Like Spada’s streets, the city of Avalon’s main road is crowded with people as usual.
They mainly consist of humans, but there are also Elves, Dwarves, Beast-Men and even Undead; the variety in the races is greater than in Spada.
With that said, this diversity is not rare to see on the continent of Pandora. It is a tiresome sight to Lily, who walks through this mixed crowd of people.
Incidentally, she is in her child form, and Fiona is pulling her forward by the hand, like her older sister. Even she has a displeased face as she looks at the crowd.
「Mmm, what is it? This is your onee-chan’s, so I’m not going to give you even one bite.」
With her left hand holding Lily’s hand, in Fiona’s right hand is a skewer of fried Cockatrice meat that she bought just earlier.
Behind her glasses, her blue eyes are shining like those of a wild animal that does not want to give up the prey that it has caught.
「I don’t want it!」
Lily is acting as Fiona’s younger sister. So in order to not blow her cover, she sends her angry response straight into Fiona’s head through telepathy.
「You don’t need to get so angry, you’ll make your onee-chan sad.」
Fiona pretends to be sad, and Lily begins berating her.
「Even I’ll get angry if you do that, you know! What’s up with you, you’re doing nothing but eating and walking!」
「Well, we have come all this way to Avalon, after all.」
Lily knows of Fiona’s gluttonous ways. Therefore, she shows some understanding as Fiona is lured into buying food by their delicious smells.
「I know how you feel. But including that fried bird, how many have you had?」
「Umm... It might be my ninth one.」
Nonetheless, there is nothing better than wandering around between food stands, indulging in the delicious cheap food of Avalon.
「Moderate yourself, we’re making no progress.」
「Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.」
By progress, Lily means progress on the important objective that they had made this trip for.
「Anyway, umm, the Church of White Light, was it?」
Having finished the light, tender Cockatrice meat, Fiona flicks the skewer into a narrow alleyway.
The skewer spontaneously bursts into flames in mid-air, and turns into ashes before it lands on the dirty stone pavement.
「Yes, it’s a religious cult that got ahead of themselves and did a lot of evil things. No, it might be more accurate to call them a gang of boys.」
The ones like the orange thief boy Lily encountered earlier would still be considered cute compared to some of the others.
From what she has heard, they are behind several horrific cases of robbery, murder and arson here in Avalon.
「A recent case involving an Elf merchant couple seems to have been the final straw. I’m sure they were a good couple, loved by everyone. There has been a flood of requests demanding revenge for them.」
「Yes, the Guild was filled with conversations about that case.」
While Lily was at a shady information broker, Fiona was gathering information through more normal methods at the Adventurers’ Guild.
Though, it is clear from her buying-and-eating spree that the main information that she has gathered is about Avalon’s gourmet options.
「Soon, this will become a normal extermination quest, or the Knights’ Order will have to move to apprehend them.」
「We arrived with perfect timing then, didn’t we?」
If they were to run into adventurers acting after accepting this request, or the Knights’ Order began their own movements to apprehend them, things would get complicated.
So it is fortunate that they are able to make a move before adventurers or the Knights’ Order.
「But I have heard there are a lot of children among their followers.」
「Yes, enough to be considered unusual.」
The other thing that makes the Church of White Light infamous is the age of the members.
The majority of their members are children who inhabit the orphanage who are not adults.
The adult members that have been sighted are several large men who hid their faces, have been spotted a few times marching around the back alleys among the children.
The ones spreading the news of the Church of White Light are the children of the slums.
Their main activity seems to be to walk around and gather donations from people, but there are a lot of ill-bred followers who became adults and were employed as part of a criminal gang.
For some reason, those criminals are now being given the freedom to ignore their responsibilities as adults.
「It seems it was originally being run by one solitary old priest. After he passed away, a much more powerful person took over.」
Before the『Church of White Light』became known as an evil organization, which started last year, it seems to have been an ordinary orphanage.
Though they called themselves a religious organization, they did not have a single altar, let alone a temple. It had nothing but the name that the old priest gave it. They were not even zealous in their activities.
But its virtues allowed it to quickly build a connection with the people, and managed to maintain the orphanage through modest donations.
When the priest died of old age, the orphanage of the『Church of White Light』should have perished with him.
「At the very least, they have enough power that people would hesitate before interfering with them.」
Even if one were to say that is just what happens in the underside of society, in the end, power is everything in this world. Even if they are mostly children, since they have power, they will not be defeated easily.
In reality, the children stay in that orphanage that should have ceased to exist.
「I wonder if it’s an adventurer?」
「The famous high-ranked adventurers are innocent.」
They have already confirmed that much with the information broker.
They have tried to find out what kind of influential person is backing the Church of White Light – and come to no conclusion.
