The dream world was collapsing, but Brendel knew there was one last stretch to go. He put his things away, turned off the Experience prompt, and looked up to see a long corridor appear ahead.
It was like a deep walkway stretching forward in a circular space, surrounded by flickering fragments of the past in the mist.
He knew that this was no longer the dream of Viscount Cauldell, but truly his own.
Self-salvation was often an opportunity hidden in the deepest parts of the human heart.
Brendel moved forward slowly, through the darkness, and then the light came from all directions and draped over him. Finally, he saw a door, which was immersed in darkness and silence, the pattern on the door was a bronze lock and key, as well as a silver crescent moon, this memory was as new as if it were just from yesterday. Brendel did not stop, but walked forward and pushed the door open.
The heavy wooden door creaked open.
Behind the door was the center of the palace.
The Kinten Palace, the Hall of the Seers.
A dim light hung down from the dome, the hall was silent, with the fetid red throne in the center of the palace, and on it rested a silver crown. The crown had a slender, elfin style, and it was painted with the mountains of the southern realm and the clouds of the north, and many in Brendel's memory had worn it, for it had been the symbol of Aouine.
An unknown craftsman made the crown, and the late King Erik was crowned with it at Grey, and in the long years that followed, dozens of kings bore it, but they had faded into dust.
As history progressed, it had welcomed its last owner, a beautiful half-Elf maiden.
Brendel saw the pale silver light reflected in that crown, almost the same color as Princess Gryphine's silver hair, but the moment seemed so dull after the luster had dissipated.
Does it know where its former owner is now?
Has it ever gaze upon the beautiful Princess who will be resting forever in this palace?
It might not have cared for the blood that stained it, for it was a dead object that was only a deposit of mortal greed.
Brendel walked to the center of the hall, but the palace was empty. He knew that many kings had sat here at one time or another, even the eldest princess, who had walked gracefully down the red carpet to the main hall, where the knights bowed down to her.
In another time period, he stood here with his senior, in the same wretched hall, the dim light, the sound of wind and fire mingling outside, the noises of battling coming closer and closer.
It was the last cry of the dying Aouine, as if it were a symbol of the groaning before the palace collapsed.
But now, he was all that was left.
Everything was as it had been.
Brendel saw flames burn in from outside the palace, turning the palace into a blazing inferno in the blink of an eye. The porticoes collapsed, the gaudy artworks turned to dust, and he stood alone in the middle of these flames.
"Why are you not afraid of failure?" A feeble voice asked.
It was the voice of Viscount Cauldell.
"I do fear failure," replied Brendel, seeing the pale figure emerge from the flames, as he picked up the crown and laid it aside, then sat down on the throne, "but I fear not knowing what my heart wants more."
"Death is not to be feared, what is to be feared is to lose oneself."
Viscount Cauldell stood silently opposite Brendel without saying a word.
He did not let out a sigh until a long time had passed.
Brendel saw him turn towards the fire, his back disappearing into the flames, and he heard that ghostly sigh, "I'm sorry, Bessidine. I'm sorry, Lord Sanorso."
Brendel closed his eyes.
It was as if he was dreaming another long dream, in which Viscount Cauldell was not called Viscount Cauldell, but had another identity. They all called him the King of the Sun, Cauldefred, and he had once had a fiancée, a woman named Bessidine Ramona Moonleaf, for only such a noble name could bear the surname of the Wind Elf royal family.
But Viscount Cauldell and his fiancee in the memory were long gone in the middle of those woods.
Brendel opened his eyes, the fire had reached beneath the throne, but the dream was still fresh, so he sat on the throne, wondering if it was wrong or right, but it was indeed his choice. There was a loud crash amidst the flames, and Brendel thought the pillars on the side of the hall had collapsed, but suddenly a figure burst out of the fire and grabbed him by the hand.
"Come with me--"
Startled slightly, Brendel looked up and saw the familiar figure of the one advancing through the flames, her flowing black hair standing out in the burning flames.
The palace collapsed on both of their sides, and it was almost impossible to tell which way to go amidst the smoke, the temperature seemed to be getting hotter and hotter, and the smoke gradually covered all sight.
After a few moments, Brendel felt that he was walking completely in the black fog, and he could not tell whether he was still in the Kinten Palace or not. But the smoke suddenly parted to both sides, and the cold moonlight seemed to fall from above and descend down on him.
Brendel was slightly startled, and he raised his head.
