Chapter 1992 Another 'Benny'
Ever since Gavin informed him of the huge shift in worship pattern among the Ylvainans in his fleet, Ves felt more anxious about this group than ever.
Religious fanatics always concerned him a lot. Unlike normal people, fanatics wholeheartedly devoted themselves to whatever cause they idolized!
This compulsion could be used for both innocuous ends and destructive ends! When people turned off the part of their brains that ran on logic, they were capable of doing anything regardless of the harm to their own lives and wellbeing!
This was why Ves hated them so much. To him, reality made much more sense when people solely pursued their rational self-interests. Extremists and fanatics were some of the people who were most prone to ignoring this pattern, which made them very hard to predict and guard against!
It was already bad enough that some of his enemies consisted of fanatics.
It was worse when they counted among his allies!
The two groups that concerned him the most were the Ylvainans and the Hexers.
Even though Ves grew increasingly more close to the Hexers, he wasn't too concerned. As long as he refrained from entering Hegemony space, he didn't have to deal with their man-hating ways aside from the occasional insensitive remark from his girlfriend.
The same could not be said for the Ylvainans.
Though he left the Ylvaine Protectorate far behind, that only separated him from the 'moderate' Ylvainans.
A large portion of his fleet and his other organizations consisted of True Believers! Compared to regular Ylvainans, they were even more devoted to their faith, and they just happened to be indoctrinated in the belief that the clones of the Great Prophet actually represented the original Ylvaine!
The amount of craziness needed to believe in such an absurd premise was astounding. Everyone in the galaxy knew that clones of people did not take over their identities. Far from it. Clowns were essentially bots in human skin! Even if the less flawed clones could pass off as human, it was largely similar to AIs programmed to act like humans.
James Ylvaine was different, however. So much so that Ves demanded a personal meeting with the latest clone of the prophet. This new development obviously came from the top!
When the fleet next exited FTL, a shuttle departed from a light carrier. It crossed a short distance until it docked in the Scarlet Rose's crowded hangar bay.
Only one person exited the shuttle. James Ylvaine wearing his characteristic white robes emerged from the vehicle with a pleasant smile. The guards assigned to fetch him couldn't help but be taken aback by his natural charm!
Please lead the way. He spoke, his smooth voice flowing like silk!
Wherever he passed, the crew members working in the vicinity all stared at him as if he was a celebrity. His regal-looking robe stood out from the functional uniforms of the Avatars and Battle Criers like a sore thumb. It was as if a pope had stepped onto their humble ship!
The pair of guards eventually ushered him in Ves' stateroom.
Aside from Nitaa and Lucky, no one else was present. Ves did not feel threatened by James as long as he was alone. It was his influence and the devotion of his followers that truly turned him into a formidable player!
Mr. Larkinson. James greeted Ves as if they were ordinary buddies. It's good to see you again. I'm aware that you are very busy lately. Just know that failure is a normal process that everyone has to go through. You are not strong enough to be able to fulfill all of your ambitions. That's okay. I'm sure that you will be able to revisit your goal in the future.
Ves stroked Lucky's back as his cat dozed on his desk. His lips curled into a frown. I did not ask for your advice. Please keep these kinds of comments to yourself. In fact, cut it off with the charade. I believe the future is never set in stone! Whatever you think might happen, there is always the possibility that events will happen outside of your supposed predictions!
I never claimed to be omniscient, Ves. James smiled toothily at him as he comfortably sat on the chair placed before the desk. I think you are misconstruing what a prophet is. Prophets are messengers. Prophets serve as the voice of the people or something greater. I did not wear this robe to enrich myself. I serve a greater cause.
That sounded absurd to Ves. The records of the original Ylvaine say otherwise. By all accounts, he was fully enjoying the life of a cult leader.
It was indisputable that the Prophet Ylvaine who founded the faith was a very indulgent human. Not only did he travel on the most luxurious ships, he also married a lot of wives and fathered a lot of sons!
Was this the behavior of a humble messenger?
Again, I am not necessarily great. James calmly retorted as if he already expected the answer. My current incarnation is just a mortal. Just like my first known incarnation, I am just as vulnerable to the threat of death as any other human. However, even if I die this instant, I will always live on. Life is rather quirky. As someone who embodies this domain, I'm sure you know all about it. Right, Mr. Larkinson?
How many secrets did this man know?! Ves resisted the urge to restrain him and dig through his mind!
Stop taunting me, James. I am in no mood to play these games!
As you wish, Ves. I'm sure you are curious why my followers have shifted to worshipping you. I can imagine that this is a very abrupt change to those who aren't versed in our faith. I did not intend to alarm you all, but this is the right time to enact this shift.
Would Ves ever be able to hold a normal conversation with James? The Living Prophet acted as if he was answering a question that hadn't even been voiced!
