Ves appreciated the Grand Church of the Grey Martyr.
Its museum and teaching wing gave visitors an intimate impression of the Grey Martyr and the early days of the Ylvainan Faith up until the end of the Great Flight.

He knew that the displays and accompanying texts deliberately glossed over the less flattering aspects of the faith.
The Attendants of Ylvaine shaped a narrative that inspired both existing believers and nonbelievers.

Obviously, even if the Ylvaine Protectorate gave up on trying to convert the whole galaxy to their faith, they never let go of their dream to spread their faith.
Prophet Ylvaine explicitly commanded his followers to do so in many occasions.

Reality trumped the commandments of their holy prophet.
With the current strength of the Protectorate, they wouldn ’t even be able to convert a single neighboring state! Embarking on a grand crusade would only lead to a swift end to the state and the extermination of their entire faith!

Therefore, even if the Ylvainans still upheld the mission to spread the faith in their hearts, the Attendants of Ylvaine did their best to divert attention from this aspect.

The Ylvainan Faith needed to be spread, but the prophet never mentioned a deadline.
Perhaps the Ylvainans could embark on their mission a few thousand years later.
There wasn ’t any hurry, right?

Ves also gained a better understanding of why the Ylvainan Faith rose up in the first place.
The First Calamity happened during the hectic end of the Age of Conquest.
Prophet Ylvaine emerged as a figure of hope.
Even as entire planets full of people got blown up left and right, the prophet foresaw an end to chaos and the beginning of a new order.

It was too bad he didn ’t live to see the transition to a new age.
The rise and fall of the Ylvainan Faith was just one of many extreme events that occurred during this time of turmoil.
The faith should count their luck that the three leading dynasties managed to ferry the remnants to a new home close to the edge of the galaxy.

Leon drifted over to Ves.
”I hope the displays have given you to a closer understanding of our faith.
Do you have any questions about what you ’ve seen? ”

How can you reconcile with other faiths that believe in different gods? ”

”That ’s a complicated question. ” Leon shrugged.
”We do not necessarily reject the beliefs of every faith.
Truth to be told, there is a lot of overlap.
We merely believe the perspective of many other faiths are too constrained around a limited range of godlike entities.
They may believe that their gods are omnipotent and omniscient, but what is the meaning of our existence to live under such a powerful entity? We might as well be simulated AIs living in a virtual bubble of reality. ”

”So you reject that gods are all-powerful because you believe in the self-determination of humans? ”

”Not just humans.
All life. ” Leon smiled in a benevolent manner.
”We are infinitely diverse, and each of our lives are meaningful.
The gods who others believe are the beginning and end of everything are not as supreme as they thought.
They are merely one of many transcendent existences who have cultivated some fans. ”

This was like demoting the image of a god from the CEO of a company into a middle manager.
The Ylvainan Faith believed that there were even greater entities than the gods that other faiths worshipped.

The other religions probably wouldn ’t be able to control themselves if they met an Ylvainan who devalued their gods.

Still, Ves became a little uneasy for a moment.
Some parts of Leon ’s explanation resonated with his own perspective on life.
While he had no intention to convert to the Ylvainan Faith, he found it odd that he actually agreed with some of its beliefs.

”The church service is about to start. ” Leon said after checking the time on his comm.
”We would be glad if you could attend it, though I understand if you do not wish to be present. ”

”You don ’t mind letting non-believers inside the main hall? ”

”How can we spread the faith if we close the doors to our churches? ” Leon smiled.
”You ’ll be placed away from the locals, so they won ’t be disturbed by your presence. ”

Upon his invitation, Ves, Lucky, Ketis, Gavin and a handful of bodyguards climbed up to the upper floor and sat down at a raised balcony.
An opaque electronic screen allowed the occupants some measure of privacy while still giving them a commanding view over the main hall and the dais.

A solemn but inspiring service commenced.
Ves and the others observed without saying anything.
The Grand Church of the Grey Martyr was a place of worship that emphasized the past and the fundamental lessons that could be learned from that time.
A lot of families brought their children along in order for them to gain a better understanding of the faith.

A sense of peace and serenity fell on Ves.
The Grand Church was so immense that it easily housed a hundred-thousand believers.
To gather so many devout worshippers in a single place inevitably sparked a strange reaction.

Ves could sense a faint communal thread connecting every believer to each other.
Under the guidance of the priests and the singers, the thoughts of each Ylvainan aligned with each other.
While none of them were individually strong, the quantity of people nonetheless produced a remarkable phenomenon!

Just as Ves closed his eyes in order to attune his spiritual senses, Lucky suddenly jerked up from his lap!

”Meow! ”

”What is it, Lucky? ”

”Meow-meow! ”

”There ’s danger? ”

”Meow! ”

”Damn! ”

Leon and everyone else noted their strange behavior.

”What ’s wrong, Mr.
Larkinson? ”

”According to Lucky, we ’re in deep danger! There is a lot of movement outside the grand church! I ’m afraid they aren ’t here to chat! We should evacuate the grand church and get to safety? ”

Ketis already jumped from her seat and entered battle mode.
Gavin glanced around with a clueless face.
Leon still remained skeptical.
How trustworthy was this mechanical cat? Isn ’t it just an artificial pet?

Just then, something happened in the main hall.
Someone rose up from the middle of the congregation and shed his robe.

