Outside a fierce blizzard was freezing the land. Though humble, there was a tavern. Amidst the endlessly shifting shadows of people passing by that danced with the licks of the flame from the hearth was an ancient song passed down by oral tradition escaping from the lips of a minstrel with a beautiful voice.
The hopes and desires of all people of the world
Etch it in the heart and advance into the perilous unknown!
The Seven Heroes whose names have been forgotten by time.
Who are the witnesses of their final battle?
The rhythm and melody of the song was beautiful and the lyrics were ancient and deep in their meaning, but one part was bothering people.
“What kind of heroes are the Seven Heroes? Do we consider those who returned as a calamity to be heroes?”
The minstrel stopped and apologized when a drunk man yelled out angrily. But in all fairness, this was not something that the minstrel should have apologized for. The music in question was a song that was composed thousands of years in the past. The drunks that appeared to be the people of the Eastern Regions showed now signs of calming down any time soon. It was then that a man drinking quietly in the corner stood up.
The man wore the fur of black leopard over his considerable cuirass. Although his face was covered by the shadow of his hood, all the inhabitants of the tavern were shocked by the appearance of his strong physique and imposing equipment. They were then doubly surprised by the intimidating aura of a warrior emanating from his entire being.
The mysterious man approached the minstrel who was surrounded by drunks. The men who were as aggressive as violent wolves became as timid as sheep once they saw him and ducked out of the way to let him pass.
Within the suffocating silence, the man spoke.
“How about changing the lyrics like this? Instead of the Seven Heroes, sing of one eternal king.”
The Minstrel stood straight and nodded to the man who spoke with a soft but undefiable commanding voice that left him trembling from his entire body. The mysterious man grasped his shoulder before handing him a gold coin and leaving the tavern.
“Dear Customer! There is an enormous blizzard billowing outside! What about spending the night here?”
The tavern owner approached him afterwards, but he did not reply before opening the door and leaving.
Once the man left, the tavern that had been enveloped in complete silence resumed activities once more.
The people swarmed the lucky minstrel and looked upon the gold coin in his hands in envy. But among the rowdy crowd was one old man’s surprised shout.
“Wait, isn’t this a Ruteginean currency?”
His words brought even the otherwise disinterested on-lookers towards the hall. One merchant asked for permission to inspect the coin and appraised the gold coin the minstrel had received.
“This is unmistakable. This unparalleled purity. This perfection without a hint of contamination. This gold coin is a genuine article of Ruteginean currency only the king of Ruteginea has the authority to produce. This is in a completely different league from the garbage the Merchant Coalition mints.”
Just receiving a gold coin suddenly was lucky enough, but hearing that this gold coin was far higher quality and worth than other gold coins brought large smile to the Minstrel’s lips. He quickly readied his lute and began to sing the song he had been accosted for just moments ago in hopes that it would reach the ears of the man who brought him unexpected fortune.
Outside the tavern, there was an intense blizzard that was difficult to endure just as the tavern owner had said. But the mysterious man showed no fear and walked unfazed into the pitch black darkness swirling with furious wind and ice.
How long had he walked. Soon, there was a lanky woman wearing a mask covered in indecipherable words who blocked his path. Once she noticed the mysterious man, she lowered her head to show her respects before kneeling reverently.
There were few within the tavern who could recognize her, but if they indeed knew of her identity, they would be shocked beyond belief at her actions. The reason was that the woman kneeling before the mysterious man held the same position as the world famous Second Champion of the Continent, Aquiroa.
Though it was not widely known in the world, there was only one being to which Aquiroa kneeled for.
The former king of the Kingdom of Ruteginea.
Third Champion of the Continent, Kromgard.
“Did something urgent happen? For you to appear before me without forewarning.”
The mysterious man looked down upon Aquiroa and spoke with a completely different tone than one used in the tavern.
Aquiroa lowered her head and answered him.
“The second Calamity was resolved.”
Under the hood, a bone chilling light flickered when he heard this.
“Was he the one to resolve it again? The Summoned from another world.”
“We do not know any specifics, but if we were to infer based on the logical progression of events so far, then it must be him. But this is not guaranteed.”
There was a brief moment of silence.
The mysterious man seemed to think for a moment.
A considerable amount of time passed, but Aquiroa waited patiently for the man to speak.
Soon, the man’s intensely cold voice could be heard.
“And the next Calamity? Is it the Calamity of war as foretold?”
“If this was the case, then I would not have inconvenienced your majesty by appearing without informing you ahead of time.”
Aquiroa took out a parchment from her clothes and presented it respectfully to him. The man gestured his hands which manipulated the parchment without touching it, bringing it up to his eyes to read. The parchment read as follows.
[Before the yellow cloud of death from the oceans to the east touches the Ancient Pillars, there must stand but a single crown in the entirety of the continent. Failing this, the mortals will all come to witness the wrath of the true god manifest itself on the land.]
“A Calamity to reduce the number of kings to just one.”
A strange light came from under the hood.
The man lowered the parchment. It was returned to Aquiroa’s hands.
“Of all the forms of calamity there is, the first one to be chosen is the so-called final calamity that is feasible achievable.”
“It is likely that they are also hurrying things along.”
“There is a report that yellow colored all-consuming Miasma is traveling across the ocean from far east and heading towards the continent.”
Aquiroa recited a spell and an image appeared before the man. In that picture, the world was turned completely yellow.
“The ash of the evil god. The primordial seal has been undone I see.”
The man looked up into the distance and spoke as if reciting something.
There was a man who was once a king. He chose to abandon his crown and go on a self-imposed exile roaming the world, earning himself the nickname Wandering King. He who had no crown, land, nor followers looked as if he had lost everything, but this was not true.
