Shin and Shibaid were communicating via Mind Chat, and had a meeting place set. They would head back to Kilmont after getting Millie back.
The elder dragons landed a few kemels away from Kilmont.
In the direction from Kilmont, a shadow was approaching.
Tiera noticed the presence, and she tried to see more closely.
“It’s Shibaid. I got in touch with him beforehand.”
Shin told his party not to worry. They waited.
Within 5 minutes, the shadow emerged.
It was Shin’s support character no. 4, Shibaid Etraku, covered in black scales and kicking up the dirt as he trekked to meet Shin.
His luggage must be in an Item Box. He wasn’t as fast as Shin or Schnee, but he sped towards them at well past the speed of an upper class Chosen One.
He wore protective gear which was different to the full body armor he originally wore. Only parts of his body such as the hands, feet and waist were protected with armor.
“Am I late?”
“No, we flew. It’s no surprise that we couldn’t meet at the same time. Sorry that we hurried you.”
“No need to apologize. I could never stay still, hearing that those with a holy occupation would bring harm to a small child.”
Shibaid let out a fiery breath. In contrast to Vizzy, he scowled and showed his disdain clearly.
Shibaid showed more enthusiasm than Shin and the party. It could be the mix of his personality and his occupation – a similar field – as a holy knight.
“Now that we’ve met~. We should leave~. Oh, Shibaid is heavy~, so Schnee should ride with Shin~. Shibaid should~ride the dragon that Schnee’s riding~.”
For some reason Vizzy gave a thumb’s up while giving out orders.
“I get it. Sorry Schnee.”
“…It’s not a problem.”
There was nothing to disagree with, so Shin accepted it.
Shibaid was heavy. It made sense to switch riders.
If there was any confusion, it was the fact that Schnee should ride with Tiera, since they were the two lightest characters.
“I’m sure you’ll be fine, but you should grab on tight.”
Schnee wrapped her arms around Shin’s waist, and held on tightly. Shin made sure that they were secure, and ordered his elder dragon to rise.
If it weren’t for the dire situation, the ride should have been enjoyable. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
The 5 dragons leapt into the air. Shin and his party was now headed straight for Sigurd.
Meanwhile, the church had no idea that the world’s most powerful ability holders were on their tail. Father Bulk had returned, and he was headed to one location.
Eline followed behind him carrying Millie.
The two were walking along a block that was not known to the public. Only powerful men within the church knew of its existence, such as a cardinal or an even higher status.
It was an undisclosed location within the guild house Palmirack, used as a safe house or an experiment room.
The building itself was sturdy and the walls and floors gave off heat.
Doors would open on their own just from sensing a presence.
Magic was abundant, authenticating individuals across several species.
Spells were active in these chambers that were impossible to recast from before the “Dusk of the Majesty,” and the leaders of the church held their offices and slept in these halls.
A portion of the equipment in Palmirack was functional, and in a way that people could utilize it.
Father Bulk was walking through corridors that were divided into even smaller sections, where several clearances passes were necessary. Unlike the other areas with several rooms, they stopped at one room the size of an entire area. Beautiful decorations adorned the room where Father Bulk stopped.
It was the room of the ‘Holy Woman’.
Father Bulk opened the door without knocking.
For a personal room, it appeared very sparse. One look and you’d think that it was a prayer room.
It was about 25 mels by 40 mels. The ceiling was 10 mels high. The room was enormous.
The floor in the center was a step higher than the rest of the room, giving off an even greater impression that this was a room for prayer.
Except that there was a bed there. A thin cloth draped from above, surrounding this bed.
You could see the shadow of a petite woman.
“Sorry, did we disturb you? How are you my dearest Saint?”
“…Your sarcasm is ill taken. Stop it.”
Bulk bowed elaborately, and this was only making the Holy Woman more disgusted.
Most people would have fallen in love with such a soothing voice, but the disdain was palpable.
“Well, well. It seems that I am truly hated. I figured you were lonely, so I brought you your own kind.”
“My own? …! No!”
The Holy Woman held her breath as she processed Bulk’s words.
Of course, she knew that he didn’t mean her own species, when he had said her ‘own kind’.
