A week had passed since the news of the Third Calamity was announced to the world.
The Continent which still lay buried under the snows of winter appeared to be peaceful on the surface, but underneath that facade were lava-hot bubbling flames of conflict brewing ever so slightly.
And it wasn’t limited in scope to just the Human Empire.
Kingdoms that still maintained a fair bit of power like the Dwarven Kingdom and the Ancient Kingdom were investigating possible solutions, and militarily weak nations or independent factions like the Allied Merchant Coalition were furiously debating on which side to hedge their bets on.
The reason why the people couldn’t unite in spite of being pushed to the edge of extinction was brutally simple.
There are only a handful of kings that have ever voluntarily abdicated their throne.
And here were two crownless kings. One was believed to have nothing but was in fact in control and biding his time.
The other king truly had nothing.
Sungchul was looking up at the sky. The sky could not be any more clearer.
He raised his hands to rub his chest. Although he wished to do nothing and believed that nothing bad would come of doing so, the destiny he carried did not allow him to rest.
The cross of oath etched into his heart was beckoning him.
Back into the turmoils of war.
Kraiya was sleeping soundly on a bed made out of a leaf of the World Tree. And as she was slumbering away perfectly straight on the bed, the Fairies who were brimming with playfulness were frolocking around loudly in her viscinity.
“Boko! Nico! It is time to be stop playing jokes and to be feeding the child the sap of the World Tree-yeyo!”
“That is the job of Kamit-yeyo!”
“Shupa, stop playing and find Kamit-yeyo!”
Sungchul heard the bird’s chirp-like voices of the Fairies as he listened to the elder speak.
“As it is all things, time will heal most wounds.”
Although Kraiya had not been able to open her eyes even a week after she overcame the Curse of Extinction, it didn’t seem as though the elder was concerned about it.
“Even though it would be different if she was still connected to the World Tree, the frail human body is not capable of sustaining an eternal sleep. Therefore, she will inevitably wake up with enough time.”
“How long will it take?”
Sungchul had once been burnt by the Fairies’ unusual sense of time. He crossed his arms and stared at the elder.
“In your standards, it might take a few months. Perhaps a full year.”
“I cannot wait that long.”
Sungchul felt a faint foreign sensation in his chest and let out a sigh. It’s been a while since the last time the Cross of the Covenant embedded in his heart made itself known to him, It was probably urging him on to go fulfill his oath.
“I’ll embark today.”
Sungchul made up his mind. And the elder of the Fairies who understood his personality very well only stroked his beard without a word of complaint.
“Then we shall look after the child.”
“…This has nothing to do with me any further.”
The image of a woman dying on a dirty bed in a sweatshop crossed his mind.
‘I kept my promise.’
One of the heavy burden weighing him down heavily was finally gone. And although the conclusion wasn’t all that satisfactory, it was true that he successfully fulfilled his promise of rescuing the child back to life.
The elder watched Sungchul leave as he felt with a strange sense of certainty that Sungchul would likely never again return to this place.
Sungchul who emerged from under the World Tree sought Marakia and Bertelgia. Marakia was enjoying the dangerous sport of riding the currents of the river flowing in the sky atop a plank of wood. Meanwhile, Bertelgia was busy trying to curse and pray for Marakia to fall down.
Sungchul called out to them.
“It’s time to leave.”
Marakia and Bertelgia returned to his side.
“What? We’re leaving already? That human is not even awake yet.”
Marakia seemed to be adverse to the idea of leaving the beautiful Fae World. It was unsurprising considering the fact that Marakia was hugely popular among the Fairies and had been living like a king, lording over them.
“It makes no difference if you remain here.”
Sungchul had no desire to chain Marakia down. If he decided to stay, he was willing to give his consent.
Marakia fell deeply into thought and spent a lot of time thinking before he came to a conclusion.
“A wise King does not settle down in one place.”
Marakia appeared to have gathered his resolve to follow Sungchul.
‘In truth, I am superior to this bipedal primate. However, there are things to be learnt from this human. If anything, for the sake of rebuilding the Nahak Kingdom after the Calamities, it would be best for me to stay with him for a while to watch and learn.’
Marakia’s eyes glistened dangerously for a moment but no one was paying attention.
“Hey, it’s baby World Trees!”
Bertelgia and Sungchul’s attentions were elsewhere entirely.
There were sproutlings of the World Tree planted throughout some areas of the Fae World. Although they were being called sproutlings, they were already almost too thick to wrap your arms around it. These trees were absorbing sunlight and growing quite well.
‘So many World Trees.’