“…But nothing will change.”
Wandering King Kromgard took off his hood. Aquiroa who prostrated by his side present him with a helmet made of ashen color metal. Although the interior was hollow, the inside of the helmet could not be viewed from outside.
The Wandering King put on the helmet that represented him before turning around. Inside the whitened tavern visible past the snow, a song by the Minstrel could be heard.
The one and only eternal King forgotten by time.
In the midst of the echo of the melancholy and sincere song, the Wandering King turned back once more to speak in a deep voice.
“Time has come to reclaim my crown.”
With those words spoken, the crownless king walked forward into the blinding blizzard. The thick darkness of the night swallowed the sight of him in an instant.
Capital of the Human Empire, La Grange.
The Floating Palace located at its summit.
The Emperor of the Emperor sat emotionlessly on a golden throne listening to the reports from his advisors.
“A single king.”
His gaze wandered over the countless attendants lined up to the left and the right until it arrived on a young and slim woman in a splendid formal dress. When he gestured, the voice of his servants echoed in the air.
“Imperial Defense Minister Ahmuge. His majesty the Emperor commands you to move twenty steps forward and face him.”
Ahmuge who became the Protector of the Capital after the death of Arquebus stood before the Emperor with a rigid expression. When the Emperor waved twice, the Royal Mages simultaneously chanted an incantation and created an opaque barrier of sound nullification.
Within the space nothing else was visible where no sound could escape, the Emperor glared at Ahmuge and spoke in an imposing and dignified voice.
“Imperial Defense Minister.”
The fact that Ahmuge was an extraordinary Regressor became self-evident from the numerous events that came to pass in the recent past. The tragedy that unfolded in La Grange could have been seen as conclusive evidence against Ahmuge’s ability, but the event was glossed over with the explanation that it was due to Arquebus’s willful ignorance of Ahmuge’s forewarning and failing to pass on the message higher up the chain.
The injury the all-important Emperor sustained from the Enemy of the World did not harm Ahmuge’s reputation, but instead served to elevate the importance of her involvement even further. More than anything else, the way the Emperor treated Ahmuge at the moment was the perfect example to the world of how her status has transformed.
“What will happen now?”
The Emperor asked.
Ahmuge did not answer and hesitated. The Emperor was someone who had to meet hundreds of people each day. He recognized her hesitation and asked again.
“Is there a problem?”
“May I speak honestly?”
The Emperor nodded in reply.
To this, Ahmuge bit her lower lip slightly before looking up at the Emperor with a resolute expression before beginning to speak.
“I believe that there is someone’s will, whose I do not know, that is influencing the world.”
Ahmuge nodded when the Emperor parroted her words.
“The present has started to deviate slightly from the future that I have experienced.”
Ahmuge said as much before she glanced up at the Emperor carefully. Her words were essentially a form of self-destruction.
There was nothing more useless than a Regressor who couldn’t foretell the future.
The Emperor fell silent and gazed into the ether.
Soon, a voice filled with dignity and grace emanated from the throne.
“So, you cannot predict the future any longer?”
Ahmuge shook her head.
“It has not deviated completely yet. It’s just that the Second Calamity was resolved too early.”
“Then speak. Of the future that is soon to come.”
The Emperor’s voice revealed his dissatisfaction. He was a man who was perpetually chased by time. Even taking time for this discussion was an exception that the Emperor went out of his way to make. He had no desire to listen to something that sounded like it was nothing more than word play. After he directed his emotions to Ahmuge with those thoughts, her reply became embedded in his mind.
“My Emperor… will lose his crown.”
There were no changes to his expression. Ahmuge prepared herself for the worst.
‘To think that this is where I lose all my credibility.’
Of course, she had the ability necessary to safely escape even from the Imperial Palace. She was a person who was capable of entering even the Palace of the Assassin’s Guild, which boasted the world’s most sophisticated defense system among humans, as if she owned the place.
When Ahmuge was quickly preparing her farewell in her thoughts, the Emperor’s sharp ice-like voice reverberated in the air.
To this, Ahmuge let out a light sigh before explaining about the future she had experienced.
“To the Wandering King, Kromgard.”
Although this was something that happened in the future, the Emperor will not want to believe her. How would a man without a single soldier, an ounce of land, or a single peasant, face the Emperor of the most powerful Hegemony on the continent?
Although the former nobility of the Kingdom of Ruteginea still constituted a fairly powerful faction within the Empire, the Emperor still had the absolute loyalty of the Floating Armada and his friendship with Shamal Rajput.
And to no surprise, the Emperor remained quiet.
Ahmuge slightly raised her head in anticipation of anger or perhaps ridicule, but something unexpected happened.
What appeared on the Emperor’s lips were neither ridicule, nor anger, but a brilliant and unadulterated smile.
“Is that so? You were afraid to speak because of such a small thing?”
His expression was as though he had fully anticipated this to come to pass. In fact, the dark curtain of dignity and duty folded back from his eyes to reveal a brilliant light of hope.
“You said that the future you had seen is changing?”
When the Emperor asked, Ahmuge lowered her head and nodded.
“Yes, my Majesty.”
“Is it radically different?”
“It is not so final as to completely destabilize everything, but it is still considerably significant.”
A laughter escaped the Emperor’s mouth when he heard this. Ahmuge couldn’t believe her ears. Perhaps it was because she had never heard him laugh joyously before. She carefully looked up from the ground towards the Emperor sitting on his throne.
The Emperor was stroking his chin and glaring into nothing. His eyes were alive and sparkling.
“Kromgard. You will never regain your throne…!”