‘This feels ominous.’
Viola removed her helm. On the battlefield looming ahead, only a chilly wind was blowing. Her red hair danced in the wind. Viola turned her gaze towards the Mezei Mountains shrouded in fog. Even the forest connected to the Mezei Mountains was now covered in fog.
‘It’s like something is about to happen…’
To hide her trembling hand, she gripped the helm with force. Her heart began to race uncontrollably. Her entire body seemed to send warnings, telling her it was dangerous and she needed to get away immediately.
“Your Highness, are you alright?”
As the Princess took off her helm and stared intently at the Mezei Mountains, a knight standing nearby asked with a puzzled look. Was there something in the mountains? He followed Viola’s gaze, but there was nothing particularly unusual. The Mezei Mountains were still shrouded in thick fog. Just as they had in the past, as they did now, and as they would a hundred years from now.
“Do you… not feel it?”
“What are you talking about?”
The knight’s words indicate that he didn’t understand her. Viola remained silent. Was it just her imagination? No, it wasn’t. Something was undoubtedly warning her.
Viola lowered her head and stared at the helm she was holding. The armor provided by Count Durs was well-maintained and gleaming, and the helm she was holding was no different. As she saw her reflection on the helm, the princess thought of someone.
‘Do not ignore your fears, Velle. Fear is the guide that will lead you. It will show you what you must do.’
Viola put on the helm. In an instant, darkness surrounded her, and a narrow opening allowed in a beam of light.
‘Do not be afraid. A true ruler does not flee from any situation.’
Yes, that’s right. Father. Viola turned away from the watchtower.
“Let’s go to the Count.”
The knight hurriedly caught up with her.
* * *
“Where on earth…!”
Andra resisted fiercely as she was forcibly pulled along with great force, but each attempt ended in failure.
Andra cast uneasy glances at the deepening forest. The Mezei Mountains had a unique ecosystem, unlike ordinary mountains as she had heard before. As they ventured deeper into the range, unseen plants dominated the landscape, and occasionally, it seemed like there were animals overtly watching them.
‘If we keep going like this, Dustin…’
At that moment, Dean forcefully pulled Andra, whose steps had slowed. Andra, taken aback, stumbled, and although Dean held her gently, he still appeared angry. He muttered with irritation.
“Don’t even think about anything else. Your thoughts are crystal clear to me.”
“If you insist on me walking right into a trap willingly, at least focus on me a bit to make me feel less unjust, won’t you?”
His touch on her back was uncomfortably intimate. Andra swallowed dryly and faced Dean.
She was confident that even if he tried to push her to the ground, climb on her and forcefully have his way with her, she wouldn’t be surprised. Instead, she was more surprised that he hadn’t made a move yet. With this attitude, he could have taken action much earlier.
Whether Dean had read these thoughts of Andra’s or had simply caught on, he suddenly burst into an absurd laughter.
“You’re treating me like a completely horny bastard. Is that what you want? If that’s what you want, I can certainly do it.”
“…That’s not what I meant.”
“Then, stop it with this nonsense and follow me. Unless you want to cry beneath me.”
Andra was taken by the harsh tone. In Anat’s memories, Dean had been an endlessly affectionate man, but the Dean before her now exhibited no such traits. What on earth had happened during this time?
As Dean urged Andra to quicken their pace once again, suddenly asked him.
“…Are you really the Dean I know? It’s not like you at all…”
“Not at all, you say? So, am I disappointing you? Having gone mad like this?”
He seems to be aware that he’s gone mad. Andra was left speechless by Dean’s response, with no retort in mind. There was no point in arguing. It felt almost as if she were looking at someone from the past.
“Don’t think unnecessary thoughts. I’m still barely restraining myself from locking you up somewhere and doing you all day.”
Andra wanted to retort and ask if she didn’t look like a woman to him at all, as long as he could meet Anat. Of course, she knew she wasn’t in a position to say such things.
The place Dean had taken Andra to was in front of a charred old tree. He stood there for a moment, gazing sadly at the old tree. Andra, upon seeing it, was reminded of the old tree in her hometown in the East and felt strange. It was just a tree stump, but her gaze kept being drawn to it.
Dean, who had been gazing at the tree for a while, guided Andra through a gap near the base of the roots. Andra was surprised when she saw the gap. The crevice beneath the tree was so large and spacious that both Dean, who was as bulky as Dustin, and Andra could easily move through it.