It was the first time Sungchul had seen anything like this. Sungchul approached one of the trees and decided to ask a Fairy that was busy ferrying fertilizer and compost.
“What is this?”
“This is a brand new World Tree-yeyo.”
“The Fairy King has granted us seeds-yeyo!”
Fairies giggled and laughed as they few around Sungchul before suddenly disappearing.
“Fairy King you say.”
He’s heard of the name before, the King that reigns over the Fae World. But he had never seen him in person nor did it seem like he would ever have the chance. According to the fairies, the Fairy King resided not in the Fae world but in the world of Immortals. Although it was certainly interesting enough that such a being would personally make the trip to the Fae World to distribute the seeds of the World Tree, it was not an important enough issue to Sungchul to keep him around.
“Mmm. Seeing so many World Trees remind me of a story I’ve read from a book a long time ago.”
Marakia suddenly spoke as he gazed out at the World Trees.
“-That the World Trees can be used to measure how progressed the Calamities are.”
“What is that about?”
“It’s nothing concrete. It was one of those theories that were found in ancient texts without a shred of evidence. Either way, according to this text, when the Calamities are over and a new era begins, brand new World Trees appear all over the continent to bring forth breath of life over the land that had been swept by the Calamities.
Sungchul tried to quickly count the World Tree saplings in this area. He estimated that there were roughly thirty of them here.
Marakia’s story continued.
“…And after time passes and each of the World Trees die out, a new Calamity begins once the final World Tree is no more… something like that.”
“This is the first time I’ve heard anything like this.”
“No wonder. Our knowledge extends tall the way back to immemorial antiquity!”
Bertelgia suddenly popped out from the side where she was watching when Marakia boastfully raised his voice.
“So why did such an amazing species fall into ruin?”
One word from Bertelgia was enough to shut Marakia’s mouth. It was dignity well deserved of one who stood 2nd in the hierarchy. Sungchul was led by the two fairies, Kaff and Luro, back towards the Dimensional Gate that led back to Adelwight’s cottage.
“Where will you go now?”
Bertelgia asked from within his pocket before they entered the Dimensional Gate.
“…I am thinking about going to the Tower of Recluse for now.”
Nothing was set in stone for now. There were several things he had to do. The first things that came to mind are the Quests for the Creationist class contained within the Colossi and cooking a dish worth over 90 points. Of course, the one Sungchul was more eager to complete was the latter.
‘Should I challenge myself in cooking?’
There was no particular reason for it, but Sungchul wanted to immerse himself with something to the point of losing track of time. He felt that doing so might alleviate the constant fatigue and apathy that gripped him recently.
As he wrapped up his thoughts about his plans for the near future, Sungchul walked towards the Dimensional Gate. Once past the portal, the sight of the familiar cottage entered his sight.
He detected a presence. Adelwight must have returned. Even though it was embarrassing, Sungchul decided to ask for advice from Adelwight on cooking so he walked to the living room. But there was an unexpected person there. Sungchul couldn’t conceal his surprise.
Sat next to the table in the living room was a man. It was a burly looking man wearing thick armor, covered by a mantle-like animal hide. Sungchul clearly remembered the man with pale green eyes, messy white hair, and handsome but tired looking face.
‘Isn’t this the Wandering King?’
Former King of Ruteginea, Kromgard. This man was in Adelwight’s cottage.
“Wow! It’s his majesty the King-yeyo!”
“It’s really been a while-yeyo!”
The fairies Luro and Kaff rushed to greet the Wandering King. The Wandering King himself was also surprised. Unlike Sungchul who instantly recognized the Wandering King, the king was unable to recognize him at first. After a long pause, the Wandering King finally found a name for the face within his fuzzy memories.
“Ah. You’re that person. Commander in Chief of the Empire. No, I suppose you’re referred as ‘Enemy of the World’ as of late.”
A faint smile appeared on the Wandering King’s lips. Sungchul felt that the King was keeping a distance from him, but there didn’t seem to be any animosity of note. And on that point, the Wandering King made it clear.
“Though I hold the title of Third of the Continental Champions, I have no desire to face you in battle.”
The King raised both his hands to show they were empty.
Sungchul also carried no ill will towards the Wandering King. Despite being one of the Thirteen Champions, he was far removed from the core ruling elite that controlled the world.
The title of the Third Continental Champion was purely ceremonial. Sungchul was one of the architects of the World Parliament, so he knew better than anyone that the former king of Ruteginea carried no voice nor power within the World Parliament.
