The Black Knights strode on the ice surface towards the core of the cave where the platform laid. Laurenna, Filas and Lenarette along with Shido surrendered, their arms held high, with weapons that appeared to have been made of black crystals held to their necks. The Black Knights wore a long, pitch black, hooded cape made of velvet. Devoid of any expression, they resembled holograms made from the dark spells.
The ice caves were ransacked, and the chipped ice and crumbled walls all around the cave provided clear evidence of the intense battle taken here not too long ago. The Black knights dragged two of their dead out of the caves, leaving a trail of blood by their feet.
A larger than usual Black Knight came before Dim Korfa, prompting the young woman to turn towards him.
Her metallic pupils gazed fearlessly upon him, but all she saw were the shrouded pupils glowing from within the darkness of the hood, and a long, deprived chin.
The Black knight gazed at Korfa’s porcelain neck for a while, contemplating if he should drive his blade to it, “Please move aside,” Korfa grunted.
“Ms Korfa,“ That knight placed his hand over his chest, ever so slightly kneeling to her, the clanking between the bulky armor and the chainmail underneath was clearly heard with every move.
Korfa then took to ask, ever so frankly as she glanced over to the trembling Shido, “Are you here to do to me what they have done?”
“I wouldn’t dare, milady,” The knight replied with his head hung low.
Korfa cracked a half-smile, barely visible to sight as she thought. These soldiers are devout worshippers of the Twilight, so their respect for me must surely because of my ‘sister’!
Korfa was convinced that they see her ‘sister’, being the oldest daughter of Hati, to be the rightful leader of the demons of the Twilight Legion. The way mortals worship the gods and Marsha, these fanatics would worship her as one of their divine beings too!
She might be simple-minded, but she couldn’t help but sigh at the thought that these people were only keen to believe what they perceived as true.
“Then can I ask for you to release them in my stead, would you do it?” She calmly requested.
“I’m afraid I cannot.”
“Are you not worried that I might be furious, that I might tell my sister on you,” Korfa was stone cold.
“I’m certain Lady Korfa will not put the blame on us over something so menial, these people,” he turned back for a glance, “are your enemies, are they not?”
“I am not in a battle with anyone. These are not my enemies.”
“Then they surely are your sister’s, aren’t they, little princess?” The knight’s lips tweaked ever so slightly.
Korfa kept her silence for a bit, turning towards the shrivelling Shido, “Then at least let that one go, she’s but a child, there is no threat she could pose to us.”
The knight once again turned behind for a look and nodded. The Black Knight by Shido’s side withdrew his sword, and the scholar feebly slid to the ground. She promptly began wailing.
The knight frowned from dismay as he stared to the exit, where an intense battle was taking place, hardly anyone over on the other side of the entrance was paying any attention to the events unfolding within. He then let out a sigh, turned towards Korfa and said, “Please remain in here, milady.”
Korfa then faced the knight, with neither agreement nor disagreement, ordered him to stand down. Once again focusing her gaze towards Shido, who was by that point drenched in a pool of tears. She gave her nod of sympathy, which was acknowledged as the sound of crying slowly stiffened.
The knight agreeably noted, raised his right hand and gave his comrade a signal. Soon after, a small unit of Black knights, armed with longbows, walked past their leader and cautiously headed towards the exit of the cave.
Haruz bafflingly watched as the scene played out, yet quickly realised their intentions as they approached the cave entrance.
Panicking, his jaw was hung wide, ready to yell for caution.
Right then, two feet stood right before him. Lifting his head to take a glimpse of the towering presence before him, he saw a pair of eyes prying down on himself.
“If I were you, your Highness, I would shut the hell up.”
“What the hell is he doing?”
There Aloz and Medissa stood, side by side beneath the glacier. Not too far from them, Arreck was limping as he made his way towards the exit, seemingly in severe injury as he huffed and puffed, taking interval breaks despite hardly covering any ground.
The man was bruised and tattered, far from his usual posh demeanour as Count.
His grey hair hung unkempt, Count Arreck was drenched in dirt and sweat, wrinkled and fatigued, akin to that of a beggar as he struggled to catch his breath, leaning on the walls for support as he painfully navigated himself towards his destination.
Nevertheless, it did not take long before he tripped and collapsed on the frozen ground. Crawling and dragging himself forward until his body could provide no more. He then rolled over, laid disheartened for a full 15 minutes as Aloz and Medissa watched, before defeatedly pushing himself into a sitting position, and staggered as he stood, looking at the exit that was so close yet so far.
“He seems like he really wanted to go somewhere.”
“Where do you think that is?”
“But he does seem like he knows the way around.”
Aloz and Medissa shared a gaze, nodded and both crawled out of the glacier, stealthily trailing behind.
Arreck was completely oblivious of his surroundings and that he was being followed. Stumbling his way through the exit, he then took a twisted little path through the back alleys, a place he seemed well accustomed to. At each crossroad, he hesitated just a short moment before picking the right direction.
Medissa, as the commander of the Silver elves, was naturally immensely adept with directions, and after a few turns, she could deduce that they were indeed heading north.
