There was only a ray of light shining down amidst the pitch dark hall that illuminated the metal cold marble floor. Scattered upon the chilly stone floor were numerous corpses in dark robes. Red blood was flowing out of their necks through a stab wound in a mesmerizing manner. It followed the circular grooves on the floor, forming a peculiar symbol. The scarlet blood followed the pattern sluggishly, making it look like demon summoning rituals often depicted in legends.
Just as the trickle of blood converged completely, it seemed to come alive. It began flowing against gravity towards the centre of the magic array. The blood entered the elegant being laying atop the array. In the next moment, the White Wolf slowly stirred from its lengthy dormancy. Its body began to move weirdly. Starting from the head, its pale snowy fur began to peel backwards- as if it was stripping off a fur coat- to reveal a beautiful girl’s crown. The sight of long lustrous ebony hair was presented. Next, a pair of frail shoulders and unblemished milky skin appeared. As the wolf’s fur gradually fell off, the delicate curves of this unrivalled beauty were finally displayed to the world.
The girl’s flawless body was finally in front of everyone. Her eyes were still tightly shut as if her soul was trapped in a never-ending dream. The subtle rise and fall of her chest was the only indication that the eldest daughter of Hati wasn’t dead. A commotion was stirred in the hall, and some of their breathings had turned heavy.
Korfa’s eyelashes fluttered slightly, just like the first blooming flower of spring. Her lids made way to reveal a pair of silver misty eyes. She clambered up from the ground languidly, allowing the once scattered long locks to gather into themselves like a black reverse waterfall. The girl lifted her head and stared at the few people who stood before her, bewilderedly.
“Who are you?” Her voice was clear and magnetic. Yet, it had a hint of piercing coldness.
Dim Korfa, the legendary eldest daughter of Warg Hati and the holder of the Arrogant Moon. Korfa was also one of the twelve Running Wolves under the Twilight- a ferocious beast before the era of chaos. In the legends, she had perished in a battle at Ebabel Fort… until this moment. This notorious name in all of history was no longer just a legend to halt children’s tears but now had returned to the land of Vaunte after a long slumber.
Arreck inhaled sharply in an attempt to calm his palpitating heart. He stepped forward and greeted, “Oh, mighty Korfa. Me and the others before you are true followers of Truth.”
“Oh,” realized Korfa. “I get it now. You’ve summoned my return to reactivate the Twilight, right?”
“But I’m still weak. There is nothing much I can help you with.”
“It is alright, mighty Korfa. There is a lot of time. Once you are released from the seal, your strength will return to its peak under the influence of the Great Demonic Wave.”
Korfa seemed a little troubled. “But I don’t wish for that.”
Arreck and the higher members were stunned by her answer. Immediately, Korfa was showered with confused gazes.
The girl lowered her eyes, looking as if she was a little intimidated. She elaborated, “I don’t wish to join the war anymore. My mother has promised me before that it would be my last run in the Twilight. I have offered my life for my mother and I’m a free being now.” She lifted her head, staring back with misty silver eyes. “Can I leave now?”
The hall was dead silent.
‘The Fourth Mark- “Ferdioso’s judgement may not necessarily be accurate. But since the date of signing, it had been our only choice all along.” The Fourth Mark enhances its bearer’s bloodline properties. It is equivalent to 5% of a certain attribute.’
Once the stone door sealed by ice was pushed apart, a bone-chilling wind swooped right in. It was so harsh that everyone couldn’t help but bury their heads into their necks. It was at that sudden spark of discomfort that brought Brendel out of his thoughts. The Fourth Mark was a skill he had obtained from the Second Seal of the Fool’s Talent. It had originated from the Wisdom Dragon’s Crystal but the skill was useless to him. Bloodline was the main feature of Spellcasters but he was a Warrior. Even Ascended Holy Knights and future Guardians of the Lost Earth had nothing to do with magic.
He looked up, a line of snowy mountains and equally snowy grounds entered his vision. The chilly wind raged in the valley and the flying snow had reduced their visibility range to less than five metres. This was the lowest area of the White Valley, where a glacier formed by the fallen body of Milos from the Twilight War era lay. It was where the Frost Worms lived. Immediately, Brendel felt odd. Theoretically, with the Twilight Twins dead, the king of the Frost Worms should appear around this area. This was the game’s setting but things felt different here.
There was only harsh wind roaring outside the valley without a single hint of life.
“Be careful,” warned Brendel as he pulled his cloak tighter around his body.
The exit of the Frozen corridor was halfway up the mountain. The team slid down the steep ice wall and eventually reached the bottom of the valley. Yet, the anticipated monster hadn’t appeared. There seemed to be nothing in the valley, other than the visible pile of snow and ice. And, of course, the merciless whistling wind. Veronica and the others who had received Brendel’s heads-up turned their eyes to Brendel as if questioning him. He felt a little embarrassed but this couldn’t be explained easily. So Brendel chose to say nothing.
“The information noted in the documents are often outdated.” Surprisingly, Veronica had quickly stepped in to explain on his behalf, “The location of the demon nest could change. A few thousands of years are more than enough for it to migrate elsewhere.”