Inside, there was a long passage, and they started moving along it.
The passage was so dark that it was impossible to distinguish a thing. However, Dean seemed unconcerned and walked straight ahead. Andra, who couldn’t see anything, conjured a small light with magic, allowing her to examine the passage. Eventually, she was a little surprised.
It was similar to the passage she had seen in Aslan Ruins. It was filled with ancient murals. The difference, however, was that while the murals in the Aslan Dungeon depicted the lives of the people who lived in the ancient kingdom of Hezel, the murals here showed life after Hezel had fallen.
No scholar had knowledge of what happened after Hezel’s collapse, yet the murals here vividly depicted post-Hezel life. But under Dean’s urging, Andra had no choice but to walk quickly without fully examining the murals.
It was frustrating and infuriating for Andra, who wanted to carefully study the murals. She tried to absorb as much as she could while passing by.
At the end of the passage, they arrived at a large rock. This time, Andra was even more astonished. The entire rock was filled with ancient characters of Morgennis and patterns. Of course, thanks to the influence of magic, Andra was able to read the inscriptions on the rock and naturally began to decipher the words engraved on the stone.
“The impure, the ignorant, the foolish shall not pass through this place. A place that exists but should not exist, a path that may be the end. Those uninvited, unprepared, retreat on your own. God’s trials may take your life. Only those who can bear all of this may open the door. Those who know the truth, those who doubt the truth. Also, pray that God shall have mercy.”
Quite a lengthy warning. Andra finished reading the inscription at the top and moved on to the next one.
“Wisdom and ideals sleep here…”
Having read that far, Andra raised her head and looked at Dean. It was a silent indication that some explanation was needed. In response, Dean spoke lightly.
“Didnt you want the path to the end of the world? This is the final path. Opening this door depends on your will.”
“Because it was made for you.”
So, it’s Anat… Andra refrained from speaking further and closed her mouth. My will, Anat’s will… She turned her head back to the rock.
Below the last inscription she had read, there was another paragraph. It seemed to be related to the hint on how to open this door.
‘I guess I have to solve a riddle like in Aslan.’
A sigh escaped Andra’s lips. However, now that she had come this far, there was no turning back. She decided to at least read the puzzle. Unlike last time, it didn’t seem like she needed to turn any discs, so she might be able to solve it on her own. After taking a deep breath, Andra started reading the text.
“The beginning said, ‘Change the mountains, bring the galaxy, create the darkness, and I will grant fire…’”
As soon as Andra read the problem, she realized that this was related to Dean. Wasn’t this depicting the three tasks imposed on Dean by the wrathful Primordial God when he stole the fire?
The first task: Swap the eastern mountain with the western mountain.
The second task: Bring the galaxy from the night sky.
The third task: Create impenetrable darkness, where no light can be found.
With Anat’s help, Dean successfully completed these tasks and gained the ability to use fire legitimately.
But how? Andra knew the result but didn’t know the process. However, it didn’t matter. Right next to her was Dean, the living answer. If she was lucky, she might be able to solve the riddle quite easily.
“Dean, do you remember the three tasks the Primordial God imposed on you?”
Andra turned to Dean with a hopeful expression. However, Dean simply lowered his head quietly and didn’t provide a satisfactory answer.
“It’s pointless to ask me. You were the one who solved it, not me.”
“Still, Anat—or rather, I helped you figure out the tasks, didn’t I? How did I assist you? What did I tell you to do?”
Dean remained silent, giving the impression that he couldn’t say anything. This left Andra feeling frustrated. Was he refusing to cooperate now? When he himself wanted to reach the end of the world! Shameless!
Andra rolled her eyes, and as if throwing her a clue, Dean finally spoke.
“Those who know the truth, those who doubt the truth. You must think of it for yourself. It is also your will.”
Andra’s head spun with these words. So, what was Anat’s will? Andra turned her gaze back to the rock. Just below the inscription with the riddle, there were many patterns, but the parts with patterns were slightly unique.
‘Do I have to rotate this too?’
At the top, there was a pattern representing the three tasks that the primordial god imposed on Dean. Two mountains, the galaxy in the night sky, and darkness.
Below that were three circles, each with patterns around the edges and a thin rod-like object in the center. In simple terms, it resembled a clock shape. It seemed like she needed to select patterns that matched the appropriate answers for each problem.
‘It looks like I have to choose patterns that match the correct answers for each question…’