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536 One in the Light and One in the Dark

Lumian's immediate priority upon reaching Port Santa was to delve into the events of the previous sea prayer ritual, particularly focusing on the individuals involved in the accident. This investigation would be crucial in uncovering the true identities of the key members of April Fool's.

However, this phase of his pursuit carried inherent risks of deception and potential traps.

Understanding the intricacies of last year's prank was paramount before engaging the Minor Arcana—Knight of Swords—in any assistance. Lumian didn't find it plausible to enlist aid on such matters.

The sealed knowledge surrounding the events in Port Santa made it apparent that unless the Knight of Swords happened to be present, he wouldn't yield much help.

Initially, Lumian aimed to gather information about the sea prayer ritual and the previous year's incident, but such details seemed exclusive to this location. Peripheral members of April Fool's, involved in minor roles, offered limited perspectives, offering mere snippets of the puzzle.

With a flick of his wrist, Lumian transformed Madam Magician's reply into a blazing fireball.

Exiting the master bedroom of the suite, he addressed Lugano, who waited in the living room, "Let's get ourselves a local identity."

"You've already used Louis Berry's identity to check into the motel," Lugano reminded Lumian after some thought.

Did this mean it's time to depart?

Wouldn't that be a waste of an entire week's rent?

Lugano's heart ached at the thought of the 10.5 gold risot.

Spending money wasn't an issue; just don't waste it!

As a bounty hunter who had lived a tough life for many years, he was quite sensitive to money. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been so thick-skinned as to ask Lumian for a "job."

"Any issues?" Lumian inquired with a smile.

In the October warmth of Port Santa, Lumian sported a straightforward ensemble—light linen shirt, brown pants, a golden straw hat cradled in his grasp.

For a moment, Lugano didn't know if he should voice his primary concern—

the matter of money. Finally, he decided to broach the subject.

"Boss, I grabbed a few newspapers from the street. Seems there are rumors in Port Farim about you taking down the Demon Warlock."

Upon reading this news, Lugano rubbed his eyes several times, wondering if he had read wrongly.

When had his boss eradicated the Demon Warlock?

Why don't I know?

Only the memory of the seemingly bombarded master bedroom stirred skepticism.

"It was me," Lumian replied with a slight nod.

"…" Lugano momentarily lost the ability to organize his words.

After a brief pause, he suppressed his curiosity and feigned understanding.

"You've bagged a bounty of 600,000 verl d'or and some spoils of war. No wonder you've been throwing money around lately…"

The rent of 20 to 30 verl d'or didn't seem extravagant anymore.

"All donated," Lumian disclosed matter-of-factly.

"Why?" Lugano blurted out.

Lumian glanced at him.

Lugano immediately shut his mouth and smiled sheepishly.

"We need to change our location. Louis Berry's fame in the Fog Sea makes him an easy target."

In that gaze, Lumian conveyed an unspoken message:

Who's in charge here? You or me?

Did I need your approval to donate the bounty?

With a subtle smile, Lumian posed the question, "Who said we were relocating?"

Lugano, caught off guard, stammered, "Not relocating…"

Lumian's smile held a cryptic meaning as he shared, "Why else do you think I didn't ask the clergyman from the Church of The Fool, who helped collect the bounty, to conceal my identity?"

Louis Berry, the high-profile adventurer, served as a beacon, attracting attention and revealing the landscape of potential threats.

Lumian needed an inconspicuous local guise to operate discreetly in the shadows.

Lugano, grappling with the complexity of his employer's motives, confessed, "I-I thought you just wanted to be as famous as Gehrman Sparrow in the Five Seas." He sensed there was more beneath the surface.

Lumian chuckled.

"Who among our generation wouldn't want to match Gehrman Sparrow's fame in the Five Seas?"

The desire for recognition satisfied his vanity, providing a plausible reason for not letting Theis, the Church of The Fool's bishop, conceal his identity completely.

A superficial motive—one genuine enough to make people believe—could effectively veil hidden intentions.

"Uh…" Lugano, feeling like he couldn't decipher Lumian's true colors or grasp his ultimate goal, sighed inwardly.

Sigh, I'm just a Planter, a Doctor, and a seasoned bounty hunter. My intelligence can only be considered ordinary…

Lumian cast a glance at Ludwig, munching on a potato omelet, and declared, "Let's go."

