As Lily attempted to make her way to the door, the waiter standing by her side grabbed hold of her shoulder and gripped it firmly.

“Miss, the bill.”

Lily fought a sudden urge to scream in annoyance, but before she could inflict any physical harm on the waiter, Iris placed a hand on Lily’s arm, and unclipped the coin purse from her belt, gesturing her to go ahead. Lily nodded thankfully as the waiter’s attention was diverted, then purposefully strode toward the doors, throwing them open. She was greeted by the sight of a street, packed with people, with little room to move. Instead of throwing herself into the throng of people fighting and pushing to get to the front, Lily stood on the steps leading up to the restaurant, where she could see over the crowd and observe whatever was happening.

For several seconds, nothing happened. Then, a momentous roar erupted from the crowd at the edge of the street. After a few more moments, the procession emerged. Surprisingly, Lily could see no mounts involved in this procession. It was a group of about twenty, on foot, walking at a measured pace along the road. Of the twenty, about fifteen were soldiers, covered in shining armor, bearing shortswords at their waists, their stoic faces adorned with the half-face mask worn by the clergy of the Church. Lily supposed these were members of the militant arm of the Church which had been growing larger. They stood in a square-like formation around the other five members of the procession, keeping the crowd at bay. Inside this square was a circle of four women, all dressed in the unusual garb of the church’s clergywomen. They walked at an even pace, matching that of the armored figure that walked in the centre of this circle.

The armored figure, the centre of the procession, had strikingly white hair. That was the first thing that caught Lily’s eye. Her facial features were broken by a large, concealing visor that completely obscured her face from the nose up. The visor was made of some kind of glimmering, hard material, and had no slots or cuts in it to accomodate vision. Instead, in the centre of it, was a vertical eye motif, set against the whiteness of the visor in gold. Around the eye, numerous black, symmetrical markings spread out, spidering across the visor’s surface. At each end of the visor, it flared out into a wing-like design, complementing the four large, white, feathery wings which spread out from the figure’s back, fluttering and occasionally twitching as she walked. The plumage on the wings was of an otherworldly quality, visually thick and emitting a soft white glow. As the figure walked, the wings would occasionally brush against its white armor. It wore a full set of plate armor, complete with pauldrons, breastplate and joint guards. The plate was just as white as the figure’s hair and wings, had no trimming, and was made of some strange material that glistened in the light, far more lustrous than any known metal. At its sides, clipped to a pair of hooks that protruded from its armor, where a pair of sheathed swords. The sheath was made of the same material as the rest of the plate armor, and was decorated by the same vertical eye motif and patterns on the visor. As the figure walked, its plate-booted feet barely made a sound as it disturbed the gravel under it.

Lily frowned. Something about the figure felt very familiar, but she could not quite place it. She could not seem to shake off the feeling that she had met this figure before, even though it was Lily’s first time seeing it. As she was pondering this, Iris exited the shop and took Lily’s hand, having settled the payment. Iris took one glance, noticed Lily’s troubled expression, and gripped Lily’s hand tightly in hers, at which the taller girl started and turned, flashing a grateful smile. Returning her gaze to the processsion, she continued to observe as the party made its way forward. At one point, a woman broke out from the crowd, clambering forward, hoping to touch the figure in centre of the procession. She was pushed away by a guard, but the moment she fell on the ground, the armored figure stopped, causing the procession to immediately halt. The figure walked over the the fallen woman and touched her forehead, speaking loud enough for the entire crowd to hear, its voice echoing throughout the street, the sudden shifts Lily felt in her Probe suggesting that the figure was artificially amplifying its clear, high-pitched, emotionless voice with magic.

“Your faith is commendable. However, this Vessel cannot bestow her blessings just yet. To any who desire the blessing of this Vessel, she urges you to wait until the faithful have gathered at the Church.”

Vessel stepped away from the woman and resumed walking. As she did, the woman fell to her knees, touching her forehead reverently, her face showing an awestruck expression. The crowd gathered around her, clapping her shoulder and congratulating her even as their eyes betrayed signs of envy. Lily blinked several times. From the size of the crowd gathered, she had inferred that Vessel commanded a large degree of respect, but that display was unlike anything she had seen before. Exactly how much devotion did Vessel garner?

As the procession passed the shopfront where Lily stood, Vessel halted a second time. She turned her head in Lily’s direction, and remained that way for several moments. Unable to see Vessel’s eyes, Lily felt a measure of unease, but she simply stared at the visor in return. Vessel then turned back to the main road and continued walking. Immediately, the crowd swarmed Lily, asking her to shake their hands, congratulating her, voicing their jealousy. She tried to push through the crowd, but they kept pushing back. Lily could find no way through them without killing them, and she preferred to avoid having a murder charge levied against her so shortly before leaving Saphiz.

“Tate! How high can you jump?”

Surprised by the sudden question, Tate took a while to respond.

“…oh! Me! You saw me jump in the dungeon, didn’t you? That was about maybe half my maximum height?”

Lily grinned.

“Great. Follow me.”

Without another word, she shoved the crowd away for a few seconds, then wound up and leapt straight up, landing on the rooftop. Iris and Tate soon followed, and Lily led the way, moving along the rooftops, heading for the Church building.

Stopping on the roof of their inn, directly opposite the Church, the group reached the area just moments before Vessel arrived at the church, allowing them to witness her arrival. She walked up to the steps that led into the Church and disappeared. The crowd amassed around the entrance to the church, clogging up the street, even though Vessel was nowhere to be seen. Then, she re-emerged from the steeple tower. She stepped out of the tower and hovered there. Lily felt a humming in her Probe, suggesting that Vessel was using magic, not her wings, to stay afloat. She turned a half-circle, casting her gaze on each member of the crowd. As she finished her arc, the sunlight reflected off her plate armor, creating a brilliant gleam. Lily gasped as she realised why she found Vessel familiar. She narrowed her eyes as she began to find familiarity in the curves, edges and shape of the plate armor.

Vessel’s armor pieces were the scales of the <<White Plated Dragon>>.