Shin and Schnee decided to go in head on.
Palmirack was a guild house that emulated a temple. Supposedly several travelers gathered there as a destination to train.
The facilities were still around to do that, and regardless of being old or young, male or female, people came. Travelers and merchants also came to gossip, so the training grounds were always bustling.
“I don’t think it looks that different from before.”
Even though the number of people there was different, it was similar to how Shin remembered the place. The main difference was that there was someone collecting money from those who wanted to enter the training ground.
“But the map hasn’t updated itself.”
“In order to know the interior, we’d have to sneak in.”
Shin had assumed that the map would change once they were closer to Palmirack. The map didn’t budge. They were still able to ‘map out’ the area though, so it was possible to explore.
While they wanted to barge in, Palmirack was a Rokuten guild house. You couldn’t tell how functional its facilities were, and it was not prudent to try to break-in in broad daylight.
Even Shin didn’t know all that the building was capable of.
On top of that, Palmirack was Cain’s base – he had several architecture-related bonuses. Of the 6 guild houses, it was supposedly the most dangerous one. Shin had to be careful.
Shin, Schnee, and Yuzuha pretended to admire the building like tourists, as they circled and marked on the map the places that looked easy to get in through.
“What is it?”
“There’s a high-level person there. She might be a high-ranking priest.”
From straight ahead where Shin and Schnee were, a priest that looked different from the others headed towards them.
It was a woman, with light green hair and brown eyes. Given her beautiful physical appearance and the thin pointy ears just barely visible through her long hair, one could assume that she was an elf. Her movements were graceful and at level 206, she was different from the average priest.
The elf priest approached Shin, unlike the other priests who ignored them.
“Are you sightseeing?”
“Yes. This is our first time in Sigurd. We had been talking about stopping by here.”
“That’s wonderful. My name is Lilishila. If you have any questions, please feel free to talk to me or any of the other priests.”
“I’m Shin. This is Yuki and Yuzuha. Thank you for your kind words. But, why are you talking to us? We’re surrounded by other tourists.”
“That’s because you are with a High Elf.”
Lilishila’s words surprise Shin.
There’s no way to tell the difference between an elf and a High Elf just from looking. Yet, Lilishila had correctly assumed that Schnee was a High Elf.
“I’m sorry if I alarmed you. I’m able to tell the difference between an elf and a High Elf. It’s hard to explain – it’s quite instinctive.”
“I see. I couldn’t tell you the difference between those two, so I had thought that there might be some kind of distinction.”
It’s quite an impressive skill.
He asked Schnee via Mind Chat, but even Schnee says that telling the difference just from looking is incredibly difficult. It’s not as if you could tell the difference based on status or level, or aura.
“I have yet to meet anyone else who can do this.”
Though elves were said to be quite sensitive, perhaps her sensitivities are unique.
“If there’s anywhere you haven’t seen yet, I’d love to be your guide.”
“Are you sure? Aren’t we in your way of work?”
“I’d say that it’s part of the job description to show the church to those who haven’t seen it before. Besides, I love conversing with those who visit here.”
Shin would have preferred to see around on their own, but he considered the idea of gaining new insight by talking to a priest.
He asks about the church’s history and other things, and ventures onto other topics of interest.
“Lilishila, if you don’t mind me asking, are you perhaps trained in the martial arts?”
“Yes. In case the civilians need protection. That’s also part of the job description. However, the church also has their own guards. Why do you ask?”
“I also have some training. I could tell that you don’t make any unnecessary movements.”
“I see. But of course, it’s expected of those who had fought alongside the Balmel guards.”
“…did you know about us?”
Shin was taken aback and stopped.
“Yes. I’m terribly sorry. Truth be told, I approached the two of you because you are you.”
Lilishila bowed down. She didn’t seem to be dangerous.
“News travels fast.”
“But of course, it is known that if a Chosen One can communicate through Mind Chat, distance is not an issue. Balmel is one of the important cities that protects the Sacred Land. We too, make efforts in order to gain new knowledge. Besides, as an adventurer who fought together with Princess Rionne to defend Balmel, Shin-sama is quite well-known. Regardless of being able to hear through Mind Chat, it would have reached my ears eventually.”
Schnee nodded proudly.
They had made some efforts to hide their faces when entering Sigurd, but they weren’t using【Hiding】per se. Perhaps someone had seen them?
“I see. So then. What is your purpose? I don’t want to waste your time if you’re trying to convert us.”
Of course, that wasn’t the case, but it had to be said.
“No not at all. But of course, I would welcome you into the church with all of my heart. This is a different matter. It’s really not appropriate here. I’d love to welcome you to my chambers.”
Shin decided that they’d get more useful information if they followed Lilishila, rather than saying no.
This was the kind of action that could only be afforded by those with unbelievable status and skills. He knew that no matter what they’d be able to get out of a sticky situation. After all, Palmirack was just a ‘very strong building’ that could easily be destroyed, if necessary.
Schnee didn’t argue either. She trailed one step behind Shin.
