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539 Information on the Sea Prayer Ritual

In Port Santa, inside a room featuring a lone card table,

Lumian and Lugano, their appearances altered and attire changed, met the black-market merchant claiming lineage to Dariège.

Seated at the head of the table, he sported a white shirt and a black vest, a glass of pale malt-colored white wine at his fingertips and a slowly burning cigar between them.

He did embody the heritage of the Dariège region with slightly sunken eye sockets, slightly curled black hair, and piercing blue eyes reminiscent of a cloudless sky over a towering mountain. His thin cheeks and thick stubble suggested a man in his thirties.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Valerio," Lugano greeted in Highlander.

Valerio, casting a glance at his armed bodyguards, responded with a smile in Intisian, flavored with a distinct Dariège accent.

"It's been a long time since I've returned home. It's a pleasure to see you."

"Indeed, Mr. Valerio," Lumian replied in Intisian, his voice also tinged with a Dariège accent.

While shepherds excelled at navigating the perils of the wilderness, an inherent wariness of authorities in settled human areas lingered.

Valerio nodded subtly and inquired, "Did you come from Larnaca?"

"Yes, I just finished attending the trade fair there," Lumian replied smoothly.

Having learned about Larnaca from the shepherds in Cordu, Lumian was well aware of the monthly trade fair that transformed the suburbs into a bustling marketplace. Shepherds from far and wide flocked to the event, seizing opportunities to trade lamb, wool, cheese, and other goods.

Valerio then delved into the topic of migration and Dariège's folklore. Lumian, well-versed in the subject from a shepherd's perspective, provided insightful answers.

In the midst of the conversation, he felt a bit disoriented. Recollections of his sister's occasional threats echoed in his mind: "If you don't study hard, I'll send you off to be a shepherd!"

Now, irony had it that he found himself playing the role of a shepherd.

After some time, Valerio nodded in satisfaction and took a puff of his cigar.

"You're quite wise. Grazing in the suburbs doesn't require identification, but settling in the city requires it. I'll get you two sets as soon as possible. In the future, if you encounter any difficulties, you can come to me. I might not be of much help, but having one more person will give you more ideas. We're all from Dariège, so we naturally have to have each other's backs."

Lumian wasn't surprised by the black-market merchant's enthusiasm.

Uniting the people of one's homeland would create an exploitable force that couldn't be ignored!

It was reminiscent of the Savoie Mob. In the beginning, the pioneers, mostly Savoyards working as laborers and attendants, paved the way for the big bosses of the Savoie Chamber of Commerce. They expanded operations, safeguarded assets, and contributed immeasurably.

As for how many Savoyards might end up living a less than honest life or end up dead on the streets, the wealthy merchants turned a blind eye.

Lumian applied the acting techniques learned from Jenna and Anthony Reid's guidance to commend Valerio's noble character.

With a smile, Valerio offered a piece of advice.

"If you want to survive here, it's best to convert to Earth Mother as soon as possible. Find a good lady to marry and have a few children as soon as possible. Only then will you avoid hidden trouble."

Is urging marriage and childbearing a tradition in the Feynapotter Kingdom? Lumian criticized and smiled bitterly.

"Without copper coins, there won't be any good girls."

This Dariège proverb echoed in the room, signifying the difficulty for the poor, especially shepherds, to attract fine ladies and start families.

"This is Feynapotter, not Dariège," Valerio remarked, taking a sip of his white wine. "The good ladies here value robust bodies and bravery. The money can wait after you get married."

Perplexed, Lumian questioned, "Why?

"Men like that are more suited for reproduction, and they possess the ability to impregnate good ladies," Valerio explained with a smile. "This place is different from Dariège. The essence of many things lies in fertility and reproduction. Only by understanding this can you truly understand Feynapotter and praise the mother of all things!"

The black-market merchant rose, spreading his feet slightly and raising his hands high.

No wonder Feynapotter teems with people in the Northern Continent. Without their knack for land improvement and food cultivation, sustaining such a population would be impossible. Lumian's thoughts raced as he probed,

"Mr. Valerio, I heard there's a sea prayer ritual next month. Any chance to make some money?"

"Yes," Valerio replied, taking a seat. "Port Santa stays relatively warm in November. When my grandfather first came, he rented a wooden box to store popsicles, gathered a pile of ice from the factory, and covered them up. Then, he waded into the crowd, selling popsicles and ice cubes, earning his first bucket of gold. You can still do it now, but the competition is fiercer. You might even need to rent a bicycle for a larger thermal wooden box to hit more ritual venues."

"Many ritual venues?" Lumian asked.