And, even though it was likely unintended, there was a time where Sungchul owed Wandering King his life. On that day with the most beautiful of sunsets, without the King stopping the fight, Sungchul would have been stabbed by Kreigfreid’s sword and slain on the colosseum grounds that day and reduced to a lifeless corpse.
“…I too have no desire to fight you. It’s not a place to be fighting either way.”
Sungchul looked around Adelwight’s home. If two of the most powerful individuals in the whole world were to fight, Adelwight’s cottage would disappear without any trace.
Sungchul reciprocated the peaceful gesture by raising his two empty hands.
The brief moment of tension became relaxed with time.
“I was not aware that you were an acquaintance of Adelwight.”
The Wandering King began. Sungchul was the same.
“That is what I want to know as well.”
Once the stiff reply came back, the Wandering King had a faint grin as he walked to the side.
“Adelwight and I have known each other for a long time. More than you have known her.”
“Is that so?”
“If not, then how would this forest that encroached upon Ruteginean territory survive?”
The King stopped to look at Sungchul. What he said seemed believable, far more than the common belief that the vicious Ruteginean nobles left the forest alone out of fear. Sungchul gave the King a piercing gaze.
It had been almost 15 years since the two of them last spoke face to face like this. Sungchul did not see the Wandering King often during his days as the Commander in Chief of the Empire. Even though they had fought side by side in several battles, the Wandering King tried not to stand out, likely due to his history. And others also respected his decision and did not attempt to call him out to the celebratory feast. Also, the one who reached out to the Wandering King to join the Continental Champions was not Sungchul but the Emperor, and even then the King rarely, if ever, came to the World Parliament.
‘He hasn’t aged a day.’
Sungchul thought to himself when he saw the Wandering King’s face.
He didn’t change. The face that was always concealed under the helm was exactly the same as the face that he had seen 15 years ago. He had attempted to escape the Colosseum with Ryze, but was caught and brought to duel against the Champion of the Colosseum, Kreigfreid. He had seen that same face when he received the wooden sword of pardon in the aftermath of the duel.
“It appears as though Adelwight has no plans to return by today.”
The Wandering King picked up the helm that was on the table. The helm whose interior could not be seen had become an artifact that replaced the crown as the symbol that represented the Wandering King.
“Since neither of us enjoy being in each others’ company, I shall be the one to take my leave first.”
The Wandering King put on the helmet and turned around.
“My Majesty the King! Where are you going-yeyo?”
“You need to drink a cup of tea before you leave-yeyo!”
The Fairies grabbed a hold of the Wandering King’s outfit to stop him from leaving.
“There is no need for you to leave. I was already on my way out.”
Sungchul walked past the Wandering King. The moment he was about to pass the Wandering King, he turned suddenly to look at Sungchul’s profile and asked a question.
“Are you the one who also resolved the second Calamity?”
It wasn’t until Sungchul reached the exit of the cabin that he turned to answer.
“It was I.”
A strange light flickered from within the Wandering King’s helm before disappearing once more. Sungchul left the Wandering King alone and opened the door. He heard the King’s voice when he opened the door.
“Soul Contract Thunder Shield, Eye of Truth, did you claim them?”
Sungchul closed the half open door when he heard this. It wasn’t something he could simply ignore. The only people who were aware of the fact that Sungchul possessed Legendary tier Soul Contracts like Soul Harvester, Thunder Shield, Eye of Truth were limited to Ryze and himself, because it was through Ryze’s deciphering of God’s Letter that enabled Sungchul to seek them out to begin with. But the Wandering King was somehow aware of Sungchul’s possession of them. Sungchul glared at the Wandering King as he replied.
“I have claimed them.”
“I see, just as I thought.”
The Wandering King took his seat upon the chair while continuing to wear his helm and muttered quietly.
“Ryze Hymerr. That woman lied to me again.”
There was subtle anger mixed into his voice. Sungchul spoke up suddenly.
“She’s already dead. I don’t see a need to blame her any further.”
Sungchul remembered clearly, the final moments of Ryze Hymerr dying on the filthy bed in a sweatshop. From her deathbed, she conveyed her knowledge on the topic of how to reach God. Along with this bit of information, this was when he made his promise that led him all the way here. Although he did not witness her final moment, but it was not long before he was told by the management of the sweatshop that Ryze Hymerr had passed away. Taking Craiya into his mansion took place after this.
“You’re misunderstanding something.”
The Wandering King spoke. Once Sungchul’s gaze reached his helmet, the Wandering King stood up and opened his lips.
“Ryze Hymerr. That woman is alive.”