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Mayne froze and stared at the old man in front of him, hoping to see something in his eyes.

But he saw nothing other than lifelessness.

The Pope's eyes were no longer as penetrating and authoritative as they used to be. Perhaps, he still possessed the wisdom passed down from previous Popes, as well as the knowledge obtained from the Canon, but... nothing escaped time.

"His Holiness wasn't kidding," Mayne realized. His journey was reaching its end.

Mayne's eyes started to blur.

He knelt once again, with his forehead touching the floor. This time, His Holiness did not ask him to stand up, but instead waited until he completed the entire action before saying, "Follow me."

The attending guards helped the Pope on to a cart and wheeled him towards the gate of the Pivotal Secret Area. Mayne followed closely behind, and the party left the Pivotal Secret Temple, turning into a long and narrow tunnel. On the smooth stone walls of the tunnel was embedded a luminous crystal at every ten steps' distance. Looking down the tunnel, one couldn't see the end.

After walking for a long time, Mayne finally left the tunnel and entered a well-lit room. Beneath his feet, the floor had turned into flat slabs, and he was able to see the edges and corners of the walls, as well as the chandelier that hung from the ceiling. Apparently, the tunnel had led into an underground chamber.

"We're underneath the cathedral of the old Holy City." Perceiving Mayne's bewilderment, the Pope clarified. "The design of this place is identical to the cathedral, except that it is built upside down. I call it the Reflection Church."

"Underneath the cathedral?" Mayne exclaimed. "I never expected there to be a basement."

"It's not a basement indeed, because the two aren't mutually accessible." O'Brien smiled. "This place is only accessible through the underground tunnel of the Pivotal Secret Area. The roof is made of an extremely thick mixture of slab and clay, which is impossible to break through using conventional methods."

"Why... is such a design necessary?"

"To guard a secret, without completely burying it." He replied. "Before a Pope ascends the throne, he must come to the Reflection Church to witness the establishment, development and expansion of the Church, and at the same time, learn by heart the goals of the Church."

"To defeat the demons," Mayne said solemnly.

O'Brien did not nod in agreement, but instead said softly, "No, child. To win the smile of God."

The Archbishop was briefly at a loss. "What?"

This time, the Pope did not respond, but instead commanded the guards to continue moving forward. According to the direction of the stairway and the ramp, they were moving upwards. Soon, the party arrived in front of a grand hall. By recognizing the designs in the surroundings that he was familiar with, Mayne identified the place as the Prayer Room of the Reflection Church.

The thick wooden door of the room was pushed open with a creaking sound. Although it seemed that the Pope had not visited this hall for a long time, there wasn't a smell of dust... Evidently, someone had been keeping this place clean at all times.

"They're only allowed to send me thus far. From here on, you'll have to push me into the room." O'Brien said.

"Yes, Your Holiness." Mayne took the cart handles and pushed the Pope into the Prayer Room. Closing the wooden door behind him, the room no longer received light from the torches outside. Now, the only light remaining in the room was the soft radiance of the yellow crystals - similar to the arrangement in the tunnel, the crystals were embedded evenly on the walls of two sides of the room. However, a notable difference was that above each crystal hung a large portrait. Mayne vaguely remembered that the positions of the portrait frames were where the windows of the Prayer Room above ground went.

The portraits' contents were much the same. They were half-body portraits of people wearing magnificent gowns, looking full of energy, with their eyes seemingly fixed upon anyone who entered the Prayer Room. Mayne was astonished when he found His Holiness O'Brien's portrait among them - the drawing looked exactly like the real person, and stared at Mayne with a smile on his face. A strange feeling caused Mayne to shudder uncontrollably, and goose bumps covered his back.

"Ah, you found me." The Pope seemed to sense the Bishop's change of emotion. "This portrait was completed half a year ago. At that time, I didn't look quite as old as I do now, and hence it's relatively good-looking. By right, the portrait should only be hung up after my death." He observed the portrait carefully. "Blame it on my impatience, for I wanted to see how I looked on the portrait earlier than I should."

"Your Holiness, these are..." Mayne felt his throat turn dry.

"Yes, they're the noble pioneers, the Supreme Pontiffs of old." O'Brien said softly. "Let's continue moving forward, and I'll introduce them to you."

The Archbishop listened to His Highness' descriptions, while at the same time studied the portraits - even though he understood that they were the former leaders of the Church, but an inexplicable strange feeling continued to linger in his mind. The persons in the portraits were simply too lifelike, and Mayne was unable to imagine what techniques and dyes were used by the artist to produce these half-body portraits. Under the dim yellow light, the top half of the portraits gradually faded into the darkness as Mayne walked further, leaving visible only the lower section of the faces which continued to grin at him.

Halfway through the grand hall, Mayne unexpectedly noticed the portraits of women.

Their looks were dissimilar and they were dressed differently, but each of them could be said to be movingly beautiful - it was rare for mortals to have such remarkable appearances, as the Bishop well knew, and it was for this reason that he felt extremely puzzled and astounded. However, His Highness seemed unconcerned, and continued to calmly introduce their names, terms of service, and contributions.

Each of these people was a former Pope of the Church.

The two men soon reached the end of the Prayer Room.

Facing the central aisle of the grand hall was a full-body portrait which occupied an entire wall on its own. It was hung behind the sanctuary, and its four sides were decorated with shiny crystals, which made the picture look even more vivid.

Mayne swallowed hard and walked up to the portrait.

At the very instant he managed to get a full view of the painting, he felt his heart leap up. "O holy, a woman of peerless beauty!" Aside from these words, there was no other way for him to describe what he saw. From her looks, she possessed both feminine beauty and masculine fortitude, which blended naturally and did not conflict with each other. Her red hair seemed like streaks of burning flame, while she wielded a large sword which looked wanton and capable of extinguishing all fires and evil desires. She stood erect holding the sword, with her eyebrows slightly raised, both eyes glancing forward, her slender lips firmly closed, and looked naturally powerful and imposing. Under the gaze of her sharp and penetrating pupils, Mayne felt an immense and overwhelming pressure which almost coerced him to kneel in front of this magnificent lady.

"Your Holiness, this is..."

He struggled to turn his head, only to find that O'Brien had already knelt down.

"She's Alice, the First Pope and a Transcendent. She also has a nickname - the Queen of Witches."

Mayne felt his heart jump violently. His earlier speculations had turned out to be absolutely correct - the first Popes of the Church were witches!

"Why was the founder of the Church a witch?"

"Kneel and pay respect, child. I'll let you see everything that you wish to know later."

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