As a holy man, Father Bulk has swayed far from the righteous path. But he would never bring an outsider to a Holy Woman’s room, just because they’re the ‘same species’.
Which meant one thing with regards to her special title.
“You guess it right.”
The Saint’s expression became grim as Father Bulk’s words sank in.
Eline responded promptly.
He calmly stepped forward towards the Saint and placed Millie on the floor, lifting her from his shoulders.
“Where did you take her from?”
“She was being kept at some church. They knew how special she is though, so it was a bit of a struggle.”
Father Bulk spoke as if it were a matter of fact.
However, the Saint knew that he was lying.
“You’re in the same boat. Please be kind to her. You know how it goes – unless she can control her powers, she will have horrid nightmares right? Besides, maybe if all goes well she can be your replacement.”
The word replacement triggered something in the Saint.
Of course, she wanted out. But that didn’t mean that she would sacrifice a small child for her own sake.
“If you do nothing, we’d be forced to educate her. Who knows what will happen?”
“…Fine. I’ll take her.”
The Saint had to bite her tongue to stop herself from all the profanities she wanted to spit at Father Bulk.
“Thank you. I’ll be going now. Please hurry so that she’s useful soon.”
Father Bulk thanked her half heartedly and left the Saint’s room.
Eline followed Bulk, leaving behind Millie and the Saint.
The Holy Woman squeezed her fist, fuming at the way Bulk had handled Millie like some sort of tool.
She stood from the edge of the bed where she was sitting, and lifted the thin cloth to inch closer towards the unconscious Millie.
She was no longer hidden by the cloth, and her physicality became more present.
She was beautiful – as beautiful as you’d imagine any saint.
Her marble skin, her silky white hair, her clear blue eyes.
The face staring down at Millie was as beautiful as a doll, while radiating the warmth that a doll could not.
This made the black collar around her neck stand out even more.
She was perhaps 16 years old. Maybe it was too soon to call her a ‘woman,’ but she was beyond the maturity of a little girl.
She held the sleeping Millie into her arm. Millie’s eyes opened, after feeling a warm body pressing against hers.
“Are you awake?”
Her voice was so close, she realized that she was being held.
It might have been due to her beastly instincts – Millie twisted herself out of the Holy Woman’s embrace. She looked around the room and realized that she was no longer at the church.
“Where am I?”
“You are in the church of the fortress city Sigurd. This is a room that only Saints can be in.”
“This is a church too? Saints?”
“Yes. Saints. Those that have been approved by the church to aid in the works of miracles. However, I’m a Saint only in name.”
Millie looked around everywhere, trying to find an escape route. The Holy Woman was calm.
She was so calm that it made Millie relax a bit.
“My name is Hermie Schultz. And you are?”
“Millie. Aren’t you hurt? I understand that you were brought here against your will.”
“!? Shia…Oh no! Shia’s going to die!”
Hermie’s words remind Millie of the circumstances by which she was brought here. The last thing she remembers is Rashia in a pool of her own blood.
“Calm down. You can’t do anything right now.”
“But…they were after me. Shia got hurt because I was…”
Millie had heard Bulk speak, and she had pieced it together that she was to blame for Rashia’s injuries.
Rashia had been there for her when Millie had no family. She had smiled at her.
Millie couldn’t stop thinking about Rashia’s face, contorted in pain and sinking into a pool of blood.
“Was she special to you?”
“Then think about her very strongly.”
As Hermie said that, she held Millie. Hermie’s warmth made Millie forget her fears for a second.
Millie closed her eyes tightly, and saw the image of Rashia, smiling and patting Millie’s head.
“…Yes. You don’t have to worry. Your special person is safe.”
Hermie patted Millie’s head, trying to comfort her.
When Millie looked up, she couldn’t help but mistake Hermie for Rashia.
“I know you might not believe me, but your special someone is very safe. Yes…she’s been helped by those with strong capabilities.”
“…Wil-nii and Shin-nii…”
Upon hearing Hermie’s words, Millie immediately thought of Wilhelm and Shin.
Millie’s chest was bursting with relief.
Those two could save Rashia, Millie sincerely believed.
“Millie-chan? …My, you must trust those people very much.”
Millie had fallen asleep again. She had loosened up after being comforted. Hermie carried Millie to the bed, and stared at a point in the wall.