“That’s true. This phenomenon is pretty common.” Shido nodded. She was the expert after all.
Brendel nodded along, despite the full knowledge that he wasn’t relaying facts from books. However, Veronica’s statement had allowed him to ponder another possibility that was contrary to their hypotheses. Perhaps the Frost Worms hadn’t left but they had yet to build their nest here. After all, the current game time was before the start of this copy- The Black Fire cultists hadn’t invaded this holy cathedral; not many had known of this site in Aouine during this time.
If that was the case, this route was indeed much safer. Though so, Brendel still couldn’t help but feel slightly restless.
The lower portion of the White Valley wasn’t supposed to be the first found area in the game. The player would first defeat Shitah and enter the Holy Cathedral of the Sleep from its main entrance. Then, things would progress along the standard plotline until the Leader of the Black Fire Cult was defeated. It was only then that players could explore the side route in the cathedral. After that, the spiral hall would be discovered and then the player would be led to the current glacier. The Frozen Corridor and the underground entrance of the cathedral would be their final findings. Some things in the copy could be changed permanently. Based on the sequence of events, the challenges met could possibly be different.
As Brendel continued to think about it, there was a commotion at the end of the group. He turned around, finding that the hunter girl Peja and her brother had awakened.
“Brendel.” A voice rang from his heart. It was the voice of the elf, Sanorso. Brendel raised his brows, slightly sensing that Sanorso wasn’t the only presence in his mind.
“Eh?” Sanorso sounded surprised. “You noticed it? Looks like you’re way sharper than before. Your mental strength and bloodline potential are slowly showing through. You’re no longer the confused young boy from the start, you’ve changed greatly.”
Brendel understood that she was referring to those days after he had departed Bucce. From that moment onwards until the incident beneath Schafflund's silver mine, Brendel had not once noticed that there was another soul residing in his mind. Speaking of which, he was indeed a little slow.
“Who are the other two?” There seemed to be two other entities beside Sanorso. Even without asking, he could somewhat guess their identities.
“This is Anguili and Ivan. I’m sure you don’t need me to introduce them, right?”
Anguilla and Ivan were Sanorso’s closest knights. The former was once known as the Queen of the Dragons and was perhaps the most famous female Dragon Cavalry in the history of the Mist Elves. The latter was the commander of the soldiers of Whispering Woods. He was vastly different from the imposter, Orthylss; Ivan was a real expert in archery.
“Greetings, my name is Brendel. Currently, I guess I can be considered as Empress Sanorso’s heir.”
“Greetings, Mister Brendel.”
“Greetings.” Two replied were heard in tandem. The first was a sophisticated male voice while the second voice was feminine but chilly. Her answer was curt too. Their voices were filled with their distinct differences, one could almost get a general understanding of their personalities through it.
Suddenly, Brendel was reminded that Sanorso had mentioned that the hunter sibling pair each had a token of hers. In that case, things were getting interesting. Just how many Wing Rings had made it into Aouine? Logically, the Wing Rings were Sanorso’s treasures. If any was lost, it would naturally end up in stronger countries like Kirrlutz and Farnezain. It was only nobles of these countries that possess sufficient wealth and foundation to collect artefacts of this level.
“This is odd.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just how many Wing Rings had made it into Aouine? With the one on me, there’s already three.”
“You’re forgetting the one on Williams, it’s the one that’s currently with Maynild,” teased Sanorso.
“That doesn’t count.” Brendel shook his head.
It was then that the elf explained, “I asked Ivan earlier. The ancestors of the siblings should probably be descendants of the Miirnans and Highlanders that were expelled by Sanorso.”
Brendel gasped, things were making more sense now. There were many conflicts between the Miirnans and the Mist Elves. Perhaps the former had stolen their rings and escaped but this could be a far reach. After all, everything had taken place more than thousands of years ago.
“So does that consider the siblings as your successors?” asked Brendel.
“Mister Brendel, they have potential but based on current events, their capabilities are weak. If it wasn’t for her Majesty’s presence, we wouldn’t have awakened today.” It was Ivan’s turn to answer. However, Brendel could feel Anguili nodding beside him.
“Unless they’re met with danger?”
This time, Ivan offered no answer. Anguili was the only one nodding. Brendel’s heart came to a conclusion. The Dragon Queen was the one behind Peja’s lucky survival from the icy river. But what about her brother, Yaruta? After a thorough inspection by Medissa and the others, Yaruta was found to have suffered relatively severe injuries. Even with timely medical attention, his survival rates were not more than 70%. Mysteriously, his wounds had healed naturally without any intervention. The wounds were nasty and were left at least one to two weeks ago. Was this also courtesy of the elf hero spirits?
But of course, this was not totally impossible. After all, he had a similar experience in Bucce when his Unyielding Talent was awakened and he promptly fell unconscious. Brendel was supposed to die regardless but the Wind Empress Sanorso had rescued him.
Despite everything, Brendel still had to ask.
“Why was Peja’s brother under the glacier and not with Arreck and the others?”
“That is what I’m about to tell you, Brendel.” The elf woman continued, “I’m afraid that no one could truly comprehend his experience.”
