The next day, Leon arrived at the compound to take Ves and his entourage to the Grand Church of the Grey Martyr.
The purpose of this visit was to expose each of them to the Ylvainan Faith.

When they stepped out of the shuttle, they all admired the tall structure.

Its architecture conveyed an immense amount of grandeur!

While sculptures and depictions of Prophet Ylvaine was all over the place, much of the facade featured another robed figure with a very characteristic long beard.

”That ’s the Grey Martyr? ” Ketis curiously asked as she adjusted her poofy beret on her head.
”He sure looks like the part. ”

Leon smiled generously.
”The Grey Martyr is the oldest of the Martyred Followers.
He was already old when Prophet Ylvaine rose up in the galactic heartland.
Before receiving the prophet ’s enlightenment, he was just an ordinary man.
Among the rest of the Martyred Followers, he is the least exceptional among them.
He ’s older, less educated and lived the most plainest life imaginable in that part of space. ”

”What makes him so special then that he ’s revered as the Grey Martyr? ”

”Good question. ” Leon replied with a smile.
”The Grey Martyr is a simple man who is blessed with a gift for teaching.
It is not a secret that while our prophet has made a lot of predictions, they are very difficult to comprehend.
The Grey Martyr took it upon himself to compile the words of the prophet and condense them into easily-understandable pamphlets and books.
The Ylvainan Faith spread a lot faster among the commoners due to his vital efforts! ”

Anyone who attempted to read the words of Prophet Ylvaine would quickly descend into confusion! Much of what he said was dense and obscure at best, but no different from the sayings of a madman at worst!

For someone to sift through this difficult material and translate them into plain words took a huge amount of effort!

”This Grey Martyr must have the patience of a god. ” Gavin remarked.

Leon didn ’t take offense at the implied insult.
”That is why many Ylvainans believe he is already standing by Prophet Ylvaine ’s side.
Each of the Martyr has distinguished themselves in some way that has earned our admiration. ”

The group attracted a lot of attention from the church goers who entered the grand church in order to attend the upcoming service.
The mechs and armored security guards surrounding them couldn ’t be hidden.

Ves spoke up while they were approaching a smaller side entrance into the church.
”I heard that there ’s a cathedral in Krent that ’s even larger than this place.
Why didn ’t you take us there? ”

”The cathedral is a magnificent place of worship. ” Leon replied with an admiring breath.
”It ’s the best place to experience the splendor of our faith.
However, you wouldn ’t learn as much there.
The Grand Church of the Grey Martyr is devoted to understanding.
Outsiders like you are best served by learning from the Grey Martyr first. ”

That made sense.
The Grey Martyr may not have been an exceptional person in life, but his simple outlook on life was of great help to Prophet Ylvaine in spreading his teachings to the masses.

Once they entered the church, they entered a tall and expansive hall of the grand church.
Worshippers constantly entered from the main entrance and took their seats.

The light was dim and the hall was cast in shadow and darkness.
Much of the interior was lit with traditional candles which weren ’t as luminous as modern lighting systems.

The traditional-looking interior looked like something out of a history book.
If not for some modern touches here and there, Ves might have mistaken this church from a relic of humanity ’s pre-space history!

”You know, the style of this church reminds me of those of another faith. ” Ves remarked.

Leon didn ’t deny the accusation hidden in those words.
”We cannot deny that our architects have taken inspiration from other sources.
We do not see that as something to be shameful about.
They say that all space lanes leads to Terra.
It is the same with the matter of our faith.
All of us are connected by a common thread.
Just because someone follows a different faith does not mean we should reject them as a fellow brother. ”

Ves spotted a loophole in this convoluted argument.
”What about the Star Worshippers? ”

”They are heretics who trample upon our most core beliefs! ” Leon replied vehemently.
”The Star Faith is completely incompatible to us.
They do not acknowledge the existence of any transcendent existences except for their supposed ’stellar gods ’.
If you ask me, they are merely deifying immense balls of plasma in space.
As amazing as it to contemplate the sheer might of stars, they are lifeless objects incapable of thought! To mistake them as gods and reject the Time of Ascension is the greatest affront to the Ylvainan Faith! ”

The heated emotion in Leon ’s voice startled Ves and the others.
The Ylvainans really didn ’t like the Star Worshippers!

The core tenets of their respective faiths couldn ’t be reconciled.

The Ylvainans all believed that every form of life would one day receive the opportunity to transcend their mortal existence.
Every human and alien was worthy of grace and redemption!

The Star Worshippers possessed a very different outlook.
They regarded the Stellar Gods as tyrannical existences that needed to be placated all the time.
None of them ever dared to think that they could become equals to the Stellar Gods.
The mere thought of it was blasphemy to the highest order!

The inherent contradictions between their respective faiths exacerbated the tensions between the Ylvaine Protectorate and the Star Faith Collective.
This was the consequence of making the church and the state one and the same! Because there was no distinction between the two, what could have been a harmless argument escalated in a conflict that already led to a considerable amount of deaths!

