Chapter 55. Ball (6)

William headed for the secret conference room for one of the regular meetings. There were many ways to get to the secret conference room, his personal favorite being teleportation.

Teleportation, however, was like the final boss of spatial magic, which required enormous mana and complicated formulas. Even William could not use such complex spatial magic without the help of a magic circle. Moreover, the secret conference room was set up at the heart of the palace, making it even more impossible if it weren't for the hidden magic circle in the audience chamber.

If someone tried to teleport inside from outside the palace, the giant magic circle encircling the palace would without a doubt vaporize the intruder into tiny molecules. The magic circle covering the palace was so monstrous that even William couldn't do anything about it. Without the access cord worn on his right hand, he would not even be able to move near the emperor. So it was clear how monstrous the magic circle protecting the monarch was.

William headed to the secret conference room through one of the numerous secret passages inside the palace. He always wrote short papers in his mind during this time because it took time to walk through the long, secret passages to the secret conference room.

However this time, he wondered who his niece, Yuria, was interested in.

Before sending Yuria and Alphonso to Arscilla's boarding house, he received information about the current residents from Prime Minister Arcanta. As such, two names emerged as potential candidates- Lisbon and Den.

Of the two, Lisbon’s information was detailed, but it was of a typical knight. Being a knight was something that Alphonso might be interested in, but not something that Yuria cared for. On the other hand, there was too little information on Den. All that was known was name, origin, and age.

William recalled the moment he saw Den in person not long ago. His formal behavior and tone seemed somewhat highly educated, which came out immediately when he spoke. It would be difficult to act so formal without a high level of education.

William's close friend, Bloody, was born and raised in an overly unrestrained Crow Tribe village. Because of that, he spent a lot of time learning court etiquette and was still learning.

When William and Den shook hands, it was with the window wall between them. The layout of the restaurant was designed such that people of higher status would be seated at a higher position. Not to mention, there was an obstacle between them, which undoubtedly made shaking hands more difficult. 

Usually, a person would take a step closer to try to shake hands more comfortably, but Den remained where he was. One could dismiss it as a simple step, but one would usually, subconsciously, move to be in a more comfortable state.

That meant Den felt uncomfortable coming one step closer to him. As evidence, the boy tried his best to avoid meeting eyes when talking to him.

William thought that it must have been because Den felt uncomfortable meeting his gaze. He came to the conclusion that his analysis did not reveal much. Of course, they’d met for a brief time, so perhaps it was only natural.

But a person’s behavior revealed many things. To list out William's analysis: 

-It was assumed that Yuria had good feelings for someone.

-Of the two who came into contact with Yuria, a fellow named Lisbon did not have elements to attract her interest.

-And there was not enough information about Den.

-Combining the mana he sensed and Den’s slim physique, there was a high chance that he had learned magic.

-If so, the one with the element to gain Yuria’s interest would be Den, rather than the one named Lisbon.

-Looking at Den’s behavior, he seemed well educated and uncomfortable around William.

Combining the above analysis, William reached one hypothesis.

Does Den like Yuria?

It was a ridiculous hypothesis, but William oddly felt confident as he became accustomed to the idea. So he was uncomfortable while being polite and formal at the same time when they first met.

Just looking at it, isn't this the behavior you come across when meeting the parents of the person you like?

He continued to support his hypothesis, thinking that it was not unusual for someone to fall in love at a glance with a beautiful girl like Yuria. 

But there was still a lack of information.

William decided to withhold this hypothesis for now. However, it didn’t feel bad thinking about the young who secretly had feelings for each other. He decided to keep a close eye on Den to find information that would support his hypothesis.

Thinking that if Den knew, he would have screamed, "Don’t! It's a misunderstanding” William reached the secret conference room.

-o-

The long-awaited day of action arrived. It was already mid-August, it took longer than I thought for the preliminary investigation.

After sneaking out of the boarding house, I searched the area from on top of the bell tower near the great temple in the center of the capital. As it was early in the morning, the scenery was completely different from mid-day.

I flapped the cape I bought in Granwell and struck a pose like a god from a myth.

Always crawling towards the bountiful treasury! It's Lupin!

As Lupin had been inactive for a while, the number of patrolmen wandering all night had decreased noticeably. There would be more tomorrow, but they wouldn’t have to worry as long as no one provoked me again.

By the way, the Great Temple was a very large temple as its name suggested. It was so large that I couldn’t even see the top of the temple from the bell tower. As for breaking-in, there were plenty of entry points. But the building was so large that it seemed finding my target would take some time.

