Whether it is Vaunte or our world, there will always be some aspects of the battlefield which go unnoticed throughout the ages. It was like a dead end forgotten by the gaze of the gods. No matter how fierce the fighting was there, or what odd things were going on, it was like a vacuum within the minds of the commanders on both sides of the war, and no one would look much into it. Constructed around the chaotic age of 1400 at the East Gate of Ampere Seal was an elfin-style fortress called Hafermeri Fortress. Ever since its birth, it seemed to either be blessed or cursed; every battle was far from it. When Erik faced the barbarians, Razor Sihad, the lord of the mountain folk, spared the wide-open east side and took the long way to attack Ampere Seale’s southern gate. Later, in the fight against Madara's first invasion in the Tide of Darkness, the Skeleton Lords once again spared the ancient fortress. So much so that to this day, the princess’ party and the northern nobles seem to have agreed that there is not much use for Hafermeli Fortress. After the demon invasion, the whole city was turned into rubble but the northeast corner was still as silent as ever. For a fortress built to deal with the war, it was really hard to say whether this is a good or bad thing.
But after seven hundred years of erosion, the fortress, which had hardly ever seen war, showed its age. The battlements had moss growing all over them, and the walls had turned dark green - which represented its history. The only difference between it and other fortresses was that there was not a single scratch on the 300-meter-long section of the fortress. There were no signs of old and new sections blending with each other haphazardly. No human soldiers were in the fortress at the moment, however, hordes of eagle demons huddled on top of the battlements, chattering, or hovered over them in the heavy rain. The Harbor Guards had withdrawn on their own, so Fort Hafermeri was lucky to have missed another battle.
The eagle demons watched from the sky as a large pit that was hundreds of meters in diameter took shape below. Hundreds of cavemen dug in this worksite - or more accurately, muddy puddle. Doing anything in such stormy weather was not the wisest thing, which included digging holes and fighting a war. Although the cavemen under the command of the warlocks of the Jorgendigan Underground erected scaffolding to stabilize the four walls, collapses still occurred from time to time. The good thing was that the cavemen's lives were insignificant, and Lord Stark didn't care if one, a hundred, or a thousand more cavemen died, it didn't make any difference to him. The only thing that mattered was how much gold was spent. The cavemen bred so fast that it only takes a small piece of land to get a whole army of them. All he had to do was dig that thing up within the deadline, and any losses would be repaid later on.
A throbbing sensation came from the ground from time to time. Ordinary people often thought this was a premonition of an impending bad omen, but the wizards could tell in a flash that it was a ripple of dark magic flowing underneath the earth, eroding the threads of order in the world. Of course, to ordinary people, this was not a good thing, but to Stark it was like a box of gold that gave off the lovely smell of valuable wine in the ground. No, not one box, but hundreds of boxes - there was even a description according to the language of those demons that come from the Sulfur River: a hundred boxes of gold is no more valuable than that thing, which is an existence that cannot be measured by mortal and folly of values. However, the demons rejected the short-sightedness of mortals, and Stark was just as contemptuous of demonic values.
A treasure that can’t be measured in gold? Wouldn't that be worthless? He waved his huge bullhead and turned his nose up at it, as he didn’t look highly upon worthless things
But this time, it should be the right place. Stark couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief as he could sniff out the stench of that dark magic with his nose. The cavemen under him gave him a lot of trouble as the pit kept on collapsing. The cavemen had to take their time to move the corpses out, or else they would become part of the new landfill underneath, as they were now. Suddenly, there was another cacophony of noise that came from below. What is it now? Another collapse? Can't they just do their job? The minotaur lord Stark didn't give the least bit of thought to the fact that it never rained in Jorgendy Ridge. He simply hardened his resolve - the cavemen must be taught a profound lesson if they gave him any more trouble. He planned to throw them into that favorite labyrinth of his. Not even the smart and pretty Medusa Lysemeka could find an exit.
