“Does the name even matter? I feel like it was called something like the Parchment of Revelation during my time?”
Bertelgia immediately replied to what Marakia had said.
“The tool with which God conveys their will does change form from time to time.”
Marakia accommodated a part of what Bertelgia said, but he followed up with a sharp point.
“But back in my time, there was no such thing as the Tower of Recluse. Although I was not able to see it myself due to the Curse of Extinction, according to what has been told to me, the Tablet of the Apocalypse was located in what used to be the Lizardman Kingdom, stored within a dead Tree of Life.”
“But what if that’s referring to the Tower of Recluse?” If the name of the Scroll of Calamity can change over time, then so too can the name of the tower that houses it, right?”
Marakia shook his head at Bertelgia’s rebuttal and spoke with his usual pointless seriousness.
“The dead Tree of life is located at the center of the continent. It does not snow at the center of the continent, therefore it can’t accumulate. This place is located far south of the center. That’s why it’s so cold and covered in snow.”
Marakia wrapped his wings around him after he was done speaking as if he was cold. Although Nahak didn’t live in a particularly warm climate, Marakia’s body was only a few months old; It wasn’t ready to endure sub zero weather.
Sungchul felt Marakia tremble from within the spare pocket he had made, so he spoke up.
“I will lend you some clothes.”
“I do not wear anything that is not adorned in gold and gems.”
Marakia replied assertively.
But the moment Sungchul pulled out a faded padded jacket, he immediately grabbed it to cover himself. There was no way in hell Bertelgia would just watch this happen without doing anything. When she appeared before him to stare at him like some sort of grim reaper, Marakia looked away and began making excuses.
“A true king adorns wind as his clothes and the night sky as his blanket. This little piece of fabric is well within acceptable range.”
Sungchul and company neared a familiar looking ruins of a cottage. The cottage where Tangrit, the last knight of Ruteginea, had given up his life in defense of the village was abandoned and fell into disrepair. When Bertelgia saw this, she muttered to herself.
“I wonder if Baron is doing ok.”
Sungchul heard Bertelgia’s muttering and recalled that Bertelgia had been friendly and played with a Gryphon named Baron, so he stopped.
“Should we quickly go check on Baron?”
There was no particular reason to do so. If anything, it was because it was far too early in the morning. Moments after Sunrise like right now was not a proper time to be trying to interact with ordinary people.
‘It seems like it’s currently between 5 and 6 in the morning.’
There was a need to spend a bit of time. With this in mind, Sungchul took Bertelgia and Marakia and headed towards the former Ruteginean Knight’s residence behind the cottage.
“Wow! It’s Baron!”
The Gryphon was resting not too far from Tangrit’s grave and looked as dignified as always. Although he no longer wore a harness and had complete freedom, he was defending his former owner and comrade’s grave by himself all this time. When Sungchul saw the Gryphon laying all alone, he felt an odd sensation coming from somewhere deep within him. It was a welcome feeling. It’s the feeling he had been desperately wanting but couldn’t feel recently.
‘They do say that animals are better than people.’
Sungchul approached Baron as if he was being pulled in, and placed his hands on the mane of his large and muscular neck to stroke it.
Marakia appeared to be afraid of Gryphon and was trembling.
“What’s wrong, Marakia? You can’t possibly be afraid of a Gryphon, are you?”
“It’s not a land beast nor a flight animal, just what is this?”
Marakia had never seen a Gryphon before. Bertelgia realized that Marakia was afraid and became delighted, so she rubbed up against him and antagonized him further. Marakia who was sitting inside of a pocket like a kangaroo strongly denied it.
“D…don’t be absurd. How can the King of all Life possibly be afraid of a mere beast?”
“Hoh? The self-proclaimed King of all Life seems to be trembling right now. Is this just my imagination?”
While Sungchul was watching this interaction, Sungchul recalled a tale he read out of a faded book that left a deep impression within him about a particular chinese individual; of the general who wore a golden crown upon his head as he rode Red Hare, wielding his Sky Piercer to cut down countless enemies like blades of grass.
‘There’s a saying, Lubu among men, Red Hare among horses. But since this one is a book… I guess we can make an addendum, Bertelgia among books?’
Even in the midst of Sungchul’s bemused imagination, Marakia and Bertelgia continued to bicker. Finally, Marakia had enough and raised his finger to point at Baron and spoke with a trembling voice.
“That’s a… dangerous animal.”
“Aren’t you the dangerous one?”
Bertelgia, full of pride, flew towards Baron. But once Bertelgia got close, Baron used his beak that was several dozen times bigger than Marakia’s to peck at her like he was smacking her.
“What did I say? Did I not tell you that it’s a dangerous beast?”
Marakia pointed and laughed at Bertelgia’s misfortune. But Baron who rejected Bertelgia allowed Sungchul to approach without any issue. Sungchul came to realize that Baron was far thinner than last they had met. The plentiful feather was concealing its emaciated body.
‘Now that I think of it, since he can’t fly, he can’t even hunt properly.’
Sungchul gazed at the wings that had healed badly.
A Gryphon was high maintenance and time consuming to take care of, but it might be possible to somehow fix its wing.
Sungchul spent some time with Baron before heading towards the Tower of Recluse.
In the landing strip, a great number of airships used by the many representatives of numerous nations were docked. There, the place was full of activity with countless crewmen and passengers moving about. They were largely just getting out of bed and preparing for the day while making breakfast or tea. He would have to walk through this crowd to reach the Tower of Recluse. Even though he felt uneasy, Sungchul could do nothing but hope that nothing would happen as he made his way towards the tower with a pace that was neither too fast nor too slow.
