Each of the twelve witches stood under a hazelnut tree and began to chant an ancient song. Seven stone pillars broke out silently from the ground. A great white rock with a crack then rose up from the dirt in the middle of the stone pillars. The crack resembled a black hole leading to the gate of hell.
The stone gates and pillars were obviously artificially carved out of natural rocks. There were some curved scripts on them, but they were so eroded that Brendel could barely make out what was supposed to be the writings of the ancient dwarfs.
“Lord, this door will only last for a quarter of an hour, please decide who you want to take with you quickly,” Babasha said immediately in a hoarse voice as soon as the white rock appeared.
Brendel had long since decided which people would accompany him. “Babasha, please choose five dependable people to come with me. Count Audine, take the knights and enter after us. The rest of you shall protect the princess. I want you to swear upon the Goddess of The Burning Pillars of Hell.”
“Don’t worry, Mr. Brendel,” replied Count Audine as he bowed to the knight. His relationship with Brendel seemed to naturally become one of superiority and inferiority, but the Count was not narrow-minded; he understood that Brendel was far more qualified to give orders here because he did not feel that anything was wrong with this arrangement.
The witches obediently did as they were told. Count Audine was stunned as he watched them. While the witches occasionally made deals with worldly authorities, they would have never behaved so respectfully. He did not really believe the old witch who claimed that it was because Brendel had helped them before, but he doubted part of Brendel’s history. He already knew that Brendel was a descendant of the Sword Saint Darius, and that Brendel had learnt the the path of a wizard from a powerful, cloistered wizard - whom Count Audine suspected to be Tulman. Thus, he subconsciously attributed the witches’ relationship with Brendel to the possibility that they might have once benefited from the mysterious Silver Fortress’ master before.
“Mr.Brendel-” Just as the half-elf girl opened her mouth, she was interrupted by Brendel. “Your Highness, please stay here and don’t let me worry. Because whether it is you or me, Aouine will always need someone who will lead the way into the future. I may be a little arrogant for saying so, but I don’t want my efforts to go to waste.”
Princess Gryphine looked at him carefully. “Then, my order to you is to come back. Can you do that?”
Brendel did not reply. How could I answer this? He did not even have the answer to this question; perhaps whoever came from Jorgendy Ridge were a bunch of brainless cavemen who did not expect a secret passage that led into the hills north of Ampere Seale. And so they went all out, perhaps leaving only one reserve team, which allowed him to easily demolish the Door or Flame.
Of course that was what he hoped for too. However, he knew in his heart that an outcome that was the total opposite was more likely to happen, with the Devils heavily manning the portal. They had only a slight chance to succeed. He did not know what he was going to face. Even when they had been slaughtering their way through the siege at Bucce, he had never felt so uncertain.
History had completely changed, and for the first time ever he could not make out the inevitable outcome that was behind all these. But surprisingly, there was no fear in him; his mind was clear and he knew exactly what he was about to do.
“So this is the deal.” Brendel smiled faintly. “If I am unlucky and end up dying, I will have Count Audine send my dead body back.”
This was not a joke told in good taste. The princess frowned at him and said only two words, “Stay alive.”
“I will try my best. No one wishes to die, Your Highness.”
Princess Gryphine just looked at him in silence, which made Brendel feel weird. He thought that his ambiguous answer was bound to be reprimanded, but anyhow, he had made up his mind.
Babasha had already chosen the people to follow him, and she brought those five witches to meet him. One of the witches was said to be Babasha’s niece, a skinny middle-aged woman in her sixties, and the other three were also closely related to Babasha. The last person, however, surprised Brendel slightly. She was a little girl less than half his height, who held a honey pot in her arms. She had faint freckles on the tip of her nose and a pair of amber eyes that were looking at him curiously. Babasha introduced her as her adopted daughter. Although she was only fourteen years old she had already possessed Silver-ranked power.
Brendel asked what her name was and the little girl replied brightly, “Sugar Jar.”
What a nice name. Brendel could not help but glance at the honey jar she was holding, thinking that the little girl must really like sweet things. Do witches get cavities? Probably not.