Behind Lilishila, they stepped through several doors and climbed down several flights of stairs. They were eventually at a corridor full of doors.
“It seems that the priests sleep here.”
While walking, Shin verifies lights and all of the utility functions were functioning.
Lilishila opened one of two doors that were side by side, and invited the two in.
It was a large space. The size of a 2DK apartment.
The kitchen was quite expansive, and this space was built with one bathroom and two smaller rooms.
Shin and Schnee sat down after being asked to sit.
Lilishila brought out tea.
He took a sip after saying “Thanks.”
It must have been harp tea. It had a soothing taste and scent.
“What did you want to talk about?”
“I wanted to discuss a certain priest belonging to the church. I believe that when the ‘Flood’ in Balmel occurred, a Chosen One of the church was separated. You must know of this by now.”
Shin was reminded of what Rionne had told him.
“That’s right, if I’m not mistaken, he left to escort someone. I also understand that the church overall frowns upon this matter.”
“Absolutely. That should never be the case to begin with. But of course, we also had not anticipated such acts of barbarity.”
It became clear that the incident at Balmel was beyond the imagination of Lilishila and the church as well.
“Do you know who’s the mastermind?”
“Yes. I understand that he’s trying to place the blame on the others, but the person behind it all is Father Bulk Elbach. He’s a member of the church here.”
Lilishila answers Schnee’s question. But it was not as though Bulk had given the orders directly. He seemed to have prepared an escape route for himself.
“Bulk…I’m sorry to interrupt you. Isn’t this Father also involved at Bayreuth’s church?”
Shin was connecting the dots.
“Yes. I understand that Father Bulk’s quite involved in a church in Bayreuth. Not just that, I believe that it’s a church for commoners, and not the elite. Why, do you know something?”
“No. I just wanted to make sure of something… I’ll explain later. Please continue.”
“Sure. Shin-sama. Yuki-sama. I have a favor to ask of you. I need your help in capturing Bulk. I can reward you with anything within my capability.”
“Is this a personal request?”
“Under normal circumstances, I would be asking as a member of the church. However, there’s a reason that I cannot do that.”
Shin had assumed at first that she was asking on behalf of the church. He was wrong. This must have also been a reason they were invited to her private quarters.
“I’m sure that you have very good reasons. However, what will you do if we said no? There’s also a chance that we will give you away.”
“If that’s the case, then I must ask you to stay in here for some time.”
As Lilishila said that, knights in armor came around Shin. There were three of them, armed, and ready for combat.
He knew they were there, yet it was disheartening to know that this was why.
“That’s quite violent.”
“I’m terribly sorry. Ruining my name is a risk that I must take.”
It seemed that there was trouble within the church as well. Shin could sense a certain desperation in Lilishila.
“Let us tell you our side of the story. This is about Father Bulk, and the church in Bayreuth.”
Lilishila’s expression hardened at the mention of Father Bulk.
“It’s quite simple. Father Bulk has kidnapped an orphan that the church was sheltering. One of the sisters got in his way and he had almost fatally wounded her. If she weren’t treated on time, she would not be alive.”
Lilishila didn’t know what she was expecting, but even this exceeded her wildest imagination.
The knights in the back were also stunned.
“It seems like you didn’t know. Not much time had past between the orphan’s kidnapping and now. She should be here; I should be frank. We are here to retrieve her. If you doubt us, then go find out the truth on your own.”
“No… but wait, I have to ask.”
“What is it?”
“The orphan…does she have some sort of special title?”
Few knew about Millie as a ‘Star Reader’. Yet, Lilishila acted as if she knew about it.
“We want to take Father Bulk down because we are also trying to save someone. She also holds a special title.”
“Lilishila-sama! That’s too much information!”
The knights raised their voices.
Shin must not be an appropriate audience for this kind of confidential information.
“Please. Don’t worry. We have no qualms with you. We both want something from Father Bulk.”
“Yes. If you’d be so kind. Please, lower your swords everyone.”
Hearing Lilishila’s words, the knights put their swords away.
While not all of them look pleased, they seem to have relaxed at least a little after hearing Shin’s story.
“Either way, even if you need our help so desperately, isn’t this a bit extreme?”
“I know. But we’re running out of time. We need to save her, or her life is in grave danger.”
Given Father Bulk’s past performances, it didn’t seem too far-fetched. She wouldn’t say anymore, but it felt like a big advantage for Shin and his party to have an insider in the church.
“Few people know this, but he is also a member of the Shiten(4 gods/4th god) cult. No. I suppose his heart is truly aligned to their cause. He uses his status as a church member and has secretly been wreaking havoc. Soon, he will participate in a ritual, in which the ones we want to protect will be sacrificed. We have no choice but to take matters into our own hands. That is why we are calling on you.”
Father Bulk seemed to be participating in far worse deeds, behind a secret dark society.
Shin wasn’t too surprised. Even in the real world, there were those who believed in satanic rituals. But the thought of a living sacrifice definitely made him furrow his brows.
“A sacrifice seems especially violent. But what is this Shiten cult exactly?’
