The day after the big party.
What happened at the banquet hall the day before had already spread all over the capital before noon.
Whether it was a salon, where the nobles gathered, or the pub of the commoners, the story was the same.
“The pope started a banquet?”
“It was a victory celebration party, where donations were collected from the priests and nobles, so they could help the soldiers and the people who suffered from the civil war.”
“Oh! Such banquets should be opened whenever possible!”
“Yeah! That is what should be done!”
The people gathered, raising their glasses as high as they could, praising the pope.
At that time, a handsome man with a dissatisfied expression opened his mouth.
“Rather than that, the pope danced at the banquet! No, I don’t get it. Can a godly apostle perform such an apostle act?”
With those words, the people became silent for a while and then chatted away again.
“Obviously, she can dance, so what?”
“Yeah, was it ever written in the scriptures that angels aren’t supposed to dance?”
“I feel like she is trying to be human? Isn’t that okay?”
While the commoners were concentrating on the dancing issue, the nobles focused on analyzing the pope’s intention for her recent actions and the future political situation.
“The acts of Viscount Lev are obviously intentional.”
“It doesn’t seem like he had done it all alone… Was Arch Duke Gregory behind it too?”
After all, unlike Luke’s concern, there was very little criticism on the pope’s dancing.
Only a few conservative narrow-minded priests and enthusiastic followers of Veronica III made a fuss saying ‘An apostle of God isn’t is supposed to act like this!’.
The capital’s streets were all very noisy.
Constantine, who was offended with Reina’s act the day before, went to meet Reina.
“Holy Pope, why are you behaving like this these days?”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you being motivated by that mercenary?”
She overruled his decision and gave Lev a title and an estate. Along with those, she went dancing with him at the banquet and showed affection toward him.
Her doubtful and suspicious behavior had been happening often, so he couldn’t help but ask. However, Reina didn’t seem to be flustered with his question.
“What will you do if that is the case, and what would you do if it isn’t the case?”
“Wasn’t it the words of the Regent. He is God’s Warrior. Do you think that it is strange of me to see him like that?”
Constantine, who wasn’t able to answer Reina’s question and stiff response, took a moment and said, “It was just a story that I made to suppress the rebellion. Doesn’t God’s Apostle know this better than anyone that he isn’t any warrior?”
“He is a foreign mercenary and has nothing to do with our denomination, and the Holy Pope is obliged to be chaste as the representative of our God El Kassel. It is unfair to fall in love.”
At those words, Victor who was right behind Reina, frowned.
However, he didn’t step out of his role to defend her. Reina, who was reading scriptures before Constantine’s arrival, closed the book. She looked straight into his eyes and said, “And who said that? I have looked thoroughly in the scriptures, but there is nothing which says that I have a duty to keep my chastity.”
In fact, there was no rule that could be found in any scriptures of El Kassel or the past saints regarding what Constantine said. They only expected men to control their desires but not prohibit them.
An unmarried status became a custom because it seemed to be favorable to perform the missions of God and devote themselves to the Empire that way.
“And the things about the duty to keep chastity, many high-ranking priests were secretly being helped by the men in the palace to given birth to their illegitimate children. Shouldn’t they be ripped and punished?”
Constantine went silent.
It wasn’t him, but he did know that high priests of most of the tribes, except for the Sanctity of Holiness, had secretly married and had children.
Small patriarch supported God and turned it into the Holy Empire. Long after, prosperity and political stability led to the corruption and depravity of the El Kassel sanctuaries.
Priests began to bring out their money and began to move with the priestess.
And women were recruited only with the intention of making illegitimate children.
At first, there were strong voices of criticism, but around 300 years ago, when the three tribes, including the Marius Faction, monopolized it, no one managed to change it after that.
Perhaps, from that moment…
God’s trust had never come to the sanctuary.
“T-that is just speculations in our denomination. The truth is…”
“Is it not the truth? Are you expecting me to believe those words? The words of a man who changes the words of God according to his wishes?”
Reina got up from her seat and shot back in a stern manner.
Constantine, not realizing it, stepped back. He could feel his heart freezing.
The pope, who was in front of him, wasn’t the same idiot girl, who kept referring to him as grandfather. He couldn’t even recognize her at this point.
Like the monarch of an empire, dignity could be felt from her.