Valerio replied with a smile, "This is a grand event for all of Port Santa. Different processes happen in various places. There's the Dance of the Sea at the port, a parade of flower boats across the city, a sea boat race, the vigil ritual in Milo Village, and the core sea sacrifice."

"What's the sea sacrifice?" Lumian inquired curiously.

Valerio slowly shook his head.

"I don't know the specifics. All I know is that the Governor of the Sea and the Maidens of the Sea board a special boat, head to a certain area beyond the port with sacrifices from fishermen and sea merchants, and perform a unique ritual. The detailed process is known only to those who've been there."

"The Governor of the Sea, the Maidens of the Sea?" Lumian kept picking keywords.

This perfectly aligned with the situation of a Dariège shepherd who had just arrived in Port Santa.

Valerio smiled and said, "The crucial part of the Sea Prayer Ritual is selecting a man as the Governor of the Sea and four girls as the Maidens of the Sea. They'll lead a parade through the city on a flower boat before boarding a special fishing boat at the port. Sailing during the Dance of the Sea, they signal the start of the race. Later, they circle the port, entering the oldest local fishing village, Milo, for a night.

"At 7 a.m. the next morning, they reboard the boat and head to the sea sacrificial ground with the offerings."

The chosen Governor of the Sea and the Maidens of the Sea… A sea prayer ritual with multiple segments… Lumian repeated the key parts inwardly.

Suddenly, his heart skipped a beat as he made a connection.

This was very similar to the Lent celebration in the Dariège mountains and the Spring Elf!

Though in reality, Lent celebration didn't involve Ava's head being chopped off or blood splattering, the dream scene left a deep impression on Lumian. He instinctively associated the Lent celebration with something sinister and terrifying.

Doesn't the sea prayer ritual here resemble the Lent celebration?

Upon second thought, Lumian felt that the similarity didn't explain the issue.

This was a common process in mysticism—the creation of a specific symbol to represent the sacrificial target to achieve the desired effect.

This was evident in many folklore rituals.

"How are the Governor of the Sea and the Maidens of the Sea chosen?" Lumian asked curiously.

Could it be, like the Spring Elf, they're elected by all the residents of Port Santa?

Could one gain a high reputation and enjoy hidden benefits after the ritual?

Valerio took another drag from his cigar.

"They're chosen by the committee members of the Fisheries Guild, the oldest guild in Port Santa. They keep the specific criteria and whether they want to vote a secret. Even the official members of the Fisheries Guild don't know."

With that, the black-market merchant grinned.

"I also aim to become the Governor of the Sea. They say it comes with many perks, but no one spills the details."

"How have the previous Governors of the Sea fared?" Lumian was more concerned about this matter.

Valerio was taken aback. He thought for a moment before shaking his head.

"I'm not sure.

"Each Governor of the Sea serves only a one-year term. Once they step down, they seem to be relocated. Anyway, they can't stick around in Port Santa to avoid clashes with the new Governor. Heh heh, they're surely offered hefty compensation and allowed to bring their families."

Relocated? Were they truly relocated, or did they face something else? Lumian, drawing from past experiences, couldn't help but think of something ominous and dreadful in the face of such a ritualistic folklore.

Regarding the Governor of the Sea's subsequent experiences during the sea prayer ritual, it did sound peculiar.

Lumian thought for a moment and, adopting the tone befitting his current guise, inquired, "What about the Maidens of the Sea?"

"They're a hit among sea merchants, fishing company shareholders, and fishermen and sailors. Everyone wants to wed the Maidens of the Sea, a symbol of the sea's blessing. Explore various fishing villages, the Fisheries Guild, and the homes of sea merchants, and you'll find many influential grandmothers who were once Maidens of the Sea." Valerio's face brimmed with envy, as if he too harbored dreams of marrying a Maiden of the Sea and becoming a true sea merchant.

This mirrors the hidden benefits of being a Spring Elf… Lumian suppressed the urge to raise his right hand and stroke his chin.

Knowing when to cease, he refrained from pressing further. After depositing 50 gold risot, he exited Valerio's illegal casino with Lugano.

Ludwig didn't come with them. Instead, he was stationed in a nearby family restaurant equipped with a children's entertainment facility, overseen by specialized caretakers and a provided meal.

In Feynapotter, numerous industries supported parents in raising children and alleviating stress. Intis and other countries lacked such facilities, and even if they existed, they were accessible only to the elite.

Trier, catacombs.

Franca and Jenna descended to the third level with their flickering white candles.

Feeling a bit less stifled, Franca turned her head and inquired, "What's the name of the tomb we're after?"

Jenna didn't hesitate and replied, "The Thorn and Shieldwall Tomb."