After bidding goodbye to the princess, he led the witches into the cave and the twelve knights followed behind. In the crevice of the rock was a small space which could only allow three people to walk side by side at one time. The traces of artificially carved steps on the floor could clearly be felt. Someone at the rear lit a torch with a flint, and the smell of pine oil filled the cave at once, but the crowd could see their surroundings now.
The rocks on both sides were as sharp as knives, in between the rocks was a staircase that led to the underground, it was not much different from what Brendel remembered, except that the dust was so thick that he could draw a line on the wall. The first player who discovered this might have felt the same way.
However, a surprised shout came from the back right then. Brendel turned his head hurriedly and saw a familiar slender figure walking in. The cracks of the wall closed behind her, naturally merging with the appearance of the surrounding rock walls without leaving a trace.
It was Princess Gryphine.
“Your Highness, you...” Fortunately, Brendel did not pass out. He finally understood what that last glance from the princess meant; it turned out to be a ploy to let his guard down, but tragically, he actually fell right into the trap.
“Mr.Brendel, you are not rather smart.”
“Alright, I admit that I am stupid. But, I will order Babasha to take you out through another secret passage, Your Highness, you cannot best me,” Brendel replied.
“Unless you kill me,” Princess Gryphine replied coldly. “Otherwise, no one can take me. You may as well give it a try, Mr. Brendel. I dare to carry out every word of mine with actions.”
“Your Highness, don’t be so...” Brendel wanted to say stubborn, but he suddenly remembered that this princess was well known for being stubborn in history and she might really do as she said.
Brendel could feel a headache coming on. He suddenly missed Amandina who always obeyed him, or Scarlet and Medissa. They were at least less stubborn than this princess.
“Mr.Brendel, I said that you’re dumb not because I managed to deceived you.” The princess softened her tone when she saw the hesitant look on his face. “Have you ever thought that Aouine would no longer exist if you failed? The Devils would destroy it all, didn’t you already tell me that? I want to be with you and see you save this ancient kingdom with your own hands.”
“If you fail...” The princess looked at him quietly. “I will join you in martyrdom for this kingdom. I wish to at least get to bury our ideals in the dirt with my own hands. I want to die by my knight’s side.”
Brendel felt his heart skip a beat.
He did not know if the princess meant what she said. He saw the half-elf girl’s serious gaze and felt as if she had seen through him.
But he had to admit that he had never thought of that. If he failed, Aouine would be wiped out by the invasion of the Devils, and after losing him and Valhalla, whether Aouine’s people would be able to rebuild a kingdom on top of the ruins and whether the rebuilt kingdom would carry the people’s faith was still an unknown.
Even the question of whether the people of Aouine would survive this tragedy remained. After losing those familiar names of the land, would this kingdom still be the Aouine he had known?
It may not be.
The princess had thought further and foreseen the future more clearly than he did; perhaps this was the difference between them both. She was a native of this kingdom after all, and as much as he knew about the history of this ancient kingdom, it only carried half of Brendel’s feelings.
He sighed. “Your Highness, you are with me, and since you recognised me as your knight, I will then take responsibility for protecting you. From this moment onwards, you must not only do things according to your will,” he said with a half-complaining and half-deliberating remark.
Princess Gryphine’s gaze softened a little.
“Babasha, you lead the way,” Brendel said impatiently.
“Yes, my Lord.” Babasha looked at the princess and smiled mysteriously. She picked up the torch and walked forward.
The torch’s glow stretched along the downward canal, and the air quickly broke away from the humidity outside and became dry. The turpentine fire spat out a spark or two occasionally, which landed on Babasha’s witch hat. Other than that it was hard to hear any other sounds in this silent underground space.
Of course, except for the rustling footsteps of the crowd.
Brendel could sense that the princess beside him was a little nervous, which was not surprising. Although she had a varied noble education which taught her to remain calm at all times, she was still a noble girl born into a royal family after all. She had never experienced exploring the wildlands, let alone the underground of this ancient fortress. Anyone would have had some strange hallucinations, and the princess was no exception.