“Let me make it very clear for you. I am no longer the old Veronica of Archbishop Constantine. I can now make my own decisions with my own heart, so the archbishop will now be stripped of his position and concentrate on working for the tribe.”
“You didn’t understand what I just asked of you? I am reclaiming the archbishop’s position as the Regent.”
It felt like thunder hit Constantine’s head.
He looked over at Reina with an expression that looked like he couldn’t believe what was happening and raised his voice to ask,
“W-what the hell happened in Alvera? Did you hit your head when the assassin attacked you? Or have you been brainwashed by that mercenary?”
Otherwise, such a situation made no sense for Constantine.
One man was ready to answer the question.
“There is nothing wrong with the Holy Pope.”
‘Gregory, Arch Duke Gregory!’
Constantine was shocked when he suddenly showed up out of nowhere.
However, it seemed like Reina knew that he would make an appearance.
“She just recovered the memories that she lost before. Isn’t that the case, Holy Pope?”
At the question of Arch Duke Gregory, Reina nodded.
“W-what the hell does that mean?” Constantine asked, still not understanding what was happening.
“It isn’t something that you need to know. You haven’t even made any efforts to know about them till now. You just need to know that she isn’t the Holy Pope who used to just follow your orders, not anymore.”
“Is this your work?”
Constantine stared intently at Arch Duke Gregory.
He had the thought that if Gregory had been with Veronica for a long time, then such drastic changes made sense.
“No, it isn’t. The pope changing you is God’s decision. Accept it for what it is.”
‘To put it simply, the moment she met the God’s Warrior, she changed. Of course, that was the will and decision of God as well,’ thought Gregory.
Constantine, who couldn’t understand Gregory’s words, shouted, “I will never accept that! Who would take the Regent’s position?”
Constantine’s face became pale, and he couldn’t shout anymore.
Because the moment he was about to express his anger, Gregory’s body began to release a terrifying energy.
At that time, Gregory looked at Constantine, who was struggling to keep himself standing, and said, “How dare you disobey the words of the pope? This isn’t very bad for you. During all this time, you made sure to wipe out all the rats who were bothering you and this place.”
Constantine could barely manage to breathe and spoke with a jealous expression,
“You, isn’t it righteous for a knight to defend the empire rather than wish for power. Were you not interested in the government and its workings?”
“I have none, but because of a certain someone, I began to get interested. I thought of trying something even if it was a bit wrong.”
At the words of Gregory, Constantine couldn’t feel himself lose.
He was called the Regent of the Holy Empire and was the second most powerful figure in the empire, but his opponent was Arch Duke Gregory, so he could do nothing.
And if he decided to hold onto the army, then it wouldn’t even take a minute for him to wipe out the entire Marius Faction.
Reina looked at Constantine and said,
“Don’t be too upset with your resignation. I have no intention of abandoning the Marius Faction. This empire will willingly accept anyone who has the intention of reflecting onto themselves and are willing to take steps to correct their wrongdoings.”
At the words of Reina, Constantine’s face remembered the former pope’s face.
Although he had suffered from an illness and was known to be a successor in later years, Benedict III was a very scary figure as well.
In dire situations, he was famous for taking control of the entirety of the Holy Empire and forcibly pulled down the tribes.
The Pope of Iron.
That was the nickname of Benedict III.
Why did Veronica III suddenly reminded Constantine of Benedict III’s face?
Was it because they looked similar? Or maybe…
Reina only sighed after seeing Constantine fell down on the cold, hard ground.
It was fortunate that the dismissal of the Regent had happened much easier than she had imagined. On the other hand, it was ridiculous to think that the person who was broken down over a dismissal was helping her all this time.
In fact, the dismissal of Constantine had been already decided on the day Arch Duke and Reina had returned from Alvera.
Gregory stated that he strongly supported Reina’s decision to reform the denomination and the Holy Empire.
Within all that power struggle and politics, he decided to break off the long-standing stance and involve himself.
‘This isn’t the end. This is just the beginning. The Holy Empire needs to be more stable to help Luke, and that is for the benefit of its people.’
The pope decided to take the task of exposing the corrupt denominations.
The first thing she did was change the high offices of the Holy Empire.
Regardless of the denomination, it was stated that new nobles and priests, who were enthusiastic and honest, would be recruited.
‘Priest Luther, didn’t he do a lot of relief work for the poor? I need to meet with him first.’
With her vigorous step to reform, Arch Duke Gregory and Victor followed her like shadows.