But immediately after she got out that time, Lysemeka turned him into stone for two hours. She said he was cheating and that he hadn’t made a door for the maze. However, this was also a cunning tactic of the Minotaur. Stark was deeply distressed because he was unable to gain the favor of the beautiful lady warrior. How could no one appreciate his wit? When he thought of Lysemeka, that cold and beautiful face came to his mind, distinctly as if it were real, but then Stark immediately realized that it was indeed real, as he saw the beautiful Lady Medusa coming out of the rain.
"So, what happened again. I was up there and heard the mess below," Lysemeka asked with a little displeasure. "Did you grow a head this big just to balance your body, Stark?"
Minotaur Lord Stark let out a silly grin upon hearing Lysemeka say that, which could basically be seen as a giggle, completely destroying his vicious expression. Can you imagine what a giggling Minotaur looks like? This was the distinguished face that Lysemeka was able to see. Lysemeka frowned. She seemed to have guessed that he couldn't say a word even if she asked him, so she simply pushed him away with her hand and looked towards the bottom of the pit herself. Immediately, she saw a spectacle happening at the bottom of the pit: a large group of cavemen screaming and scrambling like rats in a pot, running up the ramp at the bottom of the pit. It felt like there was a cat in the bottom of the pit alongside the rats.
"What are you doing!" Lysmeka was almost out of her mind from fury, and if she hadn't still had an ounce of sanity left, she would have turned around and glared hard at that bastard Stark, turning him into a stone statue forever. That stone statue would have been as majestic as Minotaur's legendary lord, and no one would ever know how idiotic this guy really was, which was the most important thing.
Most unfortunately, the cavemen could not answer her.
"What are you doing!"
When they heard this scream that was no less shrill than the shriek of a siren piercing through the rain, our merchant lady transformed into a black cat with the help of White Mist. A dense black cloud of smoke rose up, and a kitten with black and shiny fur appeared. The cat with golden pupils stepped out of the smoke with tiny kitten steps. She seemed curious about this form, but changing into a magical animal was actually a specialized spell for a witch. She got used to it very quickly even though White Mist didn’t tell her anything
White Mist watched as Romaine curiously licked her left paw, before looking at her right paw and then stretching out said paw to scratch her ear. Romaine then wagged her tail. White Mist really couldn't bear to watch anymore, so she turned into a ring of white fog around her and transformed into a white bow tied around the back of Miss Merchant’s neck.
"Let’s go quickly, it seems to be a mess down there, now would be a good time," said White Mist in that usual helpless tone of hers.
Only then did Romaine step out of the grass and quietly go to the pit.
The bottom of the pit was in complete disarray, and there was no telling whether a larger collapse or something had happened. The cavemen escaped upwards while screaming. There was no brotherhood between these creatures from the Jorgendy Ridge Underground, who fought each other just to get a head start and left their mates behind if they could. Lysemeka's fury turned several cavemen who rushed up the pit into stone. She did not even ask why they were running. No one had been paying attention to the movements inside the pit at this moment - or to be more exact, no one saw the cat by the edge of the pit. Of course, the only people present who actually had eyes to see were Stark and Lysmeka.
Romaine carefully stepped on the scaffolding and made her way to the bottom of the pit, just like a real kitten. White Mist sighed at the sight of it, thinking that Miss Merchant was better off as a cat. However, she suddenly felt that, compared to Romaine's curiosity, perhaps the cat with nine lives was her true form. If Vaunte had a cycle of birth and reincarnation, White Mist thought that Romaine might have been born in the wrong form. However, within a fraction of a second of her distraction, the Merchant Miss had already avoided several groups of cavemen by dodging left and right. She deftly landed on a reinforced slab and greatly widened her golden prismatic pupils to look towards the bottom of the pit. "White Mist, White Mist, look, what is that!"
White Mist looked down and immediately saw a dozen or so strange creatures hunting down the cavemen in front of them. It was a strange creature because it looked a bit like a spider, but to her extensive knowledge, there was absolutely no spider that was covered in sharp crystals. If she hadn't seen its exposed limbs, she would have thought it was a bunch of giant crystals chasing them down there. "Ah, it's the Crystal Wights!" she burst out.
"Crystal Wights? What is that?" Romaine asked curiously.
