When the Black Knights galloped through the forest they seemed like a black whirlwind, just strangely silent. The Skeletal War Horses’ hooves fell against the grass as lightly as if they were floating in mid-air. All that was visible was the green Soul Fire that floated up and down along with their bodies.
Brendel stared intently at the blades in their hands.
“You cannot escape,” Brendel heard Viscount Cauldell quack out hysterically. “You should know what choice to make. You’re a smart one. Are you going to abandon everyone you love and everyone who loves in reality, just so you can remain in this illusion of a dream?”
“I know you understand what is real. You’re a strong one and definitely not weak. You need to learn how to let go.
“You’re not a selfish boy anymore. You understand your duties.”
“You shut up. Someone who’s lost has no right to lecture me about responsibilities.” Brendel’s figure flashed and the activating Dash allowed him to smash into one of the Black Knights like a rhinoceros. The Black Knight didn’t realize at all that this weak human would attack first. The Soul Fire in its eyes immediately lit up, but it was too late. Brendel already pressed a hand against its iron helmet and dragged it off the war horse.
With a loud bang, the Black Knight was yanked off the horse and fell onto the ground.
Brendel used Flash to appear right behind them. The Black Knights were startled and once again turned their ride around to surround Brendel. Brendel raised his head to examine the situation around him. He looked regretful when the Black Knight he had yanked off the horse fixed his helmet and then climbed up again. Peak Silver Ranker was too weak; he could only catch them off guard. If he had the elemental powers, that strike should have turned the Black Knight into a flattened metal pancake.
Brendel immediately raised Halran Gaia and shouted to Haruz standing nearby. “Haruz, take your sister and go. You should know where to go.”
Haruz froze in shock for a moment and then looked astounded at Brendel. He shook his head vigorously, “Teacher, what about you?”
“I’ll be right there,” Brendel answered confidently.
“No talking back. This is an order. Now scram!” Brendel shouted angrily.
The little prince jumped in fear. Before he could say anything, the princess grabbed his hand. Princess Gryphine looked in Brendel’s direction and ordered the knights around her, “Go help him. Whatever you do, he has to live.”
The two knights immediately nodded and rushed in with their swords drawn.
But Brendel looked at the two knights and shook his head. They wouldn’t make a difference. He raised his head and gestured at the Black Knights, shouting, “Fools, let me see if that Mercury Staff of your Emperor is really that powerful.”
High level Undead had intelligence, so they naturally couldn’t accept this insult to their Emperor. Some of the Black Knights’ eyes lit up and immediately fought their way over to Brendel. Brendel saw that he successfully managed to draw their attention and immediately turned around and ran. Who was he kidding, though he acted confident, to challenge seven or eight Black Knights as a Silver Rank was crazy and he wasn’t that crazy.
He rushed into the forest in the courtyard because he remembered there was a path there that led to the main palace. Maybe he could outrun these terrible creatures there.
Provided he could get into the forest.
Princess Gryphine pulled her “sister” along as they ran. Haruz gripped his skirt with one hand and occasionally turned around to look worriedly in the direction Brendel left in. He still remembered that he was in a dream maze. Since Teacher was the one who brought him in, they should leave together. How could he leave him behind?
He thought in a panic.
Just then, Princess Gryphine suddenly stopped up ahead. The Crown Princess frowned and looked at the kitchen that led to the castle side door in the nearby distance. But it was different from what he remembered. The kitchen door was slammed shut. That made her pause and then drew a dagger from under her dress. She slammed it against the lock a couple of times, but the magical lock from inside the palace was not something brute force could defeat. Except for leaving behind two light scratches, it did absolutely nothing.
“Sister, let me try.” Only then did Haruz notice what his sister was doing. He glanced at the door and then hiked up his skirt with both hands. Then he slammed against the wooden door.
But what he had never expected was for the door to creak open by itself moments before he slammed into it. He slammed into empty air and almost flew into the room. Luckily, a pair of hands reached out from behind the door and caught him. He looked up to see a familiar face.
“May-, no, no Bai, Miss Bai Jia.” Haruz paused slightly and thought for moments before he remembered the name of the female mage he met outside the Kinten Palace doors.
But Bai Jia raised a finger to her lips and made a shushing gesture. She suggested, her face intense, “You and Her Highness hide out here. Just wait for me here.”
Haruz was surprised and then stared at her in disbelief, “No, you-you’re Maynild!”
Maynild gave him a look, shook her head at him, and then drew her sword and rushed out of the door. That left Haruz standing by the door in a daze, watching the female knight’s figure disappear into the night.
Brendel just played out a scene of victorious fleeing.
Unfortunately, his luck didn’t last long. He had barely managed to throw off the Black Knights, but the scene didn’t play out the way he wanted it to. He had just stepped onto the path that led to the side palace when he ran into a clanging suit of armor walking toward him.
That’s correct. It was a suit of armor, black from head to toe, simple and undecorated just like the style during the War of the Holy Saints. But there was nobody wearing the armor, just a burning ball of blue flame.
Cursed Amor was actually also a spirit and one kind of the Undead. This kind of terrible Undead appeared for the first time on the battlefields during the Second War of the Black Roses. Of course, it appeared in this dream. It was more powerful than Black Knights and not limited at all by the narrow space.
The truth was that it was more agile than Brendel imagined. He didn’t know whether it was because Viscount Cauldell was the cause, but Brendel could see it dashing back and forth on the ceiling, chasing him as quickly, or maybe even faster, as he could run.
When he looked up again, he discovered in despair that up ahead of him was a dead end with a tightly shut door.
“Do you know?” As if sensing Brendel’s predicament, Cauldell’s voice held a trace of ridicule. Cauldell nattered on in Brendel’s heart, “Sometimes you won’t be successful despite all your efforts. What you’ll get is nothing but endless despair.