Ves knew he had to take control over the conversation. This charismatic bastard would definitely be able to walk all over him if he kept getting caught off-guard all the time!
Tell me the meaning of this change. He demanded in a firmer tone than before. As long as I have been familiar with the Ylvainan Faith, it has always centered around 'you'. The Martyred Followers have always been treated as 'your' sidekicks. While their accomplishments are worth celebrating, it has never been in doubt that your faith revolves around Ylvaine!
James chuckled and shook his head. Is that what you think? I'm sorry, Ves, but you don't know us well enough. First, the faith that is named after me has never centered around me. It's only being referred to as the Ylvainan Faith in order to make it easier for my people to understand what they are devoting themselves towards. In truth, I am never the star of this show. Remember what I told you about prophets. We are messengers, nothing more. Our job is to spread our message to the people.
And what message are you exactly advocating?
Do you even need to ask? My message has always been the same. A time will come when everyone will be elevated into gods. Humans or aliens, it doesn't matter. A time will come where we shall all ascend to a higher state of existence! Life, death and continuity will no longer be as absolute as before as everyone holds the potential of transcending the rules that limit our mortal existences!
That was standard Ylvainan drivel. Ves dismissively waved his hand. Yes, yes, yes, I'm already familiar with that nonsense. What I would like to know what this old message of yours has to do with ME! It's understandable if your True Believers keep worshipping you, but why are they starting to worship me?! I'm not a god?
Are you sure about that? James retorted with a grin.
I. Am. Not. A. God. Because. Gods. Do. Not. Exist.
It's rather amusing how ardently you deny the obvious. Words have power. They ascribe meaning to others. You identify yourself as a mech designer. That's understandable. Yet this simple and generic-sounding description does not do you justice! You should listen to your girlfriend more. She's not as delusional as you think. In fact, from our perspective, it is you who are in denial!
SHUT UP! Ves slammed his fists against his desk.
Lucky jumped in the air!
Ves ignored the distress of his cat. He was too angry right now! His patience with James was quickly wearing thin!
Don't try to warp my beliefs or hoodwink me into converting to your nonsensical faith! While I tolerate the beliefs of your people, that does not mean I'm a part of your cult! I am not an Ylvainan. I will never be an Ylvainan!
That's okay. The Living Prophet gently replied. He remained completely unaffected by the ire shown by Ves! The truth can never be changed no matter how much you deny it. Do you want to know the reason why my followers have shifted their worship towards you? It's because you deserve it more than I! Besides, this shift will do much to help our integration into your clan. We are all in this together, Ves. You're still treating us as a separate faction, and that is understandable, but your viewpoint is already outdated.
Ves looked at James in shock!
What are you talking about? The Ylvainan Faith has always centered around you, the 'prophet'!
Prophets are messengers, Ves. They are agents of other entities. You can imagine them as the divine equivalent of your assistant Gavin. To put it simply, I'm your Benny, and the latest change reflects this reality!
WHat?! It wasn't enough for James to make his followers idolize him in order to fit in with the clan. He also had the temerity to claim he was a Benny!
Ves started to develop a headache. Talking to James was always an enormous pain! He was far from an ordinary Benny in this regard!
Bennies like Gavin did his best to make his life easier. Of course, Bennies also had a very unfortunate tendency to serve another master at the same time.
The question was what ulterior motive drove James to enact this profound shift. Ves did not believe that he was doing all of this just to benefit their new 'god'! Cult leaders were always supposed to be self-serving bastards! Ves did not believe there was any exception to this rule!
Is it even proper for you to change the tenets of your faith so drastically? The Ylvainans from the Protectorate would probably crucify you if they see how much you have warped their faith!
The Ylvainans left behind in the Protectorate are fallen. James sighed in a dramatic fashion. While I respect their faith, they are too blinded by doctrine and old beliefs, courtesy of the Poxco Dynasty. The Poxcos have tried to enforce my old prophecies and sayings to such a great extent that they are stuck in the past! This is a distortion of my original intent. Faith is alive. Faith is organic. Faith constantly changes with the times. Paying attention to what I said over four centuries ago while ignoring what I am saying in the present time is completely wrong!
If James Ylvaine was actually the original prophet, then Ves was inclined to accept his argument.
James was just a clone, though. Even though he received some help from Ylvaine's spiritual fragment, that still didn't change the fact that he was not the original prophet!
He was just a fake who had been deluded into thinking he was the same man as the one who lived over four centuries ago!
I tire of this conversation. Please get to the point. What are your True Believers up to? What is the point of worshipping me as a god?
The Living Prophet folded his hands and smiled. It's rather simple, really. Our faith has always been about preparing for the Time of Ascension. How better to prepare for this epoch-changing event than to follow an actual god?
I told you already! I am not a god! Cut it out!
You cannot deny who you are, Vulcan.