The Religious State Lafenice.
What stands in the innermost heart of the capital is not a palace, but the headquarters that rule over every church on the continent. Melisande Grand Temple.
Deep within the temple, Saint Meria would offer her daily prayers for a good harvest and for peace. She would rarely be seen outside of those walls. Instead, a group known as the 『council』took care of the affairs of governing, there was no one leader with total authority. Every proposed policy was always decided through a majority vote by the council.
If there were any back-scratching alliances, corruption, and unlawfulness, it would be discovered by the Saint herself, and then that person would be replaced. It was the Saint alone who had the power to decide who would sit at the council, and that decision would be derived through a divine message.
In other words, while indirect, it was a country that was governed by God. So was Lafenice, the Religious State.
While Saint Meria was renown and adored all across the country, she would rarely take center stage. The only exceptions were during changes of council members and ceremonies for good harvests that happened several times a year, and the decennial ceremony for the replacement of the Saint herself.
This would be true even during attacks or visits from outsiders. In both cases, a person from the council would greet them as a representative of the Saint.
Just when these changes of council members would occur, was not predetermined, and as they took place within the walls of the Temple, they would not be viewed by the public eye.
The one event that had a set date where civilians were able to see the Saint with their own eyes, was the annual 『Harvest Ceremony』.
The Saint would put on her temple robes and dance the dance of good harvest on top of the altar in front of the Temple. It was not a mere ritual, it was full of 『the force』, which was the power of God. Lafenice would receive the blessing of a good harvest by this ceremony, and they always had abundant crops.
The people would receive that protection and work their fields, build their fortunes and offer it to the Saint and their country. This is the reason that Lafenice rose to prominence on the continent.
And once again, that day of the year had approached.
The Harvest Ceremony was a grand event that spanned the entire day. The Temple’s surroundings were guarded by holy knights who wore armor of blue and silver. They protected the Saint from the pressing crowd of citizens and imprudent people.
The city was bustling with travelers who came to gaze upon the Saint, the men would be stunned by her beauty, the women would reminisce on past dreams. The next Saint would be chosen by the oracles of the temple. There were many churches around the world, and there were many monks, but it was only a rare few that could become oracles.
And there was only one who would be chosen as the next Saint. No one over twenty years of age has ever been chosen to be a Saint. The girls that were chosen were always gifted in intelligence on top of being beautiful and young.
And when they reach nearly thirty years of age, the next Saint is chosen and their term comes to an end.
「Saint Meria, how beautiful…」
Meria was credited as being especially beautiful among the Saints, who were beautiful without exception. She was twenty-four this year, her appearance was said to outshine even that of a flower fairy or a goddess. Indeed, she was even more beautiful than the elven fairies.
Her hair was white, like a pure light that had been bound together, that was long and soft enough to reach her feet. Her clear eyes were like a treasured amethyst that had been polished for a hundred years. Her lips had the freshness of a ripe fruit, her hands and feet were thin and long. While her breasts were two abundant mounds, she had a mystical beauty which guaranteed that any feelings of lust would be accompanied by guilt.
She was strictly guarded by the strong and devout holy knights, and no imprudent attempts to touch her had been made in several decades. Even those travelers who had succumbed to the festive atmosphere and become drunken would lose their breath when witnessing her beauty, and they would often straighten themselves in her presence.
And so, for the many people of Lafenice, this day would be an unforgettable one.
Out of nowhere, a deafening sound filled the area, the altar that the Saint stood on was covered in a cloud of dust.
「What is it!? What has happened!?」
「Damn, is the Saint safe!?」
「Somebody! Call forth a wind! We must blow this dust away!」
The holy knights surrounded the altar with faces turned pale, sorcerers were desperately attempting to push away the dust by raising winds. Endless cries and shouts echoed throughout, some tried to flee out of terror, some tried to grasp what was happening, and some were visitors who came after hearing the commotion, causing much chaos in the area.
「It is a hole!」
One of the holy knights shouted.
「A giant hole has opened up! Bring a rope, you will fall into it if you are not careful!」
What became visible once the dust had settled was a giant hole that surrounded the area that the altar had been. The surface of the altar was slightly visible at the bottom of the pit, and there was a tunnel to the side of it. …The Saint had been abducted.