He nudged the coat rack into a blind spot, hanging the golden straw hat, creating the illusion of an inconspicuous figure if one looked from the opposite building.

Exiting the Solow Motel, Lumian strolled along the grayish-white stone street toward the lively bars near the harbor. Lugano followed, holding Ludwig's hand.

The ancient street boasted mottled houses with white walls and red tiles. Near entrances like Cordu, elderly women chatted in the sun, but they didn't lend a hand in catching lice.

Passersby tread softly, lowering their voices to maintain the tranquility of the scene.

In a casual exchange with Francesco, the bartender at the Flying Bird's basement bar, Lumian learned of a cultural phenomenon in Feynapotter, shaped by the Earth Mother's faith and the significance accorded to family traditions: "Matriarchal culture."

Within each family, the most venerable grandmother, a prolific progenitor, commanded unparalleled respect. As the unquestionable "parent," they wielded a certain degree of control over every family member. Even outside the confines of their homes, this reverence persisted, for these grandmothers represented the familial symbol, embodying the Earth Mother.

The combination of religious beliefs and societal norms secured a unique status for these elderly grandmothers.

Observing this dynamic, Lumian found himself contemplating a question.

In Riston Province, a married woman, functioning as a de facto parent, held the right to be addressed as "Madame" and have her name prefixed with "Na." Could this tradition be an influence from Feynapotter's matriarchal culture just a mountain away?

Nomadic herdsmen and traders, traversing vast distances, inevitably brought back tales of their experiences. Ancient practices from the Dariège mountain range and its surroundings, spanning over a millennium, undoubtedly left an indelible mark.

Navigating the ancient yet serene streets under the brilliant sunlight, Lumian felt a sense of displacement. It was as if he had returned to Cordu during the bustling season when adults toiled in the fields, tended to sheep in the mountains, or embarked on hunting expeditions, leaving only an old woman and young children behind.

Trier, third level of the catacombs.

Jenna closed her eyes and extended her senses, but the black Krismona Night Pillar remained silent, devoid of any sighs or motion.

Assessing the Mirror Substitutions, she cautiously approached the enigmatic weather-free pillar, placing her palm against it.

The black pillar that supported the cave's ceiling, though cold and metallic, retained the texture of rock.

Yet, Jenna's probing mind received nothing beyond this information.

"It still doesn't work," she communicated to Franca, shaking her head.

In her reflections, Jenna recalled the two instances and sought their commonality when she had heard Krismona's voice—during her advancement and within a special mirror world in Fourth Epoch Trier.

Both times, danger and intense emotions had been common denominators.

Jenna whispered, "The danger during my Witch advancement was suppressed by the sacrificial square. Is the key intense emotions?" Jenna pondered aloud, delving into memories of painful events that had stirred her emotions,

including her mother's death, separation from her brother, and other poignant experiences of suffering.

Despite the visible fluctuations in her emotions, the Krismona Night Pillar remained silent, the illusory sigh elusive.

Franca, after a moment's contemplation, suggested, "Must there be a special event to trigger it?"

"Perhaps," Jenna replied, biting her lip. "Why don't we try the fourth level? Lumian mentioned the shadow suspected to have formed after the death of the Demoness pathway's Angel. That should be Krismona."

Franca's heart stirred, and she affirmed, "That's right. Moreover, the shadow is controlled by the seal and doesn't have the ability to attack humans. Yes, the prerequisite is that we strictly adhere to the series of rules in the catacombs."

After a brief discussion, the two of them circled around the Krismona Night Pillar, replaced candles, and proceeded to descend the ancient, mottled stone steps. Under the watchful gaze of realistic dark-gray reliefs depicting human heads on both sides of the rock walls, they descended step by step.

Breaking the suffocating silence, Franca spoke up, "This place is perfect for ghost stories. The atmosphere is amazing."

Jenna glanced at her, teasing, "Are you afraid?"

"How is that possible?" Franca retorted stubbornly.

Jenna chuckled.

"If you weren't afraid, you'd just tell ghost stories to scare me. Now, you're just sighing. It means you mainly want to rely on your voice to boost your courage."

It's a waste of your talent not to choose the Spectator pathway… Do theater actors have to learn to read people? Franca was about to argue when they reached the last ancient stone step.

Simultaneously, a sense of oppression enveloped them.

In the next moment, a yellowish candle flame flickered in their eyes.

The candle flame didn't belong to them. It emerged from the distant fourth level of the catacombs.