As Pyro was a god of the sun, light, and gentility, most of the poor called his name during hardships in hopes he would hear their prayers. That didn’t mean they were Pyro’s true believers though. They only knew of his existence and called out to him partly out of habit, and partly to soothe themselves.
But, given his massive numbers of believers, Sacred Light’s Wish, his religion, was the most prevalent in the empire. Many, especially Pyronians, simply referred to it as the Church, or the Church of the Great Sun. It had branches all across the empire and serviced almost a million believers. Only true believers were included in this count and studied the religion for years. All, as was custom, prayed to their deity every morning.
Even though most weren’t answered, a few were, enough to keep people hoping, praying, and believing. Some, those favored by the god — as the religious texts went — occasionally received visions, premonitions, and divine instructions.
Madin was one and had received his orders a few days before meeting Eirinn. The message had not been very clear, but he understood that he had to help everyone that asked for his aid for several days. Shortly after, he received a summons from the tournament. Convinced this was what his god had called him for, he went to help out.
His conviction was rewarded. He received another set of divine instructions the morning after helping the little girl. He sensed divine satisfaction from his god and a measure of grace. It was not an excessive amount, but enough to make him near-ecstatic.
Priests’ abilities were completely dependent on the favor of their gods. The more favor they curried, the easier their advances in their cultivation. So, unlike magi or warriors, a priest’s strength was decided by their god’s favor. Madin hadn’t received much grave, but he sense great satisfaction and appreciation from his god.
Such emotions in the divine were worth far more than grace. It signified that the priest had been noticed by their deity. To ordinary people, it was baffling, something inconsequential and worthless, but it was everything to believers.
With his god’s confirmation, Madin reaffirmed his decision to help Eirinn. He decided that, as long as Pyro acknowledged her, he would take her as his disciple.
Leguna took Eirinn and Innilis to the main church in mid-morning. Kurdak’s wounds were still healing, so Vera stayed behind to take care of him.
“Good day, we’re here to see Mister Madin. Where we can find him?” Leguna asked a nearby acolyte cleaning the church. Acolytes patrolled the church grounds all the time, so finding one wasn’t difficult.
They were also believers, but couldn’t gain their god’s favor, so they could not advance to becoming priests. Instead they served as menial labour and assistants in the church. The work was not completely thankless, the greatest rewards were the respect and adoration of other believers, and certain benefits.
The religion was so widespread and prevalent that even the second prince’s teacher was a believer. He walked his own, religious path, however, that of of the paladin.
“You are Mister Ley, I presume?” the acolyte inquired.
“Mister Madin has instructed me to bring you to his residence. Please follow me.” The acolyte stopped his work and guided the visitors to a yard behind the church building.
“Oh, child, you’re early,” Madin smiled when he saw the group approach.
“You’re an elder. It would be improper to make you wait,” Leguna returned.
“Thank you. Pyro’s light be with you,” Madin sent the acolyte off.
The youth bowed slightly and left.
“Alright, let’s leave talk for later. Child, are you ready?”
“Yes, Mister Madin,” Eirinn answered, nervously nodding.
“Then let’s begin. Follow me.”
Madin took a few things he needed out of his drawer and left with the group. They soon came to an independent prayer hall. An intricate human-sized sculpture occupied the far end. It had to be Pyro’s sculpture, Leguna concluded.
“Kneel before God and close your eyes. Put your two hands together.”
Madin’s gentle expression melted into solemn silence.
Eirinn followed the priest’s instructions carefully. A mat lay on the floor just a few meters from the idol. She occupied it.
“Child, little girl, please withdraw to the entrance,” Madin instructed, “Please also keep quiet. Don’t make too much noise and don’t cause any trouble.”
“Understood,” Leguna nodded as he withdrew with Innilis.
The two took their seats at the very back of the hall by the entrance.
“Will Sis really become a priest?” asked the tiny girl softly.
“Maybe. I’m not too sure. This is a great chance.”
“She’s always been a gentle kid; she’s always wanted to be useful and help others but her background made that impossible. This is a chance to change that.”
“O’ benevolent and mighty god, please hear your humble disciple’s plea. Today, a gentle, noble soul has comes seeking your grace, light, and guidance. Please cast your light on her path,” Madin chanted.
two beams of golden light shot out of the sculpture’s eyes as he finished his chant and darted towards Eirinn’s eyes. Her silver hair glowed gold under the light’s touch and the color filtered onto everything around her.
A strong presence burst out of the idol. Leguna was some five meters away, but discomfort unlike anything he’d ever felt before enveloped him. He had faced someone as powerful as Kreighdon, but that pressure could not compare to this. It wasn’t because of a difference in strength, it was a pressure coming from being in the presence of a being so fundamentally different from Leguna’s existence that he could not even fathom what it was.
“Eirinn!” Leguna gushed softly. He felt they were in grave danger, his senses screamed at him to get out of there. It took every ounce of his strength to stop himself from dashing through the door and vanishing into the city immediately.
“Big Bro!” Innilis whispered urgently as she pulled on his sleeve, “Mister Madin said to not interrupt them!”
Leguna turned his gaze to her to see a completely normal, relaxed face. In fact, it looked like she was glowing pleasantly, positively gushing youth and vitality.
“Don’t you feel any discomfort?”
“Nope. It feels good,” Innilis shook her head.[Pyro’s light affects different people differently. A gentle girl who’s done nothing to hurt others won’t be harmed by the light. A blood-drenched killer like you, however, will be severely discomforted, even hurt, by the light. Don’t worry, if Eirinn is as gentle as you say, she won’t be hurt at all,] Gahrona suddenly chimed.
Leguna noticed a distinct weakness in her voice.[Are you okay?] he asked. [Stop joking. I was a saint-realm expert you know. I can’t compare to those guys, but they’d be foolish to think a little light can make me surrender.] [Alright, we’ll endure it a little longer. I want to keep an eyes on Eirinn. I’m worried something bad might happen.] [Suit yourself.]
The moment she finished her words, the light beam flashed and slammed into Leguna’s body. The entire idol glowed like it was burning on the inside. It blinded Leguna and forced him to close his eyes, but Innilis seemed unaffected. Leguna trembled and shivered. It felt like a mass of water was pressing down on every square centimeter touched by the light. He had difficulty breathing. Gahrona was also affected, though she appeared better capable of handling it.
“Hmph!” a teasing voice coldly sounded out of nowhere, as if the air itself made the sound.
The light dimmed, letting Leguna breath and see again. He sighed, letting the air escape his burning lungs finally. He collapsed into a nearby chair and panted, fighting off the threatening dizziness.[That arrogant bastard!] Gahrona snapped.
Leguna turned his gaze onto Eirinn, now bathed on a layer of light.
When Madin saw her thusly, he couldn’t help but mutter.
“God… God’s will descends!”