「We will chase after them!」
Several knights leaped into the hole, the wind carrying them through magic. Not much time had yet passed. The Saint had been taken off, if they chased them at full speed, they could still catch them.
Such convictions that the knights held quickly crumbled after passing through several yards of the tunnel.
The ceiling of the tunnel had collapsed, the path had been completely blocked. They must have caused it to collapse while they fled. It would require over ten times as long to clear the path than it did to have it blocked. They would not be able to catch up with them.
In that dark tunnel, the knights could do nothing but surrender to their own worthlessness.
「It seems to have gone well.」
Aur, who had been staying in his room with his eyes closed, quickly opened them.
「…and, what are you doing?」
As he returned to his real body from the far-off substitute, he saw that his arms were held to the chest of Lilu on the right and Spina on the left. Mary was sitting on his lap.
「Hmm, restoring my energy?」
「Claiming my territory I suppose.」
「I am not doing anything!」
The girls all answered.
「…I am certain that you all have your own work to do?」
「Don’t worry, it is fine. See.」
Both Lilu and Spina created duplicates of themselves. Neither were substitutes, but independent Lilus and Spinas with their own ability to think but with a unified will.
Now that Spina was half slime, she could multiply herself endlessly so long as she had magical energy. Lilu, who had regained the memories and knowledge of Raz was now able to recreate her body with magic. Through this, the efficiency of their work had improved enormously.
Of course, Mary had no such abilities, but as she was of absolutely no use before, this was not an issue.
「Still, just when had you started to build a tunnel to Lafenice?」
The capital of Lafenice was far. The distance would take a full week to travel by carriage. Regardless of the fact that Aur had the gift of stone and metal kobolds or dwarven mine workers, it was not a distance to be covered in one day.
「It was around the time when kobolds began to nest inside of the labyrinth.」
「That was a long time ago! That was when Ellen came here…uh, more than one year ago?」
Lilu counted on her fingers, she was more exasperated than surprised.
「You were eagerly intending to attack Lafenice from even back then…」
「I had told you, that I mean to attack it one of these days.」
Aur stared at her and asked if she had not believed him.
「It’s the speed, and also the precision that I find hard to believe. Could kobolds really dig a tunnel to so accurately reach right beneath the altar?」
They could not confirm the accuracy by digging another hole from the surface, as there was a risk of the tunnel’s existence becoming known. While not so much underground or outside of the country, the inside of Lafenice was thick with the Saints barrier. Such a thing would have been immediately discovered.
「Kobolds can indeed maintain a complete accuracy of distance and direction while underground. But they will still not be able to know what is above ground. But as long as they understand the distance of the surface, it is a walk in the park for them to dig a precise tunnel according to that information.」
Aur said it easily, but to Lilu and Spina, it sounded even more troublesome. The surface had mountains, forests, and lakes. Even without such terrain, there were smaller ups and downs, it did not seem possible to measure the direct distance.
「Is there really a map with such accuracy?」
「There is. It was necessary to have an accurate map to explore the dragon vein. I learned how to take measurements from a cartographer and made the map while exploring. It is a masterwork that took twenty-five years to make.」
「You made it yourself!?」
「I believe that no one else owns a map as accurate as mine.」
That was obvious. The average person spending twenty-five years on a project would be like dedicating your whole life.
「Currently it only contains Figuria, the surrounding area, and each countries capitals, but I intend to make a map of all the lands of the continent one day.」
It was not just one year. Aur had been thinking such things twenty-five years ago.
「…Since when did you become like….no, you must have always been.」
An image of Aur happily opening a schedule book full of writings appeared in the back of Lilu’s mind. His expression had no resemblance to the solemn face Aur had now, but he was clearly unchanged in some areas from the time he had lived with Raz.
「…They seem to have arrived.」
Aur sensed the movement of teleportation magic and stood up. Mary, who had fallen asleep, fell to the floor with a muffled 「mugyuu」sound.
「Well then, let us go worship the face the Saint.」