It did not take long before civilisation and man-made creations ended, and what appeared before Arreck was a naturally created pit within a towering wall of ice.
Aloz and Medissa watched as he rested by the entrance, removed a certain object from his clothes, and started munching on it. From the difficulty it took for Arreck to bite it off, it was clearly identified by the women to be a piece of stale jerky.
“He’s recuperating,” She excitedly mentioned, “Which means we are almost there, he didn’t seem to be doing anything like this earlier.”
“What is he recharging for?” Medissa was rather baffled.
“Who knows,” Aloz was equally unbothered as she replied, “We’ll know soon enough.”
“Should we go ahead and stop him?” Medissa was going through her options, visibly restless about the situation they were in.
“There’s no need,” Aloz shook her head, “What if we are not actually there yet, seeing how frustratingly stubborn this crusty fool is, he’s not going to tell us.”
The Silver elf princess nodded in agreement.
Just as the two were whispering with each other, the Count had gobbled down on the piece of food in his hand.
Retrieving a bottle of powder, white as snow, he sprinkled a fair amount in his palm, twirled it ever so slightly before hurling down his throat with an irk on his face.
Aloz and Medissa finally got the full picture. The bottle was snow, and it was stored up by Arreck from the glaciers before. Due to the sub-zero climate they were in now, it had not melted, but that surely confirmed their deductions from before.
Gulping down the snow, Arreck coughed in disgust, clearly unaccustomed to it. Nevertheless, he unhurriedly stood back on his feet, with hardly any hesitation, limped his way, step by step into the glacier.
Watching this from a stone’s throw away, Aloz was thrilled. She hinted at Medissa as the two women once again resumed their stalking.
The glacier was narrow yet long. Following the ethereal blue glow from within the walls of ice, they continued for an hour and a half, through its twists and turns.
Aloz then abruptly stopped and patted Medissa on the shoulder.
“Medissa, did you hear that?” Under the dim environment, her golden eyes stood out more than ever, as its shimmering glow illuminated within the oversaturation of blue.
Medissa and Aloz shared a glimpse, the elf princess nodded. Owing much to her larger than life pointy ears, the elves had a sense of hearing far better than most other races. She could hear the sounds on the other side of the glacier from a mile away.
“That means we’re in the right place,” Aloz added with an excited grin on her face, “He must have some sinister plan in store. But with the great Marsha on our side, he’s dead meat.”
Medissa however seemed slightly perturbed as she stared at Aloz, “Regardless, let’s make it there quick. Aloz, I’m worried we might have missed the timing.”
“What’s the hurry sister?”
“I...think I hear the voice of the Lord.”
On the other side of the glacier was an exit above the cliff. Ten miles from the exit was a deep gorge. Beyond that was an apocalyptic thunderstorm taking shape from the massive gathering of lightning, laying waste on the entire gorge.
And exactly because of that, from Dim Korfa’s platform it was hard to observe this side of the glacier, but from the exit, Arreck could see all without obstruction.
Clawing onto the edge of the glacier, pale as a skeleton, he silently watched as long drop below, Veronica, Mephisto, Ciel, Brendel and the rest were engaged in a furious battle. An ominous grin appeared on his face, seemingly quickly moving on from the disheartenment from just moments ago.
But it didn’t take long before he could feel his heart beating like a racehorse as he clenched his other hand on it. Cold sweat dripped down his face as he nodded and shook, seemingly in response to a certain someone through telepathy.
“I understand, milady.”
It ended with him monologuing for a short moment. Watching from hiding behind the crevices of the glacier, Aloz and Medissa motionlessly observed as he retrieved a dagger from his boot, and started diligently carving a certain something on the ice floor.
They quickly identified it as a circular array.
“It must be an order from Korfa. That explains how he could navigate through this maze of a route,” Medissa soon came to realize, “Sister, can you identify his array?”
“Seems to be a navigation array.”
“A navigation array?” Medissa began to panic, watching the precarious situation their side was in miles below, she could hardly wait to fly her unicorn down below to fight alongside Brendel. Yet she knew the importance of the secluded position she was in. The commander must not have known of Arreck’s presence hidden from above, but she did, and that was where she could play her part.
“You’ve seen an array of this size don’t you, something akin to that of the Silver elves’ war teleportation array. An array this massive cannot be initiated by the magic of a single person, it is a ritualistic array that requires an automatic accumulation of magic from its surroundings to activate.”
Aloz’s eyes flickered with the bling of golden flames, licking her fearsome canine teeth, “I understand now, the ingredients stolen from the Kirrlutzians for the Door of flames must be here with him now. Korfa is using him to open a transportation array right here, to summon demons to fight in her stead.
“We cannot let that happen,” Medissa blurted.
“That’s for sure.”
The mother dragon sneered as she nodded agreeably. If she had her tail, it would be standing upright.
Arreck huffed and puffed as he completed the first array. Nevertheless, for a teleportation array as grand as the Door of Flame, a single array would hardly be enough. Ruggedly wiping off the sweat on his forehead, he made his way on the other side and began drafting the second array.
