The street was still permeated with morning fog.
Holding a candlestick, the girl from the candle shop walked along White Rose Avenue. As dawn broke and the first rays of sunlight hit the Ash City, the doors of the grocer opened up. Mapelli greeted the girl who was passing by.
“Seti! Aren’t you up this early!”
“Good morning, Mr Mapelli,” Seti replied with a smile. “Things are rather busy at the palace, so I need to get there earlier.”
“I noticed that you were working late last night. Are you sure you are not overworking yourself?”
“Ah, my father’s legs are not as well as they used to be, so I’m just doing whatever I can to help.”
“That old Chris sure is lucky to have such a kind daughter, unlike that brat of mine!” Mapelli complained.
Seti giggled. Just as she was about to reply, there was a commotion coming from the direction of the palace. The sound of thundering hooves rumbled throughout the city. The crowd immediately fell silent and parted. They looked to the south, where the sound was coming from.
The fog dissipated in the distance.
A black carriage materialized from the murky fog, accompanied by a troop of grey-clothed knights. The knights paved the way on their horses of midnight dark wearing armor gilded with silhouettes of flames.
The Grey Knights of the Holy Cathedral of Fire.
After the carriage faded into the horizon, only then did the cacophony of speech and footsteps return.
“It’s House Kirk,” Mapelli spoke up once more. “Seti, I heard that the nobles in the south had already lost. Is your brother…?”
“I’m sure he is fine.”
In San Cotepe Palace, the floor was made entirely of black marble, with only roses of silver outlining a path. At the end of this path, sat the empire’s ruler upon a throne of stone, listening to the seven tolls of the church bells.
Every rose has its thorns. These words were etched upon the crown that rested on her head. The Silver Queen of Kirrlutz, Her Imperial Highness, Empress Constance. With her beautiful and youthful face, her body looking as if she had not aged a day past twenty-five, and her golden locks that fell to her waist, she looked like a perfectly crafted doll from a foreign land. In reality, the queen was a prim and proper Kirrlutzian who was a mother of seven children.
To other tribes, a typical Kirrlutzian would have immeasurable pride in themselves, always looking down on others. Whenever they were involved in political matters, this would often translate into a tyrannical personality, which described the empress very accurately.
The queen looked at the city that laid in front of her. Just as her palace had no doors, her power had no limit. Anything that she laid her eyes upon would become part of the empire if it weren’t so already.
But towards the north of the palace, dark clouds hung low in the skies, foreshadowing a storm that was to come. Wardnt had never experienced a storm of this caliber in a thousand years, perhaps even forever, thus no one knew what changes it would bring.
The queen’s eyes went back to the subjects in front of her who were fervently discussing. Impatiently, she raised her hand, cutting of the nobles who were speaking.
“I don’t want to hear anything more about the south. House Ashric, the matter about your eldest daughter angering the druids at the Loop of Trade Winds, I am overlooking this matter.
“House Rupert, Williams may have suffered a defeat at the hands of Aouine, but he is dead. The dead are free of crime.
“I only want to know two things. One, who gave Williams the authority to deploy the Frontier Navy? Two, who is this newcomer Duke Trentheim, does he know how to use Heaven’s Armament, and what is the relationship between him and those insufferable knights from the north?”
The instant Constance stopped speaking, an old man scrambled forward to kneel before the throne. The representative of Williams’s house said, “Your Highness, please give us another chance, we will definitely find out about this person. Not only is he the empire’s enemy, he is also our family’s nemesis!”
Constance looked at Count Cecil for a moment.
After a while, she said, “Aouine is no longer important to the empire right now. I just want them to agree to take part in the Holy War under the Holy Cathedral. Since the mages of Bucca want to get in the way, we will have Aouine deal with them for us. Just as long as they do not ally with Sanorso.”
“But Your Highness, Aouine has always been under the jurisdiction of our Holy Cathedral of Fire!” Constance looked towards the source of the voice that had interrupted her. It was Archbishop Quirk.
“Archbishop Quirk, are you here to discuss politics, or are you here to preach your sermons?” she said, her facial expression remaining unchanged.
Quirk’s face paled, and he chose to keep silent for the rest of the meeting.
“I’m also interested in the rumors of the Azure Lance being found in Aouine. I’ll leave this matter to you, your majesty.”
Constance rose from her seat. Despite her short stature, no one dared to try and look down on her. The nobles held their breaths as she surveyed the room before leaving with her servants.