“Ivan’s senses had been cut off for a while, until just earlier.”
“How powerful must one be to cut off Master Ivan’s senses?” asked Brendel sharply.
“It isn’t that difficult. That teacher of yours could achieve it.”
“So you’re saying that one must at least be of Ultimate Realm?” There was a small thump in Brendel’s heart. None of the entities in the whole Holy Cathedral of the Sleep was supposed to be that strong. “Does he know anything?” This time he was referring to Yaruta.
“I’ve asked but the child himself doesn’t know much. He felt as if he was dreaming, and that he faintly recalls a voice guiding him forward in a lucid state.” Sanorso paused briefly. “But he did mention something about a blue shadow.”
“A blue shadow?” Brendel narrowed his eyes slightly. “Medissa had said something similar in the past.”
“The Kirrlutzians were the ones who told her about it. I think she mentioned this to Freya before,” mumbled Brendel. He lifted his head, the glacier ahead was filled with a tight weave of wind and snow. Yet, the vague feeling hiding beyond the mist and fog felt clearer than before. He could almost confirm that something was guiding them to this place.
But it certainly wasn’t the king of the Frost Knights.
The dark hall was in pin-drop silence.
Until Arreck disrupted the deafening quietness. He answered,
“I’m afraid not.”
“Why?” Korfa stared at everyone else, confused. “My mother had promised me freedom. Who are you to stop me?”
Arreck’s brows were scrunched into a bunch. He certainly didn’t expect things to play out this way. The eldest daughter of Warg Hati, the holder of the Arrogant Moon, the first wolf that brought disaster and war, was haggling with him like an innocent young girl. She even questioned the reason behind his desire to trigger war. But wasn’t that supposed to be her role? If it wasn’t for the sincerity in her silver eyes, Arreck would’ve thought that this mighty being was joking around.
But at this point of the plan, things must go on. Backing off or giving up was not a choice.
Arreck exchanged looks with the other All For One members. Then, they turned around and answered, “Because you’re the eldest daughter of Warg Hati. This is your duty. Judgement Day is about to arrive and you are the first wolf to awaken to the Twilight.”
“But I’m not willing,” retorted Korfa meekly.
“I’m afraid that this isn’t about willingness, mighty Korfa.” Arreck sighed heavily. His answer rolled out deep and dark.
Scared, the girl took a step back. But a layer of red light web had manifested behind her almost immediately, causing her back to come in contact with it. This was a kind of magic restraint. She struggled rather frantically, only to find that her effort was futile. The long dormancy had caused her rank to drop significantly. In the past, she could’ve broken past this restraint with a breath but it was almost impossible now.
She turned around, eyes wide with fear. “What are you trying to do?”
At this moment, Arreck produced a black crystal ball from his robes. “I wasn’t expecting to use this today. Frankly, I simply do not wish to owe those bastards a favour.” The Duke shook his head and raised the crystal ball. Korfa noticed the colour of the ball had changed abruptly. Her eyes went wide to stare at the despicable human standing before her. She screamed panicked, “That’s a shard of my soul! Why do you have it?!” Korfa’s face turned ghastly, looking almost about to start shivering.
Yet, Arreck was unfazed. What came next was his respectful request, “Please forgive my intrusion, mighty Korfa.”
Brendel was still in the middle of a conversation with Sanorso but suddenly remembered something. He stopped the exchange, quickly plunging himself into deep thoughts. The female elf in his mind was quick to notice the silence. She asked, “What’s the matter, Brendel?”
“Nothing. I just remembered something,” replied Brendel with a low groan.
“What is it?”
“One of Warg Hati’s daughters is in eternal slumber within the holy cathedral.”
“The Dim Korfa, Warg Hati’s eldest daughter. Didn’t you mention this before?”
“Did I?” Brendel cluelessly shook his head but his heart was fixated on something else. In the game, Korfa was titled ‘Double-Faced Goddess’ as players would fight her through two stages repeatedly. In those two stages, Korfa’s temperament would switch between a pure innocent girl and the evil eldest daughter of Warg Hati. To be honest, the kind Korfa had a very significant fanbase among the players but this itself wasn’t all that special. The boss battles in the Amber Sword were unique and out of this world, she was not the only bipolar boss in the game. But the reason why he was suddenly reminded of this fact was that some people think that the evil Korfa was not her true character.
There was a saying among players who had experienced Korfa’s battle- Korfa was manipulated by someone to be in her evil mode.
But there was no base to the claim. Brendel had once thought that this was merely an opinion from her fanatic fans. Yet, when he thought about the voice that led everyone into the holy cathedral and the blue shadow, a chill was sent down his spine. That thing had once signed some kind of contract with Shitah long ago and even Shitah himself couldn’t describe what kind of entity the other party was. Who exactly was it and what motive did it bore?
All Brendel could think of was to relate it to the Awakening God.
But what even was the Awakening God? And why was it trying to bring them to his place?
The more he thought about it, the more he felt like this was a trap.
Unfortunately, there was no way to turn around now. Once Arreck activated the star-shaped diamond in his possession, everyone and the whole woods would turn into ashes.
“What kind of crap luck is this?” Brendel felt a little helpless.