It may have been a coincidence. Or she knew. She was staring in the direction that Shin and his party were coming from.
She patted Millie’s headed and heaved a sigh.
Her eyes cast doubt and fear.
“If she trusts them, they must not be bad people.”
Hermie knew that Rashia was safe, because of her title of ‘Star Reader’.
While under normal circumstances, ‘Star Readers’ could only see very little of the future and randomly, Hermie had trained to target and specify what she wants to know.
As a result, Hermie had seen a woman being treated for her injuries. She had linked her senses with that of Millie, so that she knew that the woman was Rashia. There were also two men there- Wilhelm and Shin.
Hermie understood that Millie poured all of her faith into these two figures.
Unlike Millie, Hermie only harbored fear towards these two strangers.
The reason being that, both Wilhelm and Shin housed many species within themselves.
An abnormal, unique kind of strength. Hermie had been subjected to and known so many strong men, that she was not quick to trust any anymore.
She was particularly frightened of Shin.
“Is that really even a person?”
She blurted out the question that no one could answer. Her words were absorbed into the memories of the wall. That was just how much power Hermie had gauged within Shin. With one glance towards Shin, Hermie had almost lost her consciousness.
From observing Eline, who could even make light of upper class Chosen Ones’ strength, she was able to grasp an understanding of Shin’s mighty strength.
“Maybe they can…”
It was frightening. But an overwhelming sense of wind of change compelled her.
They will definitely come to take Millie back.
Then, something else will happen. Hermie knew.
She didn’t have to read the stars. It was an intuition – something even more unreliable. But she felt more sure about it.
As she scratched at the collar around her neck, Hermie prayed.
Shin and his party landed on solid ground after hours of flying.
Their gazes were towards something far away – the fortress city of Sigurd. With their abilities, they should be inside the city compounds within an hour.
“Should I wait here~?”
“I don’t know. If we were to look into the church and also look for Millie, how much time would that take…?”
Since their ‘map’ abilities had been reduced to initial stage levels, it’s hard for Shin to get a grasp of what Palmirack is like on the inside.
It would be best to have options available, but it’d be cruel to have her wait forever.
While Vizzy works for Cashmere as a member of the Rokuten, that didn’t mean that she had to follow Shin’s orders. Unlike Schnee and Shibaid, there’s some inconsistencies with her loyalty.
“I want to finish them off here. That might mean that we’ll need you. I don’t want it to take that long, but I don’t know when I’ll be needing you. Is that alright?”
“That’s fine~. It’s not like there’s much to do in Rashugum anyways~. Besides~, I don’t think I can keep my nose out of this one~.”
She might have a different master, but Vizzy’s still good at heart. That’s why she must have disagreements with Father Bulk and the church.
The other issue was that Eline could probably 【Teleport】 outside of the church too. It was necessary to secure an exit plan just in case.
“I see. I’m sorry, but wait for us here.”
They left Vizzy behind to care for the dragons, while Shin and the party headed towards Sigurd.
Kagerou pulled on the wagon, and they zipped past the field. In the middle of the journey, the wagon slowed down a little to blend in with the other wagons lined up heading towards the city.
A giant fortress wall surrounded Sigurd. The city surrounded Palmirack and built itself around it.
Due to the geography, Palmirack was built on a slightly higher elevation than the surrounding buildings. It was considered to be an icon of the city.
“This is a lively city.”
“No one’s stupid enough to cause trouble at the foot of the church. I’m sure it’s considered one of the safest places in the continent.”
“It’s also in the center of Est. People from all sorts of background gather from various places. If it’s a busy place with little crime, of course it’ll turn out lively.”
Wilhelm and Schnee discussed the city, while Shin covered his face with his cloak and stared at Palmirack from beneath his hood.
Palmirack was within Shin’s radar, but he couldn’t see inside.
With his introductory map abilities, it was not possible to see the insides of Palmirack from the outside.
The Rokuten’s guild houses were always protected against internal scanner skills. That kind of defense mechanism could have inspired something here too.
“At the very least, we should head to the gold trade’s branch. It’s only been a day, but maybe they have some new information.”
“Right. Either way we need an info.”