In a corner of the palace, House Kirk and House Ashric had gathered together. After the queen had left, Count Rodney said to Duke Helix, “If you have never met Her Highness before, it sure is hard to imagine that she has been ruling the empire for forty years. To be honest, I used to fantasize about her when I was younger.”
“Her Highness only looks young because of special circumstances. When I was your age, Her Highness had already had this appearance.” Duke Helix’s white hair and weathered face showed his age, yet he had no problems talking casually with Count Rodney, who was about half his age. Everyone knew that both their families were very close. In fact, the current head of House Ashric, Veronica was teaching two of Duke Helix’s granddaughters the at of the sword. “However, Her Highness’s body must not be the same as it was, or she would never have permitted the princes to travel about.”
Count Rodney nodded. He looked towards Count Cecil and gleefully said, “House Cecil is in deep trouble this time. Williams really brought this predicament on them.”
“Don’t get too excited.” Duke Helix shook his head. He had seen many types of situations in his life. “He might appear meek and obedient in front of the empress, but he can easily deal with the both of us.”
Rodney was left confused at those words. “Why would he antagonize us? We didn't do anything to him.”
“Tell that to your sister. Everyone knows about the stunt she pulled at the Loop of Trade Winds. Do advise her not to get too close with those people from Aouine. I don’t think the empress is pleased with her.” Duke Helix replied.
Reminded once more of his sister, Rodney could only sigh. “How can I even do that when she is so stubborn? Hopefully, Her Highness will forgive her since she is the prince’s teacher.”
Helix patted the youngster’s shoulder. “Which is why I’m saying, our situation might not be any better than House Cecil’s. We can only blame our misfortune. Ever since Veronica brought back the Prime Minister’s daughter, she had already angered many people. Couple that with her actions at the Loop of Trade Winds, many families who had lost their children will definitely be unhappy with us.”
“It’s that serious? What should we do now?” Rodney shivered, suddenly feeling the graveness of the issue.
“We need to find someone.”
Duke Helix nodded his head. “Right now we should ignore the opinion of other people. We need to change Her Highness’s disposition towards us before she sends us to the chopping block. Furthermore, Her Highness was clear that she was not interested in Aouine, she only desires the Azure Lance.”
“The Azure Lance… Wait, are you talking about Duke Trentheim?”
‘Month of Scrolls, 22nd, Sunny ---
Thanks to the efforts of our guide, our carriage is nearing White Rose Castle. According to our guide, this side of the Arreck Mountain Ranges is facing the Sea of Dying Moon, so we should be able to see some ships that are traveling in the same direction as us. Unfortunately, we had just entered the summer season. Because of the change in wind and ocean currents, there are only a few ships on the ocean. Today, we will finally bid farewell to the hardships of mountain trekking, we will soon arrive in the territories of Lantonilan ---
--- Luther, in Odape’
Brendel did not know that he was a topic of discussion of people leagues away. All that he could do now, was answer Veronica’s question.
“The Awakening God?”
The Awakening God Surash, it was one of the legends in ‘The Amber Sword’.
In the game, there were a total of eight bosses in the Deadly Tundra: Daughter of Hati, Dim Korfa; Disaster Twins of the Dusk Wolves, Mayne and Mel; Ice Eater who occupies Luohua Hall; Achmage of the Black Fire Cult, ‘Dreamcaster’ Eric; Automated Defender of Milos’s Heart, Frost Core; Leader of the Black Fire Cult, ‘First Dark Flame’ Roderick; and the one with Brendel right now, the Guardian Frost Dragon, Shitah.
There was also a rumor circulating among the players, that the Holy Cathedral actually had another boss hiding within. This boss was the Awakening God, Surash.
Located in White City, at the headquarters of the Knights of the Faraway Eagles, there was a journal that could activate one of the tasks. This diary belonged to one of the former leaders of the order. His identity was trivial, but the contents of the journal were immensely important.
In his past life, Brendel had journeyed to Gretius’s Knight Squad, and he had purposely done this task in the meantime, so his memory of the journal’s contents was still fresh.
The journal told of the story of the leader when he was still young. At the time, he was merely a foot soldier, not even one that belonged to the Knights of the Faraway Eagles. He had recorded his expeditions along with a group of scholars. One could tell that he was very proud of his experience as it was not a common occurrence to witness archaeological expeditions. However, he was also perplexed by some of the things he had seen.
The most famous mystery was Odape’s Mystery.