The worst part about it was that there was no way for either states to back down.
Both of them needed to prove their devotion to their faith by defending their principles to the death if necessary!

This was why the reformers gained strength in recent times.
If the Ylvaine Protectorate wanted to compete against the Star Faith Collective, then they needed to loosen the shackles that restricted their economic and industrial might!

Leon didn ’t take Ves and the others into the congregation of worshippers.
Instead, he led them to a separate wing of the church that was served as a museum dedicated to the teachings of the Grey Martyr.

”Out of all the early followers of the prophet, the Grey Martyr is the one who is most involved with spreading our faith.
Much of his work forms the core of the most widely-accepted interpretation.
The Attendants of Ylvaine consider the Grey Martyr as one of their most important patrons due to this reason. ”

Each of them explored the wing of the church on their own.
Due to the impending church service, no other visitors were allowed at the moment.

Ves went from display to display.
Some of them held a rusted data pad or some scrap of carefully-preserved fabric where the Grey Martyr scribbled his interpretations.

Other displays held replicas of the gear worn by the Grey Martyr or scale models of the starships he traveled on.
They also depicted what life was like before and during the First Calamity.

”The First Calamity is the most ruinous test that the Ylvainan Faith has ever lived through. ” Leon said with sadness.
”Back when Prophet Ylvaine was still alive, we never intended to harm anyone.
We spread our faith in peace and without any intention of upsetting the existing order.
Yet fate is cruel and twisted the hearts of the leaders of the states where the faith was present.
They all banded together and struck at our followers, slaying our prophet, exterminating his dynasty and turning his closest followers into martyrs! ”

Ves tried his best not to show his skepticism.
The history he learned in school in the Bright Republic painted a very different picture.

Supposedly, the Ylvainan Faith was very aggressive in its expansion.
They not only took in willing believers, but also applied a considerable amount of coercion! Prophet Ylvaine was so insistent on expanding his faith that he wasn ’t afraid to offend the local powers!

Unfortunately, no matter how many people he converted, it was hard for the Prophet to withstand the military might of entire states! Faith alone wasn ’t enough to stop a laser beam from burning a hole through your head!

What he learned in school basically told him that the Ylvainans had it coming.
If they weren ’t stopped, they would have eventually grown so powerful that they could topple the secular governments of the states they operated in and found a new religious state in their place!

Of course, Leon probably hadn ’t been exposed to this less flattering version of the history of their faith.

”The First Calamity is the first great test of our faith.
While Prophet Ylvaine has regretfully separated from us, his teachings still live on.
The Ylvainan Faith has survived the First Calamity and the Great Flight to the Komodo Star Sector.
Right now, we are in a period called the Long Recovery.
While some believe that this period will last for a couple more centuries, others believe that the Second Calamity is looming closer and closer. ”

Ves garnered a guess of what that meant.
”Are you referring to your conflict with the Star Faith Collective? ”

”It is becoming increasingly clearer that the Ylvaine Protectorate and the Star Faith Collective cannot tolerate each other ’s existence. ” Leon declared.
”Many Ylvainans fear that a war of annihilation is closer at hand than we like.
This isn ’t like the cyclical wars your Bright Republic wages against the Vesia Kingdom every generation.
The differences between us and the Star Worshippers are too great to contemplate peace.
War is inevitable and neither side will lay down their arms until the other side has fallen into ruin! ”

Ves and some of the others nearby looked a little disturbed.
The Bright-Vesia Wars were already bad enough.
However, neither side persisted after they exhausted their forces.

It sounded as if this wouldn ’t be the case in the conflict between the Protectorate and the Collective! Once they began to fight, neither side wanted to stop!

The timing of this looming conflict couldn ’t be any worse.
Just when the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom laid down their arms against each other in preparation for a greater threat, the two religious states were gearing themselves up for what looked like an extremely destructive war!

Eventually, Ves shrugged.
Even if the Ylvainans and the Star Worshippers were about to slaughter each other, the LMC could sell a lot of mechs during this conflict!

While the state militaries played the leading roles, many private mech forces still contributed to the war effort in their own ways.
The demand of mechs would continue to increase as the war became more heated.

A glint appeared in his eyes.
Selling his mechs to the Ylvaine Protectorate would be very lucrative in this case.
If he managed to sell his mechs to the Star Faith Collective as well, he ’d be able to rake in twice as much money!

He quickly dashed his hopes.
The LMC would likely incur a backlash if it became too brazen in trying to profit from both sides.
If Ves wanted to sell his mechs to the Star Faith Collective, he should at least do so in disguise.

An idea quickly came to mind.
Should he fake another identity in order to gain entry in the Collective ’s mech market?

He shook his head.
It was way too convoluted to maintain separate identities.
Although the Star Faith Collective ’s mech market should be a lucrative place to do business, it wasn ’t worthwhile for Ves to pay particular attention to it unless he gained a strong advantage.

Still, Ves couldn ’t help but become intrigued at the possibility of seeing his mechs in battle against each other.

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