“Someone like you will single-mindedly believe that solving a problem is simple. How can you deny someone’s effort with a simple choice?
“I once tried too, but I got nothing but defeat.
“And you will be the same.”
“Cauldell,” Brendel answered. The sound of the Cursed Armor clanging as it ran became closer and closer. He could almost smell the unique scent of rot from Soul Elemental. “This has nothing to do with success or failure.”
“Then what is related to? Your powers cannot change anything.”
“No, there’s something I have that you don’t.”
“What is it?” Viscount Cauldell paused slightly.
As if the entire world paused with his thoughts.
Brendel raised his head. He was no more than ten meters away from the door.
Brendel raised the Staff of Earth and slammed against the door. With a clang, the wooden door immediately splintered into pieces. Brendel rolled into the room behind it headfirst. Countless splinters pierced into his arms and he gritted his teeth in pain.
Brendel saw a hand appear in front of him. He paused slightly; there was surprise but also wasn’t that surprised. He reached out and grabbed it. The hand responded with such a familiar strength. Thousand times of battling together turned into one word:
Brendel looked up and saw the face, gradually coming into focus. The young girl smiled beautifully, revealing pearl-white teeth. She carried a huge sword on her shoulders and looked at him teasingly, “You’re quite late, Sophie.”
“You came from the Kinten Palace, right? How come you’re so late?”
“Too many Undead.”
Brendel practically blurted it out. This dialogue was too familiar, almost identical to what he remembered. He closed his eyes and felt like crying. When he opened his eyes again, he saw that figure after figure appeared behind Black Tea. Mage, Warrior, Night Swallow, those players’ faces were so familiar, each and every one of them. They smiled at him with the comfort of comrades.
“I thought so. Everyone is heading towards the side palace to defend against the last wave of the Undead. Every one from the Scarlet Travelers and Leidos’ guild is here too.”
“We’ll take care of the rear guard here. Sophie, Bai Jai is waiting for you in the palace.”
Brendel listened to these familiar words and felt like he was back at that battle. He saw that figure after figure appeared behind Black Tea. Mage, Warrior, Night Swallow, those players’ faces were so familiar, each and every one of them. They smiled at him with the comfort of comrades.
“Leave this to us.”
“Keep moving forward, Sophie.”
Brendel stopped. He could feel the emotions in his heart that belonged to Viscount Cauldell shivering. He knew what the guy was afraid of. He passed through Black Tea, passed through everyone and walked forward. In unison, everyone stepped sideways to open a path for him.
“There will be no Aouine after this battle, but at least we’ll let its sword shine brightly for the last time!” Someone shouted.
“For Aouine!” The players lifted their sword and responded in unison.
Brendel passed by everyone until a voice said:
Brendel paused. He turned around and everything behind him seemed to have disappeared, leaving behind just the scene of players battling. Black Tea looked at him and lifted her sword to gesture at him, “Forget about us, Sophie.”
“No,” she suddenly stopped and corrected herself, “Brendel.”
Brendel stayed silent. He knew that this was his own emotions. “Why?”
“Because you need to go so much further. If you keep looking back, you’ll slow down.”
This time Brendel didn’t answer. He turned back around and the hallway in front of him seemed to stretch out to infinity. He didn’t answer Black Tea’s question because it was like asking a question. He already had his answer.
“This is your answer!” Viscount Cauldell’s voice shouted exasperatedly at him, “You’re so stubborn. You know very well that you’ve chosen the wrong path. You think you’re fighting against fate, but you’re just running away from reality.”
Brendel walked forward and, at the same time, answered in his heart, “Viscount Cauldell, anyone will experience defeat. But you’ll never understand courage and trust because you abandoned them from the very start.”
Viscount Cauldell shrieked ear-piercingly.
Its figure turned solid in front of Brendel. The white phantom turned humongous in an instant. Its lower half was falling apart and its upper half covered with chains and locks. He had neither mouth nor ear and all that was left was a pair of coldly glinting eyes.
“You can’t save him, you can’t save yourself, you can’t save anyone!” The monster that was Viscount Cauldell’s phantom howled and slapped at Brendel with his claw.
But Brendel took a step back as if he expected that and the long and sharp claw passed by his chest.
He immediately felt power returning to his body so that he once again possessed an Elemental Rank’s skills. He looked up and saw the gigantic version of Viscount Cauldell’s phantom. He knew in his heart that he had found the key to this entire mission.
This terrifying monster in front of him was the representation of all of Viscount Cauldell’s negative emotions. According to the walkthrough, it was also the final boss in this dream.
In comparison to this entire dream, this so-called monster was actually the easiest part to deal with.
Merely an elite creature at the level of a Peak Golden rank.
Brendel could even look up nonchalantly and look at the deformed monster as he let out a cold chuckle, “Is this the jealousy and regret you’ve kept locked up in your heart? You’ve been running away from yourself for so long that it’s turned into nothing but a weak monster.
“You cannot stop me because nobody can stop determination.”
As his words finished, he already disappeared. All that was left in Cauldell’s twisted field of vision was an icy-cold blade. That blade was so fast that it moved faster than the lightning speed of thought.
The monster only had time to raise his head before his movement froze and turned into a long anguished howl.
Then a loud clang and the twisted soul of Viscount Cauldell seemed to vanish into the wind. All of the chains around him fell to the ground.
Brendel put away his sword. He turned around to look and saw a silver item glinting amongst the chains. That should be the dropped item from this mission. Brendel reached a hand in that direction and the item immediately went into his Dimension Space.
He didn’t have time to examine it closely because the entire dream was shaking violently due to Viscount Cauldell’s death. The dream world was about to collapse.