Chapter 373.2

Three days elapsed before Pides once again descended into the underground prayer room, the descent occurring just before the sun painted the sky with its first light. In tow, he carried a small shovel and a peculiar tent, his preparations meticulous and purposeful.

Anticipating Anika’s arrival, Pides had toiled diligently in advance. In a quiet corner of the room’s floor, he had excavated a pit, its depth substantial enough for a person to be partially concealed. Once settled within, he intended to envelop himself with the tent – a cunning creation that, at first glance, resembled a rock, its wrinkled form and color providing a seamless camouflage.

While the disguise might prove feeble under the scrutiny of a thorough investigation, Pides was confident in its efficacy. Anika, making solitary visits to the prayer room in the dim light, wouldn’t delve into every nook and cranny. She was unlikely to wander far from the woven mat, offering a safe margin for his covert arrangement.

Yet, an undercurrent of unease gnawed at him during the entire process. All the Anikas are confined within the Holy City Palace, and the Holy City is under lockdown. What on earth is happening?

His unwavering focus on exploring the interior of the Holy City Palace had resulted in a delayed reception of external news. It seemed Sang-je’s intentions were far from benevolent.

Pides found himself grappling with a sense of foolishness as the blind faith he once held in Sang-je unraveled, the note left by his friend tearing away the veil of unwavering loyalty.

Having completed his preparations, he waited in the underground prayer room, attuned to the subtle sounds around him. The creaking of the pulley reached his ears, prompting him to swiftly lie down on the floor and shroud himself beneath the tent.

The descent of the wooden barrel was a slow affair, each passing moment extending into an eternity. Pides, his breath suppressed, listened intently to the footsteps that accompanied the arrival.

“Great Mahar, who governs the order of the world. I pray to your omnipotence.”

Carefully parting a small gap in the tent, Pides stole a discreet glance outside. He lay diagonally behind Anika, who knelt on the mat, immersed in fervent prayers. Even if she were to turn around, recognition would prove elusive in the darkness of the corner where Pides concealed himself.

Anika, initially extolling the divine’s greatness, fell into a contemplative silence. As her prayers resumed, the tone shifted to more earthly desires – the well-being and joy of her family. Amidst the litany of wishes, emotional strains crept in, accompanied by faint sobs. She spoke of the void left by her deceased parents and the longing for her siblings.

Did Anika priests willingly sever ties with the outside world upon entering the Holy City Palace? Pides wondered.

Reflecting, Pides realized he had never encountered Anika priests during his residence in the Holy City Palace. They always passed at a distance, escorted by fellow priests. The notion struck him that perhaps Anika priests hadn’t received any special treatment, and the apparent surveillance might be a deceptive facade.

Anika concluded her prayer-like soliloquy, rising from her kneeling position.

“Oh, God. I dedicate the sacred power you have given me to the relic symbolizing you.”

Observing Anika’s approach to the wall adorned with intricate patterns, Pides widened the gap in the tent, affording himself a clearer view. Placing both hands on the patterned surface, Anika closed her eyes in reverent concentration.

Frowning, Pides witnessed an unusual luminescence emanating from the point where Anika’s hands made contact with the wall. After a moment, Anika, having released her hands, drew a deep breath as if drained of energy. She retrieved the shawl laid on the floor, draped it over her shoulders, and retrieved the wooden barrel. Seated atop it, she pulled the rope connected to the upper passage, initiating the gradual ascent of the wooden barrel. As the pulley’s sound faded into silence, Pides, seizing the moment, drew back the tent and stood upright.

Kindling a torch with a flint on his back, Pides pondered the significance of Anika’s actions near the patterned wall. A symbol of God?

Such knowledge had eluded Pides until now, as the intricacies of doctrine weren’t commonly studied by many knights. He remained blissfully ignorant of the existence of a hidden relic beneath the Holy City Palace. If such a discovery existed, it could ignite religious fervor—so why was it shrouded in secrecy?

Carefully scrutinizing the intricate patterns, Pides took a step back. From a distance, the details became clearer.

Scales… If that is part of some life form…

A shudder coursed through Pides. It resembled a monster, a far cry from what one would associate with a sacred relic.


In the preceding days, the denizens of the castle had found themselves immersed in the arduous task of emptying the banquet hall, diligently relocating its myriad pieces of furniture to storage. With the exception of a solitary round table, hundreds of others had been meticulously removed and transported indoors.

At present, the entrance to the banquet hall stood under vigilant guard, stern warriors ensuring that only essential personnel entered the hall for trivial errands. A maid, entering with a tray and departing, found herself immediately encircled by castle residents the moment she stepped away from the hall.

“Did you see them?”

“Is it true that all six kings are gathered?”

“How does it feel to see them all at once?”

“Be careful what you say. If you talk recklessly, you might get punished.”

The passing maid prompted murmurs among other palace residents, lips pursed in speculative conversation.

With the kings gradually assembling within the lively castle, a palpable agitation swept through the castle residents. While some shared grave tales hinting at unusual occurrences with the unprecedented gathering of all six kings, the majority remained astounded and bewildered by the spectacle unfolding before them.

In the heart of the cavernous banquet hall, six kings gathered around a grand round table. Kasser had strategically chosen this location for their meeting—its ease of fortification, soundproof interiors, and a wall adorned entirely with balcony windows offering a convenient emergency exit if required.

Breaking the silence, Kasser’s voice reverberated across the expansive hall. “I didn’t plan for the kings to convene in this manner. It’s ironic, almost as if an unseen force has brought us together. The tale I’m about to share may seem long and perhaps absurd as you listen, but I implore you to bear with me until the end.”

Nicholas, a serious demeanor etched on his face since the initial exchange of greetings among the six kings, raised a hand. “But before that, I have a question.”

“Yes, Myung King.”

“Does the injuries of the Dark King and the Fire King have anything to do with this story?”

All eyes turned unanimously toward Pered and Riner. Pered’s lower lip bore a swollen, reddened mark, and Riner sported a crimson bruise beneath one eye. Inflicting such harm upon a king was a matter of utmost gravity. Nicholas keenly sensed the weight of the situation.

Riner momentarily cast his gaze into the emptiness, while Pered gracefully pressed his lips with one hand. Richard chuckled, cradling a teacup, and Kasser sighed, his eyes reflecting a complex mixture of emotions.



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