Right then, he noticed a pair of shoes, a pair of fawn coloured cow-leather boots to be exact, tipped with metal, laced with silver, he knew exactly who it belonged to. The owner of this pair of boots stole the ‘Heart of the dragon’ from within his grasp, he would die before he forgets.
There he froze.
“Keep going,” Aloz chuckled, “Why did you stop, your array is pretty decent.”
Arreck then started murmuring like he was possessed before he roared and hurled himself at Aloz. She however did not flinch.
He barely even took two steps before he was tripped by a clunk, and down he went, toppling once again on the ice surface. Arreck howled from pain, before subsequently feeling something resting on his shoulder.
Without looking back, he could already identify what it was by side-eyeing the silver metalloid placed by his cheek.
“Human, do you not feel regret?” Aloz teased, before placing the Star-shaped rock on the ground, then sitting on it.
From above, she gazed below onto the battered Arreck with a smile.
“Rest assured however, for your life is not in any critical danger, at least for the moment. Why don’t we make a deal, haha, I’d sure like to see what Brendel would do!”
The mother dragon was thrilled. Medissa on the other hand was less so.
The Silver elf princess warily called out upon her, “Sister,”
“What is it?”
“Aren’t those Black knights…?”
After taking Hipamila to safety, Brendel did not return to the platform, but instead laid low, weaving his way through the cobwebs of the underground tunnels, right to the back of Dim Korfa.
He knew Dim Korfa had at this point willingly removed the Divine shield, and as such raised her attack prowess by multitudes of hundreds, at the expense however of her defense. Regardless, as much as she hoped to be, she was not a real god, and Brendel was well aware of that crucial truth.
It did not take too long before Dim Korfa quickly realised that there was someone missing from the battlefield, and took a quick look at the back, catching a glimpse of none other than Brendel’s silhouette as it vanished into thin air.
It was right then she came into realisation of the lurking danger surrounding her.
Subconsciously lightning seemed to rapidly accumulate around the half of the platform behind her back, one that even Korfa herself couldn’t explain. Given that there was a sword saint right above her within reach of her head, she had instead gathered much of her power against the novice that had only just elementally activated!
Being a demigod herself, and at that moment even assuming the position of Milos’ possession and divinity, her perception was thousand times greater, her awareness a thousand times more precise, what she perceived to resemble the first ages when Marsha created the world and witnessed the gods and the twilight of the world.
The saturation of white light weaved perfectly to form a wall of electricity behind her, the rattling sounds of zapping were heard as the lightning bolts hit the platform, the entire back half of the platform seemed as though it was about to melt.
Amidst the criss-cross of lightning bolts, Brendel came unscathed.
Everyone watched nervously as Brendel maneuvered through space like a phantom in the night, revealing and disappearing as he pleased. Lightning bolts ran through his silhouette like a smoke screen.
In no time, he was now right before the eye of the hurricane. Right before Korfa’s eyes.
Earlier, when Brendel armed himself against Ciel, no one took to notice the slightest details on the battleground.
But this time, it was unmissable.
“Flash strike!” Veronica shouted.
In the ice cave, Lenarette and Shido couldn’t help but watch in bewilderment.
Brendel had then swung his sword down for the critical blow.
Just then, Dim Korfa let out a sigh of relief as she stared stoically at Brendel’s blade closing in upon her, her tone remained cold as ice, “The Dragon tribe’s control on space manipulation too derived from the Descendants of Twilight, you dare display such mediocracy before me?!”
Upon finishing, countless bolts of lightning intertwined before her, and under the rumbling of the space she single-handedly blocked his attack.
What seemed like a fatal blow was so effectively negated to naught, leaving Veronica, Lenarette and Shido mortified.
This was completely incomprehensible to them, for it was the sword art of the Flame King Gretel himself, the one that the Kirrlutzian civilization hailed as divine sword art!
This sword art, passed down by the Dragon tribe through millennia was thought to only have two outcomes for the receiver, one was to take the hit at full force, or to evade the attack from within the split second the attack was to lay waste on its victim. There was no known third outcome.
Not until now.
They witnessed the almost mythical sword art prematurely halted by sheer force.
Amidst the roaring thunder and trembling walls, the turbulence in the hearts of those present was evident.
Yet amongst all of those in attendance, it was Brendel that was least intimidated by Dim Korfa. Ever so slightly surprised he was, but he knew full well that the Flash Strike Sword Art was hardly the only sword art that the Dragon tribe had passed down.
Nevertheless, there was a visible gap between the levels of the Dragon tribe and Hati’s daughter, and it comes to no surprise that she could repel the Flash strike sword art, which was hardly a point of amazement to Brendel.
The Dragon tribe and the descendants of Twilight had always been stark rivals for a significant part of history after all.
Just when everyone was expecting the worst, Brendel abruptly retrieved the Staff of Earth, and promptly slashed right at Dim Korfa.
Dim Korfa scoffed at his brash attempt for a fight in which the outcome she deemed was already written on stone.