It was an unfamiliar word, and had a certain menacing ring to it.
“The Shiten cult is a cult that worships High Humans – those that once ruled this continent.”
“High Humans, you say?”
Shiten is written out as ‘those that exist on this plain’.
“The Shiten are not bad on their own. There are six factions of High Humans. They merely train day and night, and sometimes they reveal the magic that they’ve been able to create for the public.”
According to Lilishila, the 6 factions of high humans were inspired by the actual high humans’ second names – Dark, Golden, White, Red, Blue and Silver. People trained in the arts of the faction that they were most likely to thrive in.
To be specific, there were those that worshipped the ‘Dark Blacksmith,’ who trained in forging swords and others who practiced alchemy or magic, just as the ‘Red Alchemist’ would have, and so on and so forth.
By training themselves in these ancient rituals, the Shiten would try to revitalize the lost arts and become the top of their faction on the continent.
“The problem is that in the past 100 or so years, a seventh faction has been invented. They have become indoctrinated, so that they truly and faithfully believe, that in order to become a High Human they must shed more blood. Perhaps the records of the High Humans’ battles and sagas inspired them. Therefore, all over the continent, there have been violent deeds done and horrible, vicious attacks.”
The 7th High Human faction was allegedly called the “summit faction”.
Even if the goal was to achieve something and be at the top, what they were doing was terrorism.
The fact that he was being worshipped was disconcerting enough. The idea that there were those acting violently in his name made Shin seethe.
“The other factions deny any part of the 7th faction’s activities. Yet they associate themselves as part of the Shiten, since they are a branch of it. The world views them all the same.”
It’s hard to get rid of any negative image. People seem to mix them up all the time.
“I think I understand. You had mentioned a living sacrifice earlier. How does that play in?”
“I don’t know enough about the details. However, the seventh faction takes those with special titles and abilities, then completes a sacrificial ritual. The more rare and unique the ability is, the more that these Shiten followers’ status rank increase.”
“But this is the status within a cult. Is it really worth it to give up the advantages of being a part of the church?”
The Church was quite influential on this continent. If word of this got out, Father Bulk would lose everything.
He had gone through all the trouble to become a Father of the church. What could be so important, as to give it all up?
“We really don’t know enough. However, if we wait any longer to find out, it could be too late.”
“Perhaps. Then enough chit-chat. We don’t care what happens to Bulk anyways.”
Shin didn’t care about the ritual. The takeaway point was how there were more people in need of their help.
The moment Father Bulk was involved, it was likely that Millie would also be sacrificed next to Lilishila’s companion. Shin couldn’t let that happen either.
“We need to discuss our plan to save them. I need to understand how ‘alive’ Palmirack’s functions are.”
“It’s functions? This is no secret that I’m allowed to share with outsiders. However, this is a rare occasion. Still, its functions are mostly dysfunctional as of now.”
“Some of its item creation functions are still in place, as well as detoxification and recovery, equivalence of class 5. There’s also a barrier to protect the building from surrounding monsters.”
If Lilishila’s information was reliable, then Shin’s concerns were included.
The important sites had some security measures in place, but it wasn’t fortified. That, and upper class Chosen Ones acted as security.
“I see. This is helpful – thank you. Just to be sure though – aren’t there functions that only higher priests would know of?”
“I’m actually a Cardinal, believe it or not. The Pope is above me. There are no others.”
He knew that she was a higher priest, but a Cardinal was unforeseen. There weren’t that many cardinals either.
“I mean. If you’re a Cardinal, can’t you easily dismiss a mere Father?”
“It’s not that easy. Bulk seems to have an item on hand that makes it difficult to refuse him. He’s placed this on our companion – the Holy Woman.”
Shin was taken aback. Such an item shouldn’t exist in the game era.
“Please, Lilishila-sama, are you sure that it’s okay to share this with these commoners?”
“I must. Otherwise they would be in grave danger. Shin-sama, please be careful. It’s a black collar, with gold writing on it. Once it’s been placed on you, even if you don’t want to, you will do as you’ve been told. It could even kill you.”
Lilishila ignored her knights and continued.
An item that ignores the will of the person wearing it. It seemed so surreal hearing of it, until he was reminded of a certain event from the game.
“Is it… the ‘Crying Marionette’?”
“Shin-sama? What is it?”
He was recalling the event from the fifth update, with the ‘Crying Marionette’.
There was a moment, when an NPC was forced to become an enemy. The NPC was wearing a black collar.
The players found this turn of events to be quite unfavorable. It seemed unfair that even support characters could turn their backs on you because of a collar.
Shin had also remembered how several of his allies became his sworn enemies.
“I get it now. I can’t believe that item’s still around. What a joke.”
To return an NPC back to its conscious state from a zombie requires a special item. Since it’s a limited item, Shin did not possess it in his Item Box.
(So this means that that title is finally going to come in handy).
He was referring, of course, to the title of “Liberator” from back when he had won against the ‘Origin’.
Everything happens for a reason after all.