They asked for directions and headed towards the Golden Company. It was expected, but the firm was quite famous within Sigurd. The familiar gold sign from Balmel could also be found here.
They called on the staff, showed them the seal and paperwork included in Berett’s message card, and were welcomed inside. They left their wagon outside, and headed into the building.
Once they were led into the branch’s head office, one young elf waited for them.
“I was expecting you.”
The youth bowed his head politely and introduced himself as Ertol Maik. Supposedly he worked directly for Berett.
“I’ve been instructed by Berett-sama. I hear that you want more information about the church.”
“Yes, it can be anything you know.”
“Let me begin then.”
It was not disclosed that Shin was a High Human.
According to Ertol, a saint called the “Soothsaying Holy Woman” was sick and being treated by the church. While it might not be a direct cause, the upper echelon of the church was quite active here.
Furthermore, within the church confines there was an area that only those appointed could walk freely. Security was quite extreme, so it was impossible to see the insides. It was a safe bet that anything hidden would be within this exclusive area.
“There’s quite a lot of misinformation floating about regarding the church. Many outsiders have attempted to infiltrate it, so the rumor mill must be generated by those who work for the church. We’ve had a branch here for quite some time now, but the church is still a great mystery…”
Anything fishy regarding the church could basically be traced back to a drunk blabbering on about it, or another, even less credible source.
“Do you know anything about who’s going to take over the Bayreuth churches?”
“No, we have no information on that. I’m terribly sorry, but I’m afraid that this is it.”
There were probably 10, maybe even 20 upper class Chosen Ones working with the church. Even if you wanted to break in, several upper class Chosen Ones guarded the church at different locations. They needed to be careful.
It was tricky to attack this fortress.
Despite the Golden Company that had been built by the “Golden Merchant” Reed, it wasn’t as if it housed only upper class Chosen Ones. It’s a matter of what’s more valuable: quantity or quality.
(We’re on our own, huh?)
There was only so much action you could take in stealth as an upper class Chosen Ones.
However, that wasn’t necessarily the case for Shin or his party. If Shin and Schnee in particular were to move stealthily, very few could catch them in this universe.
“I understand. We’ll be on our own then.”
“Again, I’m terribly sorry for my inadequacies.”
“”No. Everything you’re saying alludes to how this is a difficult task, even if we had time. With so many upper class Chosen Ones guarding, it’s not simple.”
There was no point in blaming Ertol over this matter. What little information he provided was useful. Shin continued to ask more general questions about the church.
They would require further assistance from the Golden Company. For now, they headed towards the inn.
The party looked for an inn that would also take their wagon. They walked around the city for 20 or so minutes and found a promising one.
“Welcome! Welcome to the Silver Desert!”
They were certainly enthusiastic.
Since Sigurd is a city where travelers come and go, many of the inns were restaurants on the first floor and rooms on the second.
The one that Shin and the party stepped into fit the stereotype. Waitresses wearing frilly uniforms bustled in between busy tables.
Of the many waitresses, one with semi-long hair approached Shin and the party.
“Welcome. Will you be dining or spending the night?”
“We’ll be staying. We also have a wagon in the front.”
“I’ll have someone tend to it. How many are in your party?”
“Five. We also have a few contract beasts. Is that alright?”
“Several of our guests are travelers with contract beasts. However, there’ll be a separate fee for them. Is that alright?”
They agreed, and took a room. The room was one big one for the whole party.
They held a brief meeting in the room and left the inn.
“Alright. Like we planned, we’ll be back before the sun sets. If anything happens, send a message card.”
Shin, Schnee and Yuzuha went to see the church. Tiera, Kagerou and Shibaid went around the church to get more information. Wilhelm was on his own, doing his own bid.
“Let’s go Schnee.”
Shin, Schnee and Yuzuha disappeared into a crowd.
“Tiera, shall we then?”
Shibaid headed in the opposite direction from Shin. However, his unique appearance was well-known. He needed to change the color of his scales to red, and wear a fake horn.
Tiera was a bit nervous, following Shibaid. Kagerou was as usual, hidden inside Tiera’s shadows.
“I should be off then.”
Wilhelm didn’t even see the four of them off and went solo. He was cautious as to not walk too fast, and dipped into an alleyway.