My target this time was a golden goddess statue. Heretofore, I didn’t have specific things in mind to steal, but this time I decided to move with an exact target. My purpose was to hit the temple as hard as possible. The aim was to make them angry so that they harass the Ministry of Treasury.

The nobles I had robbed before could have enough scratches left on their pride just by breaking in and robbing them. But the temple was an icon of mercy. I wasn’t sure if they would go to the Ministry of Treasury like a loser just because I stole some property. In addition, no matter how much money I stole, in a few days, donations would fill it back up. I didn't think that was enough to upset the temple properly.

In the past, the temple decayed to the extent of corruption, boasting more authority than the imperial power before the rise of Demon King Kanglim. However, about 120 years ago, their authority fell because they failed to properly cope with Demon King Kanglim’s rise.

The imperial family took advantage of this opportunity to consolidate their power and keep the feudal lords in check. Through this, the current empire’s state was that of converting from feudal states to absolute monarchy.  

Of course, even so, the temple’s power was based on people’s faith, unlike a country with power based on territory. In other words, as long as there were believers, the temple could have enormous influence within the empire. That was the reason why I was messing with the temple.

I activated my martial arts before entering the great temple. It was better to be prepared since there was no knowing what kind of magic circles might be hidden, like in the palace.

I erased my presence and snuck into the Great Temple.

-o-

Inside the huge prayer room in the basement of the Great Temple, a huge stone goddess statue with a merciful smile was looking down.

Leo, an old man wearing a gold mask, looked at the giant goddess statue that was looking down at him from more than 5m away and murmured angrily.

Originally, the statue standing in front of Leo was overlaid with gold. But now the gold was peeled off. The glorious and holy light that had once filled the prayer room was nowhere to be found. Every time he had to stand here, he had to swallow his raging fury.

As Leo was looking at the goddess statue, thirty men wearing black masks and hoods, knelt behind him, their stance that of obedience.

"Lord Cardo Fernando, we've gathered everyone, as you have ordered."

Cardo was an ancient word for hinge but also meant cardinal. Leo took off his gold mask and turned around with it in his arms. There was no need to wear it in the Great Temple, his own territory.

"Good job Paladin Malive, and noble warriors."

"No, everything is God's will."

The 30 who were wearing masks prostrated like their representative, Malive. Then they began to report on their activities.

"Paladin Vibrio and nine others have returned from the western part of the empire after completing what Cardo ordered."

"Paladin Mario and nine others have returned from the southeastern border of the empire, after suppressing 300 heretics following orders from Cardo."

"Paladin Malive and nine others, in the northeastern part of the empire, have located the main base of Big Mama’s information agency, as Cardo ordered."

While listening to paladins' report, Fernando became interested in Malive's report.

"So, you finally found the main base of those cockroaches? Where is it?"

“A small town called Granwell,” said Malive.

Fernando burst into laughter.

"Hahaha! Good job! Good job! We’ll finally be able to get some information about the base of those annoying things!"

Fernando was genuinely pleased. It was a valuable piece of information that could wipe out the troublesome rats that kept giving the imperial family information regarding the influence and activities of Fernando and the 11 people who earned monikers of the 12 zodiacs.

Honestly, the information from the other guys didn’t matter. From Fernando’s point of view, having influence in the center of the capital where the emperor had the most power, was quite a nuisance.

While Fernando was laughing cheerfully, he suddenly felt something touch his nerve.

"Who is it!" Fernando waved a wand that was for ceremonial use, to cast holy magic on the ceiling.

"Aaak!"

One person fell through the thin ceiling when it was broken by the sudden holy magic.

A mysterious person, wearing a black cape with a half-white mask, had a golden goddess statue about 60 centimeters long in one hand.

"That-that’s!"

The golden statue in the hands of the mysterious person was a precious object of the past when the authority of the gods encompassed the entire continent. During the fall of the temple, when they were losing their wealth just trying to survive, this sacred object was one of the few things that remained.

“How dare you! What do you think you’re touching with your dirty hands!!”

Fernando's anger reached its peak. That statue of the goddess was a precious object that was no different from the history of the temple. It was not something for a lowly thief to dare covet.

That goddess statue was the reverse scale for Fernando who wanted to reclaim the glory of the past.

The half-white masked mysterious person spoke as he looked back and forth between the golden goddess statue he was holding and Fernando.

"Hehe! I made a mistake."

"You bastard!!!"

At the sight of the half-white mask mysterious person making a cute gesture of smacking his head, Fernando unleashed his wrath.

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