The palace and seas of fire were nowhere to be seen around him, only the shadowed cedar forest remained, and he noticed that the cold light before was no moonlight at all, but an arc of light blue light in the sky.
It was the Demonic Wave.
The swirling shadows of the clouds reflected this light on Brendel's face, and the female knight in front of him pulled him two more steps forward before letting go and turning back.
They were both sweating profusely.
Brendel looked at the pale face of the female knight and was startled before he blurted out, "Maynild?"
The female knight did not answer, instead, she turned around and headed into the forest. Brendel saw Haruz curled up under a tree, sleeping soundly, with a shiny line hanging from the corner of his mouth- the guy was actually drooling in his sleep.
It was a little hard for Brendel to imagine the little prince in his dreams.
Maynild did not wake him, but went over to the prince, took the cloak off her body, and put it on him. Brendel saw how she was taking care of people, and more than once he was reminded of his senior, Bai Jia.
"Is there something you are not telling me, Lady Maynild?" He asked abruptly.
"Please don't ask, thank you," Maynild replied back, softly, "Just this once, give me some time-"
Brendel was slightly startled.
He just looked at Maynild and they were both silent for a moment, but soon there was a soft noise in the woods and Brendel looked back to see Laurenna and Firas coming out of the bushes holding hands.
The female knight from the Kirrlutz Empire also gave them a somewhat odd look when she saw Brendel and Maynild together.
"Ha, Count, I didn't expect you guys to be a bit faster than us." Firas was much more direct and mumbled, "I just had a weird dream, I'm really pissed off."
"What happened?" It was expected for the lucky couple to be the first out of the dream, but he was curious about what could have pissed the guy off like that.
Before Laurenna could stop him, Firas blurted out, "I dreamt that that shitty prince was going to marry Laurenna, hmph, how delusional."
"So how did you fix it?" When Brendel saw the female knight blush at Firas' words, he understood that the dream must have been very exciting, then he calmed his nerves and continued to ask curiously.
"Crap, kill him of course." Firas replied hatefully.
Brendel was sweating profusely at the thought that this guy was being a little too tough. The grand prince of Kirlutz was the first heir to the empire and Firas was just given the chance to finish him off just like that. You know, dreams were so real, maybe Firas had not even considered whether he was in a dream or reality when he did that.
But he took one look at the guy, and it suddenly kind of dawned on him that maybe only people like this would never be confused by his own mind.
"You're a lucky woman, Miss Laurenna." Brendel said.
The female knight's cheeks flushed and she punched Firas hard, "This guy acts upon impulsivity, he scared me to death."
Firas smiled heedlessly, and Brendel also smiled slightly, he felt happy for Firas and Laurenna in his heart, as not everything in this world could go smoothly, and very few people possessed would stick to one's guns in the face of adversity.
He lifted his head and saw no moonlight in the sky. The swirling clouds had only just spread over the forest, while the Demonic Wave was already at its fiercest.
The hours seemed to pass by, Freya and Scarlet stepped out of the dreamscape one after the other. Medissa, Ciel and Hipamila themselves had stopped dreaming a while ago, they were merely lost because Brendel was lost, and had recovered not long after Brendel had left the dreamscape.
It was only then that the scattered knights and the rest of the team's entourages were found, and once Maynild did a headcount afterward, she discovered that half the team had actually scattered, and all the missing people would be lost forever in the forest, never to be found again.
Everyone shuddered at the thought of this and had a whole new understanding of the horrors of this forest.
Brendel asked Freya privately about her experience with Scarlet, and Freya did, as he expected, re-experienced the nightmare of escaping from Bucce. But she said that Brendel was nonexistent in her dreams, which caused Brendel to break out in a cold sweat.
Freya also told him that she had experienced a completely different night in Bucce, which the future Valkyrie did not go into too much detail about, but ended with thanking her softly.
Brendel could probably guess what had happened to her, just as he had guessed that she would return to Bucce that night. Perhaps for the Valkyrie, that was the most important memory of her life.
A memory that had changed her life.
As for Scarlet, the maiden did not say much, but just looked at him quietly for a moment, then followed him and never left again. Brendel could not figure out what she had dreamt about.
But like everyone else, everyone seemed to be especially quiet after they left their dreams.
Most of them sat leaning on each other, clustered in the forest as if they were reminiscing their dreams.
The morning that was never seen in the Forest of Eternal Night thus, brought a new day about in the sense of time.