Chapter 178 The Mysterous Secret Temple
"Ha ha ha..." Heather laughed out loudly, "It must not be expected that a chess-piece will stay completely obedient the whole time, and as long as it is consistence with our final goal everything will be alright. It doesn’t matter where he strikes, as long as the soldiers continue to consume the pills. Anyway, the Kingdom of Graycastle is the last one on our list, so there is still enough time left for them to fight it out. Furthermore, Roland Wimbledon didn’t reject our pills last time, right? Maybe when Timothy puts some pressure on the Western Territory, he will be prepared to accept them."
That being said, the matter concerning the Queen of Clearwarter still caused some displeasure to Archbishop Mayne, after all, she was a piece he had personally selected. In case that Timothy, after conquering the rest of the Kingdom of Graycastle still didn't fight a decisive battle with Garcia, and they instead stationed their troops between them to maintain the confrontation, the battle for the throne wouldn't achieve desired outcome. Apparently it is time to adopt some different methods.
"There still isn't any news from the envoy we've sent to the Western Border, so we will meet again after we hear from them," Mayne decided. "Let's end it here for today. Will the two excellencies act accordingly to the plan, I still have some other matters I have to attend to on Hermes.
"Oh, that’s right isn't it," Heather seemed to suddenly have remembered something, “Wasn’t today, the day of conversion? How many people have decided to participate in the conversion ceremony?"
"That is confidential information." With this Mayne stood up and went straight out of the chamber, not turning around even once.
After walking on a seemingly endless stairway that was hanging in mid air leading to the bottom, the Archbishop crossed a mirror-like white millstone and went towards the depths of the Church’s core.
Different from its usual quiet, the core was quite lively today, a group of Judges were standing outside of the temple, waiting to be lead in. For most of them, it was their first time entering this place, so they were all busy looking around still full of curiosity. The moment they saw Mayne their hands went straight to their chest and they gave him a salute, "Your Excellency!"
He smiled and nodded in their direction. These Judges were the elite warriors of the church and they were fully devoted to God, sacrificing their life for the chance to be part of the God’s Punishment Army Conversion Ceremony, without having any guarantee of success. This was a point that they had to understand clearly before they could apply, but even so, they were still willing to give up their life for this great honor.
The eyes of the warriors were full of reverence as they looked at him. In this way, he passed the third checkpoint and came to the gate of the Central Secret Temple. The Pope’s personal guards were already here waiting for him. They bowed to greet him, then pushed open the metal gate behind them.
Mayne followed the guards and stepped in behind them, through the gate. From this point onwards, he has entered the heart of Hermes, it was here that all of the Church’s inventions and research took place.
There were no torches within the central secret area, because of this his vision suddenly darkened and only after a moment for him to adapt did he see a narrow passage appear in front of his eyes. The channels roof and walls have been fully covered with cast iron, and both sided of it were inlaid with fluorescent stones. These strange stones were a type of the God’s Stone of Retaliation, and after soaking in demonic beast blood they began to emit a green fluorescence.
Reaching the end of the channel a cage appeared in front of him. After entering the cage, the guards activated the mechanism and it started to go downwards. The chain above their heads issued a crunching sound, which seemed to be especially ear-piercing within the narrow channel. Accompanied by this cacophony of sounds, the cage slowly sank into a hole in the ground, then suddenly Mayne’s eyes were flooded with light.
An extremely spacious underground area suddenly appeared before his eyes.
No matter how often he had seen this scene, he would always be shocked by it anew, giving birth to a feeling of insignificance from his heart.
In accordance with common sense, buried so deeply underground, the cave should have been dark, pitch-dark. But here, the entire cave was illuminated by the light coming from the God’s Stone of Retaliation. The God’s Stone of Retaliation were spread over the whole cave, rising from the ground and forming several stalagmites like crystal flowers. Even the smallest stalagmites were so thick that it was nearly impossible for as many as ten grown men to encircle it. While the highest stalagmite almost reached the apex of the cave, even higher than the Hermes' Cathedral’s Tower.
