“Haband and Kelon? Nandes too?”
The wizards from Aether at the entrance of Wynfield Valley read the letter brought by the dove with annoyed faces.
They, accustomed to communicating with magic, did not find this method of contact entirely reliable. It took too much time in comparison to magic’s instantaneity, and did not allow alteration in the content in case of emergency.
So, the wizards were a little suspicious of the letter which urgently ordered them to return to the capital after taking care of Kalion Hessenguard.
“Wasn’t it a decision to let him die on his own?” remarked one wizard.
The wizards looked over the distorted valley. They’ve been feeling anxious for some time.
Magic is alive and dynamic. It weakens and disintegrates over time, but the standards had disappeared faster than they had expected. Moreover, this morning, the distorted space returned to its original form, albeit briefly. It was only less than a minute, but it was clear that the magic had disappeared during that moment.
The wizards struggled to find the cause. They believed it would be very unlikely that standards were found. Of course, there was a chance of them discovering it because of its faint sparkle, but even that was only possible with a certain degree of focus.
Before coming to Hessenguard, wizards of Aether had conducted experiments with their own knights. It was a test on how quickly they could notice an abnormality in their environment, for how long they could endure in the distorted space, and whether they could escape by means of physical force rather than magic.
None of their knights succeeded in that experiment. In most cases, after a week or so, they began to become disoriented. Then, ignoring the words of their superior, the knights no longer functioned as a group and struggled to survive by instinct. It was only natural that they would decline faster as each of them were finding the way out with their own means, when escape was only possible if they performed as a group.
Now, eighteen days have passed. The knighthood of Hessenguard should have fallen apart by now. Moreover, monsters ceaselessly infested the valley, and they did not have enough food to last this long. The outcome was obvious.
They were close to annihilation.
Therefore, it was more likely that the weakening of the standards was a natural result of the passage of time. The reason it deteriorated faster than the one tested in the Aether must be due to the strong magic field in Hessenguard.
The head of the wizards reached a conclusion after much consideration.
“For now, let’s all take a break until noon, and take good care of the remaining magical power. At noon, we will restore the space. Immediately after that, we kill the remaining Hessenguard knights. We must ensure the body of Kalion Hessenguard in particular.”
The wizards nodded in unison at the instructions. At the same time, an unfamiliar voice spoke out.
“Do you even need to work like that?”
The wizards whipped their heads in surprise, but the owner of the voice was faster than them.
Before he could even turn his head, a wizard already had a dagger deep in his neck. Another wizard was kicked in the face by a boot’s heel before he could see the owner of the voice, and his body flew in the air. The sound of his neck and bones breaking was loud enough to be heard, but no one paid attention. The third wizard barely finished his scream as he caught a lump of iron fist across his face. His eardrum was ruptured, and a broken tooth was spattered with blood on the floor.
“It’s a knight!”
“The knight of Hessenguard!”
The wizards who were a little far away could only scream as they confirmed the identity of the assassin. But that was it, as a sword began to cut through their bodies relentlessly.
The remaining wizards, who came to their senses, quickly conjured magic and attacked. A fireball emerged and flew straight to the knight who attacked them. But instead of retreating, the knight swung his sword and rushed into the fireball.
“There is no point in attacking!” exclaimed one wizard. He ridiculed the knight in his futile attempt to fight magic with mere physical force. But soon the smirk of triumph on his face was replaced with a look of horror as the scene unfolded before him.
The magic he had casted was easily destroyed—with the sword wielded by the knight.
“Erna taught me. If you target the nucleus of the magic formula, it can be easily annihilated.”
Unable to finish his sentence, the wizard fell to the floor with a knife stuck in his back.
Cedric drew his sword from the back of the wizard he had killed and wiped the blood off the blade. He looked at Kalion. He was killing the remaining wizards without hesitation. Aren’t you even tired?
After Kalion figured out a way, finding the standards has never been easier. Like a madman, Kalion destroyed all the standards one by one.
Did it make sense to find a glimmer of light in the forest of this wide valley? Even the standards varied in types and forms, not only from trees, but also from rocks and the corpses of old beasts.
Borrowing the senses of a beast was the fastest way to find those standards. The knights constantly lost track of Kalion, who was the most nimble. He had four days to do it.
Finally, after breaking the thirteenth standard, Kalion noticed that the space was returning to its original form. Kalion gave the fourteenth standard to the knights and ordered them to destroy it when he signaled. When all was done, Kalion fled to the entrance of the valley, along with Cedric and the knights.
However, their breakaway didn’t depict their triumph. They searched for wizards nearby, observing their movements while hiding their presence. And finally, the moment Kalion thought he had all the information he needed, he signaled to attack.
A little more time passed, when the last wizard’s breath was no more, Kalion wiped the blood from his face with the back of his hand. He has grown accustomed to blood, but even so, a monster’s blood was different from a human’s blood. And the latter made him even feel worse.
“They’ve been in touch.”
Returning to the spot where he first attacked, Kalion picked up a piece of paper soaked in blood. It was a letter written in unknown symbols and not in the official language of the continent. But it was meaningless to Kalion, who knew all the ciphers of the four surrounding kingdoms.
Kalion turned to Cedric as he finished reading the contents of the letter.
“While we were trapped, all other kingdoms sent troops to the capital.”
Cedric’s breath hitched on his throat and Kalion grabbed the necklace hidden underneath his clothes.
When he was resting for a while the day before, Erna had appeared in his dream. As soon as she saw him, Erna pointed her finger at her and shouted, “This side is working hard too!” However, her brave facade was no more and she burst into tears.
The dream ended there.
Was that really a dream?
Kalion looked up at the sky in the direction of the capital. Whether the dream was real or not, it seemed as if he had to go and ask.
“I am coming,” he whispered. He longed for his wife and his lover.