By this time, a few Crystal Wights had approached the surface, and they were acting fierce and bloodthirsty. Several cavemen had already perished under their hands, but the eerie thing was that they clearly hadn’t killed the cavemen for the sake of hunting: these wights simply slaughtered them and then tossed their bodies aside, as though they had been professionally trained or were experienced after practicing this action repeatedly.
Up on the surface, Lady Medusa Lysmeka finally noticed the uninvited guests. "Are they guards?" she muttered, casually dropping the lucky crypt dweller in her hand back into the pit.
She removed the short bow from her waist and aimed at those Crystal Wights, shooting the front two with an arrow each so that they toppled back into the pit. These few Crystal Wights showed very strong combat prowess, around the level of Gold Rankers. The cavemen were no match for them at all, and as soon as Lysmeka fired those test shots, she realized that she had met a challenging opponent.
"A Crystal Wight is a Crystal Wight, let's go on down and take a look." Inside the pit, White Mist was answering Roman's queries in her own peculiar way.
"Will they kill Romaine?" Romaine asked with a little nervousness.
"They won’t, I am here," White Mist replied simply.
Only then that Miss Merchant nodded and plunged downward, landing steadily on the bottom of the pit. It was then that the two realized that this deep pit had already been dug through, because they could see artificial traces begin to appear. This was probably a historical site, with many openings that led to the black cavernous underground.
The two randomly picked an opening and entered it. There were no cavemen in the ruins now, nor could they see new Crystal Wights appearing. Except for the sound of rain and water, the place was lonely and desolate. In fact, the sound of the rain had gradually diminished after they had entered that opening, and the outline of a certain huge presence gradually emerged in the darkness.
"Ah!" White Mist gasped again.
Romaine hurriedly leapt forward and looked up curiously. She watched as the huge silhouette gradually became clearer in her vision and then slowly coalesced to form a head. To be exact, it looked like a part of a huge stone statue. Or, as Romaine saw it, it resembled the marble statues used to decorate Coldwood Castle enlarged a thousand times.
But the stone statue's facial lines were very sharp. It didn’t look like a statue of a modern human. It looked more like it was sculpted by another race instead. Romaine looked at it and realized it had neither a beard nor pointed ears. “Not a dwarf, not an elf,” she commented thoughtfully.
"What is this, White Mist?"
"...Titan Statue, I didn't expect it to be here… I didn't expect it to be here…" muttered White Mist. If she could widen her eyes, this listless woman would have widened her eyes as much as she could at this moment.
Brendel listened carefully. The rustling of voices in the dark was already getting closer and closer. But that certainly couldn’t be the rattle that the spidermother made; it would not make such a loud noise. The spidermother, though a behemoth in itself, moved very delicately and was a hunter who lurked before striking..
Brendel could still remember that adventure vividly to this day when he recalled those memories.
Everyone stopped. The knights all pressed their hands to their swords though they did not draw them, a skill they had learned from Brendel. Sometimes, drawing your sword first would not allow you to seize the initial upper hand in a fight. On the contrary, you would end up exposing your position to the opponent, especially when you were facing an unknown enemy.
Brendel was pleased with the others' actions. He was the first to notice the uninvited guests who had suddenly appeared.
The first thing that appeared in the darkness was a floating, shimmering light that seemed to refract the dull light of the illuminating crystal in his hand. It was only afterwards that he could see that it was some kind of creature made up of crystals. From its shape, there should have been no doubt that this creature was a spider.
But these weren’t spiders anymore.
"Crystal Wights?" Brendel was a little taken aback. How could there be such a thing here? There shouldn’t be any such monsters in this area, not to mention the fact that monsters in Amber always appeared for a reason, just like the wind elementals below the Mar Highlands. They would never pop up for nothing.
Crystal Wights were such a special type of monster that Brendel had only ever seen them in a handful of places, and in small numbers every time.
Thought upon thought rushed through his mind for a moment. However, his reaction was quick; he lowered his center of gravity and the Halran Gaia appeared in the hand.
"Prepare for battle!" the princess shouted in a low voice behind him. The knights drew their long swords in unison.