"What... what's going on outside?" Paladin spoke up, slightly surprised.
The old man turned his head to take a look. He then excitedly rubbed his hands, took a step forward, and smiled.
"There's another guest!"
At this moment, Paladin's pupils shrank rapidly. The dilapidated wooden door swung open. Six people, dressed in white hoods and long white robes that swept the floor, walked inside. Their clothes were also adorned with delicate golden laces. A drawing of a dead man hanged on a cross was printed in the middle of the robe.
Paladin's forehead began to sweat profusely as his hands, which were hidden in his sleeves, began to tremble slightly. He was no longer ignorant of the Holy See, as he had been ten days ago. The strange coat of arms drawn on the letter of recommendation from Nurba and on the foolish priest’s Cassily Bible was actually the symbol of the Holy See. A crown was placed between two crossed keys. It symbolized the Keys of Heaven and the Papal Tiara worn by the Pope, which meant the supreme authority of theocracy.
Furthermore, the symbol of a dead man hanged on the cross meant that they were obeying the command of God's incarnation, just like Judas, the thirteenth apostle of God who betrayed Him! According to the Cassily Bible's Gospel of Judas, the traitor Judas obeyed God's command to rebel and then hanged himself on the crooked neck tree. In the Holy See, he was seen as a martyr.
Amidst the huge hierarchy and influence of the entire Holy See, this symbol terrified priests and monks. The Order of the Martyrs was at the beck and call of the Pope and the Thirteenth Cardinal. That was the official statement. Actually, the more accurate and popular name for the group was Inquisition!
They instilled fear in the hearts of all heretics and potential heretics with its existence. The group was a powerful military organization the Holy See used to capture and judge heretics. A lunatic and fanatical monster was said to be supporting them from the shadows!
Paladin was too shocked to speak. The moment these priests, also known as adjudicators, walked in, a white light shone so brightly it almost blinded Paladin's eyes.
Paladin raised his hand subconsciously to block the white light. He was even more taken aback when he realized the dazzling white light was coming from the river-like light elements that were coiling around the six priests. Paladin checked with his vision, and discovered that each priest possessed at least 3,000 magic elements. The one with the most magic elements turned out to be the priest who was walking in front, with a terrifying number of 6,000 magic elements!
Paladin immediately lowered his arm and cursed inwardly. He secretly cast a glance at O'Neill. At this point, the latter’s image of a powerful mage had vanished without a trace. He was standing while holding the wand, looking extremely nervous. His body was hunched, ready to flee at any moment.
Right now, the whole tavern was plunged into silence. The mercenaries, who had traveled all over the world, had heard about this coat of arms symbol to some extent. Everyone was like a frightened baby bird, not having an ounce of courage to look up. Paladin could even hear his own beating heart. He immediately lowered his head, attempting to alleviate the oppressive feeling brought by these people.
‘What do I do?! I encountered people from the Inquisition! By the way, they must’ve come for the branch. Maybe they’re going there for the Ripley Scroll?! The formula of the Philosopher's Stone cannot fall into the hands of the Holy See. These cretins will just destroy the treasure! I... what was I thinking? I am a nobleman now. A nobleman who is about to become a priest, Paladin Flamel! As long as I maintain this façade, there’s nothing to be afraid of!’
Paladin, who barely suppressed his fear, raised his head slightly. He had adjusted his mindset and was now fully prepared to become Paladin Flamel. He could not show the slightest flaw.
The leading priest of the Inquisition had entered the tavern with five people trailing behind. The priest then proceeded to look at the very nervous mage, O'Neill, who was in the corner.
"O'Neill, what's wrong with you?"
O'Neill snorted, as if the brief eye contact just now didn't cause him to slightly tremble. The fidgety Orkney and his fellow party members finally couldn't bear it anymore. They drew out their swords to protect O'Neill from the side. They were keeping a close eye on the six silent priests.
The leading priest pulled his white hood down. Without taking O’Neill’s attitude into heart, he said softly, "Mage, put down your wand. We don't give a damn about you."
Obviously, O'Neil wouldn’t disarm himself simply because his mortal enemy said so. The hand holding the wand not only did not let go, but it also trembled slightly. The leading priest said nothing, but the five priests behind him all warned in unison, "Put down your magic wand, blazers, unbelievers, and spellcasters! Otherwise, we, the six executive officers, will follow the rules of St. Magellan. The contract statutes are here to deliver you into the arms of God!"
When O'Neill heard this, he was caught off guard. He hesitantly set his wand down. The Treaty of St. Magellan was a contract signed between Magellan—the most powerful magister in ancient times—and the Holy See, which was full of conflicts. The two parties agreed that as long as the mages did not violate relevant laws or deliberately attack the Holy See’s personnel, the Holy See also could not launch unreasonable attacks on the mages.
Ever since, for thousands of years, these two forces that wanted to eat each other had coexisted peacefully. That was why O'Neill lowered his wand. Because of the existence of the contract, the clergy of the Holy See could not attack the mage without any reason, at least not in public. So, he nervously relaxed his guarding stance.
The priest, who was the executive officer, snorted slightly and disdainfully. Then, he went straight to the frightened old man next to Paladin. His snow-white boots stepped on the loose wooden floor, making it creak. Along the leading priest’s path, all the mercenaries and travelers jumped away and stood aside as if avoiding a disaster. Paladin was afraid that if he stood next to this evil spirit and his crime was discovered, he would be punished.
The leading priest ignored the insignificant people around him. Tossing a bag of gold coins over, he quietly said, "Prepare two bags of bread and six pots of clean water."
"Uh, oh! Father, these….. There are too many..."
"It's okay, go get it."
The old man looked at the heavy gold coins in his hand. His previous fear was instantly overcome by the joy of receiving gold coins. He kept giggling and dashed to the kitchen, starting to pack up the bread and water he had prepared earlier.
Paladin swallowed deeply. Although there were no signs of abnormality on his face, cold sweat broke out on his palms and forehead.
‘What if, what if I get caught?! Will I be seized and tortured to death in court?’
The more Paladin thought about it, the more frightened he became. Just when he looked at the leading priest, whose upper half of his face was covered by the shadow of the hood, the priest also turned his head. The two bright eyes that were obscured in the shadow were observing Paladin up and down. Paladin's hair stood on end immediately. It felt as if he was surrounded by hundreds of man-eating monsters. However, Paladin quickly returned to his calm state. With gritted teeth, he crossed his hands and clenched his fists. Lowering his head, he said in a pious and worshiping way, "The Great and Almighty Enos! Thou are the All-knowing and Loving Lord, who sent thy punisher on earth before me, the humble Paladin Flamel!"
When the priest in front of Paladin heard Paladin's words, he let out a good-natured laugh. Paladin watched the priest calmly open his hood. A delicate and flawless skin was revealed. When combined with the ear-length golden hair and light green eyes, it revealed a face that made people have an urge to worship. Even Paladin himself was horrified by the beauty of the Inquisition's executive officer.