「Maybe the young man they call『Priest-sama』is really strong.」
When they think about it properly, it might be one of the large men that have been witnessed with the Church, but they cannot rule out the possibility that he is not among them.
「I see, it’s possible that one of the children is really strong.」
Fiona glances at the tiny Lily walking next to her, then looks away again.
「Well, what interests me more than that is this Church of White Light’s doctrine –」
「Eh, that’s definitely just the same as the teachings of the Cross.」
Thinking「I thought so」, Lily is satisfied by Fiona’s answer.
They found information from the information broker, and to some extent the Guild, about the god worshipped by the Church of White Light, its doctrine, their clothes and behaviour.
It was a minor religion under the old priest, but under the new, younger priest, they are undertaking zealous actions in the middle of the slums.
They reluctantly agreed that the characteristics of this organization matches the teachings of the cross.
「How can this be? Have the Crusaders already entered the city-state?」
The unmistakably powerful group of people who were mysterious even to the information broker could be none other than the Crusaders.
It is the worst case scenario, but it is also the most likely one.
「No, that’s not possible.」
However, Fiona denies this scenario in a careless tone.
「The most important part of the doctrine of the Cross is to worship the『White God』as the one and only god. The Church of White Light worship the『Holy Mother Aria.』She is an important figure in the doctrine of the Cross, but they don’t go as far as to call her a goddess.」
If the doctrine of the Cross were really being spread as the first step of an invasion, it would definitely be using the scriptures to spread the “correct teachings.”
Fiona knows that the Crusaders have used this method of invasion numerous times in the past. It is a well-known method of waging a religious war.
「It’s not the worst case scenario, so that’s good. So, who is this Holy Mother Aria?」
「She’s a human woman who gave birth to the Child of God. According to the legend spread by the teachings of the Cross, this child became the First Apostle.」
However, it is impossible to distinguish such legends from actual history.
Of course, the followers of the Cross firmly believe that the miracle stories written in the scriptures are true stories.
「Historically, the Holy Mother Aria is the closest human to the White God. She is higher than an Apostle but below a god. In one chapter of the scriptures, the White God treats Aria preferentially. I guess she’s the second most person in the doctrine of the Cross.」
Therefore, the image of the Holy Mother Aria is an established icon of the religion’s teachings, along with the Cross itself.
Fiona takes a single gold coin from her bag and shows it to Lily. It is not a coin circulated on the continent of Pandora; it is from the Sinclair republic.
「The one engraved on this is the Holy Mother Aria.」
At the inn, Lily and Fiona showed each other their various belongings, and at that time Lily assumed that the woman’s portrait on this coin was the Queen of Sinclair. Being told the truth, she looks at the coin with sincere interest.
「So, why is the story of an important figure of the Cross being spread in Avalon?」
「Since it started in the ancient times, the Cross is known as the oldest religion. In the prosperous age of the ancient civilization, it was spread in both Pandora and Ark, wasn’t it?」
The fact that it spread across both Pandora and Ark in the days of ancient civilization, the fact that similar ruins remain on both continents, and the fact that both continents use the same language to speak and write, are all proof of the Cross’s influence.
It is likely that the civilizations on Pandora and Ark were isolated from each other with the passing of the Dark Ages.
Furthermore, in ancient times, the Cross controlled the continent of Ark as its greatest religion, while Pandora’s history was buried in darkness.
The Church of White Light that is becoming infamous in Avalon is just one of the shady cults with no history or legends that are trying to revive that forgotten doctrine.
「It’s normal for different sects to form based on the different courses of history they take and their different interpretations, even if they have the same origin. Even in Sinclair, there are as many new religions based on the Cross as there are stars in the sky.」
And the most powerful sect with the Pope seated above the twelve Apostles has probably also crushed as many of the rivaling sects as there are stars in the sky.
「I see. Well, as long as there’s no relation to the Crusaders, it doesn’t matter. We covered up the truth about Alzas village to keep Kurono from worrying, too.」
He does not show it on his face, but they do not know when the Crusaders will attack next, and it adds some pressure to him.
If Kurono heard that a fortress was being constructed in Alzas in preparation for another possible attack, it is possible that he might head back there by himself.
Either way, with if he knew that a war was imminent, he would definitely become impatient. Lily wants to avoid leaving Kurono in such a state while they take their own actions.
「Anyway, when are we going to start dealing with this Church of White Light? Could it be that we’re just going to go right now?」
They are in a hurry to return; in particular, Lily is displaying withdrawal symptoms for not seeing Kurono for so long.
She imagines fun conversations with Kurono in her mind, and she is happy that she should get to talk to him soon.
「No, we’ll go tomorrow.」
「I see, I wouldn’t mind going right now. Do you have a reason for waiting?」
In response to this question, a smile appears on Lily’s childish face.
「Yes. Tomorrow night, there will be a full moon.」