Their colors were also all differently having almost nothing in common with each other, the densest stalagmites of God’s Stone of Retaliation were lavender, while the ones at the edge had changed from a dark blue to a light green. The smaller ones were even white, while the seemingly only recently emerged stalagmites had a near transparent body. The lavender colored God’s Stone of Retaliation were the stones shining the brightest, especially the stalagmite which surpassed even the Cathedral’s tower. Its brightness came close to the that of the full moon, making it possible to see the end of the cave without the help of a torch, but also allowing one to just faintly be able to see the ground.
Under the influence of such a large concentration of the God’s Stone of Retaliation, the inside of the mountains could be regarded as being a magic free area. The God’s Stone of Retaliation that were sold by the Church had all been mined from this place.
The space within the cave was large enough to accommodate five or six of Hermes’ basilicas, and down here they had indeed built an exact replica of the cathedral that was above ground, called the Pantheon. But the temple looked much older than the one that was on the top of the mountain. From high up in the air, Mayne could see a black iron gate in the mountain wall behind the temple. It led to the entrance standing at the foot of Hermes connecting it with the Old Holy City. So in a sense, this ancient building could be called the actual core of the Church, it has already existed long before the New Holy City had been established.
The cage took a quarter-hour to reach the ground. When Mayne could finally walk out of the cage, he straightened his robes and followed the messenger to the temple.
The conversion ceremony would be held in a hall of the temple.
Stepping into the hall, the light surrounding the Archbishop was no longer a cold blue-lavender but was instead an orange that was created by thousands of burning candles. Overhead there hung a three-tiered tower-like chandelier, and candle holders had been placed all around the hall. Looking at them through devote eyes they seemed like countless shaking stars. Thanks to all of the flames, the chilliness had been completely dispersed from the cave.
The man standing in the middle of the two conversion tables was the Supreme Pontiff of the Church, Pope O'Brien. He wore an eye-catching red-gold robe with gold-colored gemstones on his head and at the moment was carefully checking the conversion equipment, and finishing the last bit of preparations for the ceremony.
"Your Holiness," standing before O’Brian, Mayne immediately kneeled down in worship and kissing the pope's fingers.
"Get up, son." the pope slowly responded with a hoarse voice. "Besides the guards, no one else is here, there is no need for elaborate rituals."
"Right," Mayne stood up, but still couldn’t stop himself from becoming shocked. Compared with last time, the Supreme Pontiff now appeared to be much older, he had gotten deep wrinkles all over his face, and his skin now seemed to be an unhealthy shade of white, both loose and dull. Lastly, a lot of dense and eye-catching brown spots had appeared all over his body. Seeing the pope in such condition, the Archbishop’s eyes immediately became hot, "You're... suffering."
"This is a trace of time," O'Brien muttered, "no one can fight against time, my life is running low, I’m afraid that I will never see the day when humans can defeat the devil. But, in this way I also don’t have to face the pain of the unknown anymore. Be that as it might, you have to keep on fighting until you've finally defeat the enemy or you've been defeated by them."
If we fail again, we will ultimately perish, Mayne nodded, "I will do my duty until even the very last minute."
"Very well," the old man smiled in satisfaction. "You’ve been doing very well lately, you've even increased the Army of Judges by more than thousand soldiers. Today we have sixty-two applications for the conversion, which can be regarded as the biggest number within recent years.”
"Can you tell me how many members of the God’s Punishment Army we will need to overthrow the Devils?" Mayne asked, and after hesitating for a moment, he continued. "All the information I know about the Devils comes from the Holy Book. But the record in the book aren't complete, within them, there isn’t any information about their origin, quantity or combat style recorded. I know that to know these secret I will have to wait until I become the next Pope, but..."
"You are too anxious, you have to show more patience," O’Brian reminded him, "and it won’t be long before you can take over the title of Supreme Pontiff, becoming the next Pope. You will find all the answers to your questions in a secret library at the top of the Pantheon. For now, I can only tell you this, the more there are, the better it will be." He sighed.
"Also, I’m not really looking forward to you presiding over the conversion ceremony, but since you’re already here, this session of the conversion, you will try to host it while I will be looking at it from the side. For later, this way you can also accumulate some... Keke... experience."
Mayne promptly patted the Pope’s back and when his breathing had become slightly smoother, he then bowed and said: “As Your Holiness commands."
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