”Prophet Ylvaine lives, and he has spoken! ” The rabid man announced, interrupting the ongoing sermon.
His voice had been amplified through unknown means that allowed him to command the attention of everyone in the grand church! ”A great blasphemer has entered this holy place! He sits above you all, plotting to corrupt your devotion to our prophet! ”

How could the Grand Church lack security? Before the crazy man could say anything else, a ceiling mount zapped the man into paralysis.
A team of security guards quickly pressed through the disturbed crowd and took the man away.

Yet at this time, a woman at the rear of the main hall stood up and shed her robes as well.
She pointed an accusing finger in the air.
”The great blasphemer is the herald to our doom! His presence in our state is the Second Calamity that our prophet foretold! A crisis of faith is at hand! ”

A nearby turret attempted to zap the woman, but suddenly turned offline! Someone tampered with the security systems!

Fortunately, a team of guards quickly moved in to stun the woman and pack her away, but then a third person stood up and pointed his finger in the same direction!

That direction happened to be pointing straight at Ves on the raised balcony!

”Heed our prophet ’s warning! The great blasphemer has come to corrupt our faith and blacken our hearts! He has donned the guise of a mech designer and is planning to seduce us by dazzling us with his impure mech designs! ”

As the third individual got taken care of, a fourth person stood up.
”The great blasphemer is a foreigner whose sole purpose here is to break the Ylvainan Faith and destroy our Protectorate! He has taken the guise of a Brighter named Ves Larkinson! Do not be fooled by his innocent facade! He is a great demon who spreads his lies with a forked tongue barbed with thorns! ”

This time, Ves became particularly alarmed.
This plot was aimed squarely at him! ”Trouble is in the air! Leon, find a way for us to evacuate! Guards, give me my armor! ”

The guards that accompanied the entourage handed over a pair of metallic cases to Ves and Ketis.

Both of them unlocked their cases, causing them to expand and fold out until they both encompassed their bodies!

The process only took a few seconds!

Along with the weapons they carried, both Ves and Ketis instantly transformed from easygoing mech designers into deadly warriors! The sudden transformation stunned Leon and Gavin! Were they really mech designers?

Ves paid huge fortune to acquire the Sparous Vize and gift the Rising Red Dragon to Ketis.
Only now did he begin to get his money ’s worth!

He already held his Peaceful Repose in his hands, though he kept the safety on due to all the guards and people in the way.

Ketis hesitated whether she should draw her greatweapon.
Eventually, she opted to keep her weapon sheathed behind her back while she pulled out the Udor, her custom laser pistol.
The brutal-looking weapon gave her a very dangerous air that added to the intimidation factor of her imposing red combat armor!

In the meantime, just as the fourth individual was subdued, a fifth person stood up and pointed at Ves! For some reason, the electronic screen that obscured his presence fizzled out, causing most of the congregation to get a good view of Ves and Ketis wearing strange combat armor while wielding their deadly pistols!

”Look upon the great blasphemer and his horned attendant! Look upon him and remember his appearance, for he is the greatest enemy of our faith! His hands are stained with the blood of innocents and his engines of destruction will reap the lives of an untold number of Ylvainans! ”

The ground suddenly shook as shockwaves buffeted from outside! A battle erupted outside the Grand Church, and from the scale of disturbances, Ves immediately concluded that mechs were involved!

”For the good of the Ylvainan Faith, our living prophet has declared that every faithful Ylvainan must slay the great blasphemer before he poisons our hearts and minds! Do not be deceived by the promises of reform! Resist the temptation of greed and affirm your faith in our prophet! Break the hypnotic spell that this great demon has cast over you! For the true prophet! For the Ylvaine Dynasty! ”

The latest madman and all the other crazies who spoke up suddenly blew up! The explosion was so intense that not only the surrounding guards, but a large amount of people in the vicinity got caught up in the explosions!

Hundreds of Ylvainans died! Even more sustained severe injuries!

Screams rang throughout the main hall and panic ensued among the local folk.
People jumped from their seats and ran towards the exit, but the hasty flight caused plenty of people to trip and fall only to be trampled by the feet of of their fellow Ylvainans!

All the while, the security systems that could have suppressed the stampede or taken out the troublemakers failed to take effect!

The explosions might have stunned Gavin and Leon, but Ves, Ketis, Lucky and the guards didn ’t stand still.
They immediately began to exit the gallery and move towards an emergency exit!

”I-I-It ’s the True Believers! ” Leon stammered as a guard dragged him forward.
”They ’re aiming at you, Mr.
Larkinson! I can ’t believe it! The New Ylvaine Dynasty has always been brazen, but launching an attack in the middle of the Grand Church of the Grey Martyr during a service is sheer madness! ”

”It doesn ’t matter who ’s attacking us.
We need to get out of here! ” Ves said through his helmet.

”Ah, yes! There ’s an underground emergency exit not far away from here! It ’s just around the corner and up ahead! ”

They all ran around the corner accompanied by many other important Ylvainans who were privileged enough to sit above the main hall.
Each of them suddenly halted as they reached the entrance to the underground escape tunnels.

”The emergency exit is blocked! ”

A series of explosions blew up the entrance and a large section of tunnels! The True Believers didn ’t want anyone to get away!

”All the other emergency exits are blocked as well! ”

Panic quickly spread among the Ylvainans.
They were trapped inside the church!

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