“Mr. Brendel, for whom exactly were these tunnels builts for?” Princess Gryphine was intrigued as she saw these mysterious tunnels beneath Ampere Seale with her own eyes. Again, it was as though to get rid of that unease that she asked in a small voice.
“It should be the dwarves, but I don’t know which dwarves,” Brendel replied casually.
“It should be the Rune Dwarves, Lord, ” replied the old witch Babasha from the front.
It turned out that Brendel did not expect this to be another relic of the Rune Dwarves, but there was hardly any detail in the Amber Sword about the tunnels here, and it seemed like the keypoint was still in that secret tunnel that the players could not find.
After a short conversation, the surroundings quickly fell into silence again. The canal began to get narrower, allowing only two people to walk side by side. Brendel and the princess had to move closer together. The knights also noticed that water was beginning to seep and cover the underground steps. The artificially carved marks had already become unclear by this point; the surrounding stone walls were being washed back to their original state by the groundwater that seeped down from above.
After a quarter of an hour or so, the artificial tunnel completely disappeared and a cliff appeared in front of it. A slanting crack cut off the tunnel. When the torch was held up, a smooth mirror-like natural stone wall could be seen.
Brendel gestured for Babasha to extinguish the torch, then he took out a crystal used for light. This crystal was basically an ubiquitous, cheap good that one could find anywhere, which emitted a very dim light.
It was not that Brendel did not have a better choice; he had done so deliberately. He had not forgotten that below the cliff was the female spider’s lair. Going down with a light source that radiated heat would be just suicidal.
It was only after changing the light source that Brendel added the Wind Wings spell to each of them. The Wind Wings of a Level 20 Elementalist would not be enough to enable flight, but it was sufficient for slow landings. The entire row of people slowly drifted from the cliff, taking merely a few minutes to descend to the bottom.
There was a totally different view below the cliffs, and the knights soon discovered that there was an underground river below. The pebbles on both sides of the riverbank were covered with layers upon layers of white spider webs. Countless spider eggs could be seen beneath the webs and fist-sized spiders could be seen crawling among them.
Brendel subconsciously looked up and saw that the sloping cliffs were filled with spiders that looked like dense black balls of flesh, stacked up layer by layer. Gooseflesh prickled intensely on his head. He could not help but curse at himself, just like when he was in the game.
When they first ventured here, he had subconsciously glanced over his head and ended up screaming in shock, which drew the female spider out, resulting in the team being destroyed. He was scolded severely once by his senior because of this, and was still embarrassed at the thought of it.
But a wall of crawling bugs overhead that felt like they would fall at any moment was a little too disgusting. Even if he was mentally prepared, he still had goosebumps.
“Listen up everyone, don’t look over your heads.” He retracted his gaze immediately as he gave the order.
The knights did as they were told, but Princess Gryphine was very sharp and seemed to have guessed what might be overhead. Brendel saw her face turn pale, so he touched her hand multiple times, but he immediately retracted his hand each time.
He did not expect the princess to be so afraid of spiders. Had he known that, perhaps he should have let her look up. Princess Gryphine would be so scared that she might hug him straight away. Brendel had this mischievous thought in mind, but of course, it was just a thought.
“Mr.Brendel, these spiders must have come from somewhere,” Princess Gryphine said with a pale face. She knew it was unlikely for so many spiders to cluster together inexplicably, and the only possibility was that there might be a lair of magical creatures here.
Brendel nodded. “It was said that the owner of this place is Anarons, the Mother of Spiders. That magical creature already had a terrifying strength of the Elemental Activation or even the Elemental Enlightenment as early as one or two hundred years ago. It was said that its Elemental Power is the web. The web means both bondage and linkage; it could control every single thread here.
“By the way, don’t ever touch those nets, not even one thread,” Brendel reminded them. It was best to avoid messing with the dreaded female spider as much as they could.
Everyone shivered as they heard him say that. However, it was at this moment that Brendel heard a rustling noise coming from a direction.
It did not sound like a spider.
“Huh?” He trembled slightly. He could not help but turn to look towards that direction.