It was a bizarre morning sky with sunshine stretching over the valley in different directions. However, at a portion of the sky above the tree where Kalion had climbed, sunlight could be seen protruding in a straight line.
Kalion turned and saw the woodpecker flying somewhere. It seemed as if it was finally relieved.
The knights asked as they blankly stared at the sight before them, “This… What is it? ”
“If my assumptions are right, this is probably the sign of the ‘standard’.”
“What’s a ‘standard’?” one of the bewildered knights asked.
Kalion told the story he had heard in the past. The knights listened attentively and their expressions changed every moment. The moment Kalion concluded the story, all knights looked at each other. They knew what they had to do.
“Find them all!”
“Don’t leave a single tree out!”
They began searching every tree, looking for shining letters, with utmost fervor.
Cedric tried to calm them, but Kalion stopped him.
Cedric asked him, “Why are you stopping me? The search would be in vain if they are wasting their nonexistent energy.”
“You’ll realize soon enough. Leave them for now. ”
No matter how trained the knights were, they couldn’t get out of the valley for the past two weeks. A few knights were eventually consumed with fear and anxiety as they helplessly watched their comrades get hurt. Worse, food was running low. Inevitably, only silence lingered in between the weary knights.
But now, after a very long time, everyone was excited and couldn’t stop talking. In an instant, all the knights were animated. They believed that if they find the signs of the ‘standard’, they will have hope again.
Of course, it would not be easy to find the marking of the standard in this vast forest.
Kalion recalled the behavior of the woodpecker. The creature was obviously agitated at the presence of the marker. Surely, other animals would do something similar.
As the mercenary said before, there is no need to find all of the standard. Just as a desk collapse even with only one of its legs severed, if they find and destroy a few, this illusion shall begin to collapse.
We’ll just have to find a few more.
Making up his mind, Kalion ordered Cedric, “Tell everyone to eat well and have sufficient sleep this afternoon. We’ll have to be busy at night.”
For the first time in a while, a smile appeared on Kalion’s face as he stared at the heavens above. He placed a hand on his chest. It had been a while since he had been wearing the necklace and fumbling it had become a habit.
I won’t be able to dream of Erna tonight, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll go and see your face in person.
* * *
The Council’s meeting proceeded as Erna expected. The members cast their resentment on Erna, who was merely providing food to their enemy without having an effective plan to stop their advance.
It’s not just food, Erna complained inwardly. She felt a striking headache.
A member of the Council seated far away spoke up, “Do you really not know the whereabouts of Ruben Aether?”
“I told you. How can I know the whereabouts of a man who has been missing since I left the castle?”
When Erna responded naturally, the member could not say anything more, but their eyes were full of doubts. Erna didn’t bother; she was, in fact, hiding the man of Aether. Of course, she had done it for their advantage, but in the eyes of the Council, Aether’s soldiers had come to capture Ruben, and Erna was feigning ignorance to protect him.
Time passed, but the meeting continued without much progress. In the end, Erna decided to stop the meeting so she could break free from the suffocating atmosphere. In the past, Erna would be the first to leave the room, but today the members of the Council scrammed from their seats. Erna heaved a weary sigh. The meeting had been one-sided, in which Erna was bombarded with questions—or accusations.
Among the members was Adelaide. She, who specially participated in the meeting as the representative of Haband’s delegation, had said that she would seek assistance from Haband, fearing the disappearance of Kalion and his knights.
The members didn’t want another kingdom intervening. However, they were already suspicious that Erna was trying to hand over Hessenguard, so they thought that it would be better to let Haband into Hessenguard to stop the knights of Aether, and Erna, who they were certain was colluding with the latter kingdom.
When Erna left the conference room to go to the Grand Duke’s lounge next to the conference hall, women standing in the hallway rushed up to her.
“Grand Duchess Erna!”
“You guys? What are you doing here?”
The women who approached were the wizards of the Grand Duke Castle. They were wizards in charge of paperwork going to and from the Council.
“We’re worried about what’s going on, Grand Duchess.” One wizard replied.
Erna was dumbfounded. They cared about her? Normally, she would have told them to go back and do what they were told to do. But today, she was extremely delighted to see the wizards who took her side.
As Erna stood silently, the wizards began to roar with more anger.
“Those bastards, how rude and arrogant they have been so far!”
“Please be quiet, you guys.”
Surprised, Orpé hurriedly silenced the wizards, but the young ones couldn’t control their fiery blood and cursed with their fingers the members of the Council who glanced at them from afar.
“Watch out for the night, bastards.”
Erna grinned at the wizards, but her face immediately hardened as she saw Vanessa, who had slipped through her members, approaching.