The journal entry was written in Summer 312, the Year of Thunder, about half a century ago. Anson the Eleventh, who had just ascended the throne to Aouine, had given out the order to conscript citizens into the army, marking the beginning of the Era of Expansion. The owner of the journal had just arrived in a tiny country at the edges of Aouine with his band of scholars.
They crossed the highlands between Aouine and Kirrlutz. After investigating the fossils left by the Miirnans they headed south, past Ampere Seale, eventually arriving at a fishing village in Odape. The owner of the diary had written down every little detail that they had come across.
They found out that the locals worshipped a deity that was unknown to the scholars.
‘This was an extremely fascinating situation. The locals said that the god had a thunderous expression, his eyes were two orbs of glowing fire, and his skin lustrous like silver. Every night he would come from the south in a chariot of flames, returning whence he came from after circling around the sky one time. But from what I know, ever since the Azure Knights broke the Sky Dome and caused the stars to fall to the ground, the struggle among the gods had already ceased. After that all the gods left Wardnt. The laws that they left behind still protect our world, but the deity depicted by the locals should not exist on this land anymore.’
This was what the soldier wrote. But the most astonishing thing was that soldier wrote down that he had witnessed this deity appear before his very eyes.
‘A red pillar of flame rose from the south. The horizon seemed as if it had been torched ablaze, painting the entire night sky a brilliant red. I witnessed a miracle happen. Suddenly in the sky, a road that did not exist had materialized. The deity walked this path that encircled the sky above. After completing a round, he returned to the pillar of fire. To prove that I am not making things up, I am writing down a description of this god. His skin was shining, as if it were made of metal, his body was surrounded by arcs of blinding lightning, and his eyes were spitting out flames.’
The scholarly group immediately set off to the south, intending on investigating this matter. Unfortunately, en route from Bida Vernon to Dual Forest Town in the Golden Forests, they were attacked by a dragon. While there were no casualties, all of their supplies had been destroyed, forcing them to cancel their journey.
After returning to White City, the owner of the journal had many questions about what had happened. However, that expedition turned out to be his last, as he was made to join the Knights of Faraway Eagles. With his impressive skill and talent, he rose through the ranks quickly. Even so, the mysterious happening at Odape’s fishing village never left his mind.
This mystery was never solved even after his death. It was later forgotten until the players chanced upon this journal.
In the Year of the Ocean Harp, the fishing village was constructed into Violet Castle by Count Odape, turning it into the commercial center of Odape. And today, to the south of Violet Castle, was the Deadly Tundra.
According to historical records, since the Year of Forest Shadows, the locals had stopped seeing any visions in the night sky. Even though this occurrence had reached the ears of Lantonilan’s Havlan Church (one of the autonomous sects of the Holy Cathedral of Fire), the organization’s attempts to investigate this matter never came to fruition. Slowly, the occurrence of the deity became rarer and rarer, until it stopped happening altogether.
Because of this, any records of the feisty were extremely rare, which made it very difficult for the players who were looking into the god. After that, the players had grown strong enough to enter the Deadly Tundra by themselves, but the mystery was still unsolved.
The questions of the Knights of the Faraway Eagle’s leader became the most mysterious legend among the players.
“If Arreck was actually trying to find that thing, that would make things easier for us,” Brendel said after explaining the story about Surash to Veronica and the others, barring the part about the players. “If Seibers was actually hinting us about this, then we can save a lot of time.”
“What do you mean by that, my lord?” Shido could not control her curiosity. “Is there any important information recorded in the journal?”
Of course there wasn’t. If there were, this mystery wouldn’t cause such an uproar among the players. Brendel thought to himself.
However, they had an unexpected surprise that could benefit them.
Brendel and Veronica looked at Shitah.
Before they could speak up, Aloz had beaten them to the punch.
“So, care to explain?” Aloz turned her golden orbs to stare at her fellow dragon, baring her fangs menacingly to show that she was serious. “If you tell me that you did not hear anything he said, I’m going to twist your ears off.”
“No!” The fat dragon cried out pitifully. “I don;t know anything! I may have been here for a long time, but I was sleeping for most of it, I’m sure you know that too sister Aloz!”
“Oh, is that so? Does that mean you have been terrorizing carriages in your sleep?” Aloz lunged forward and pulled on Shitah’s ear, prompting a painful squeal from the latter. Viciously, she snarled, “Stop lying and tell the truth!”
“Ow-ow-ow! Please ease up, sister! I’ll talk, I’ll talk!” Shitah yelled out.