For the most part, not many paid him any attention. Everyone was busy with their own tasks and the place was full of unfamiliar faces anyhow. So the few that did look at him quickly turned to resume what they were doing.
Sungchul got the impression that the passengers this time around were behaving very differently from before.
They were all isolating themselves.
There were wooden palisades surrounding each of the ship’s anchorage and the knights and passengers strictly kept to themselves and did not interact with people outside of their faction. The place seemed full of invisible borders and tension.
This was a strange experience for Sungchul. Although they had come from different countries, they were all members of the large organization called the World Parliament. Being so evidently divided was unsettling.
‘Did something happen?’
Sungchul’s deduction became evidently certain once he reached the empty land between the end of the airstrip and Toporo Village. A knight’s corpse was left abandoned, nailed to a tree.
It was in such a terrible state that even Bertelgia couldn’t help but utter a sound in dismay. THe murderer, or perhaps a whole mob of murderers didn’t stop at simply killing the knight, but they had completely ruined the body. The intestines were spilled out of the open stomach and splayed onto the floor at some length.
Sungchul lightly smacked Marakia who was drooling before he began to examine the corpse. Although it had grown cold due to cold weather, it didn’t seem like it was older than even half a day. It was likely that this knight was murdered during the night.
Sungchul could tell right away at a glance with the emblems on the Knight’s armor that this knight had come from none other than the Human Empire, but this is not where his surprise ended. Even though it was obvious that a knight of the Human Empire had been slain, none of the knights of the various countries did anything about it.
“And another one.”
“This must be the third one this month.”
They were already at the scene watching from afar and whispering to each other, they took no action to recover the body nor alert the event to the Empire. The only one who did anything was a Knight who stood far away, and he gathered his hands to yell words of caution to Sungchul.
“Oy, bumpkin. It would be in your best interest to leave that corpse alone. You might get framed by some Imperial officer!”
The knights of other nations for some reason began to laugh among themselves. This was less of an incident and more of a happening, but Sungchul began to feel a premonition.
[Home of hospitality and good will, Toporo]
Sungchul passed the familiar billboard and entered Toporo village. Although the soft aroma of freshly baked bread pleasantly ticked his nose, the image Sungchul had for this village could not possibly be worse.
This was the entirety of Sungchul’s thoughts on the people of this village. Few of the villagers recognized Sungchul and turned pale in horror as they began to talk amongst themselves.
“E…Enemy of the world!”
“He came back!”
The bell of the village being rung was foregone conclusion, and the few town guards came running to stand in Sungchul’s way.
“Huhuhu. I’ve been feeling a little peckish anyway, mind if I handle this?”
Marakia laughed as he threw aside his padded jacket and declared with confidence. The people of the village were shocked to see what the padded jacket was concealing.
“That… what is that bird?”
“Is that a crow? It’s so small but it looks really unholy!”
Enemy of the World was bad enough, but now he had brought a strange monster along as well. Sungchul glared at the town guard who blocked his way and said a single word.
His single utterance, which was mixed with subtle annoyance, was instantly effective. The already-imcompetent guards scattered like chaff in the wind. Some even back paddled too fast and fell on his behind.
But it seemed as though some members of the guards believed something could be done, as two knights who had been drinking and wasting away at the village tavern were being led by the villagers towards where Sungchul was standing.
Although Sungchul did not recognize them, the knights recognized his face at a glance and fled the scene with utmost haste like the guards and the villagers before them.
‘I guess my face is starting to become known.’
There was almost no one who recognized him in the past, but many people came to see his face during the infiltration of the Golden Palace. He suspected that a portrait of his likeness was distributed and hung up in all corners of the world.
All of that aside, there was now no one who stood in his way to the tower. Sungchul carried his passengers on his person as he walked to the tower standing peacefully in the middle of a mirror-like pristine lake.
“Hmm. is this the Tower of Recluse? Judging purely from the aesthetics, it seems decently elegant.”
Marakia commented on the tower.
“Is this different from the dead Tree of LIfe that you knew of?”
Sungchul asked in response. Marakia blinked his large beady eyes.
“There is no way it could be similar. Dead as it may be, a dead Tree of Life is still a Tree of Life in the end. The dead Tree of Life was said to tower all the way into the heavens and touch the sky. In comparison, that tower… it’s meager.”
That made Sungchul think.
‘Does the location of the object that fulfills the job of the Scroll of Calamity change from era to era?’
Questions about the objects connected to the Calamities that aren’t strictly about the Calamities, it was the first time he had become curious about such things.He had always focused on the divine Calamity itself, and everything else fell to the wayside as incidental and secondary. But as he progressed through solving the Calamities he met those who lived in previous eras, the mysterious Letter of God, and especially the stories of Desfort, expanded Sungchul’s view beyond just simply the Calamity and onto other things connected to it.
Until now, Sungchul had been moving forward with the objective of saving Ryze Himerr’s daughter. But now that the goal had been achieved, it was inevitable that Sungchul’s range of interest would expand.
‘But that Tower of Recluse was most definitely made by God… or at least something with divine power.’
With each step Sungchul took on the bridge leading to the Tower of Recluse, he watched the tower grow larger and larger as he drew closer.
Soon, a gray robed hermit appeared before Sungchul. He immediately recognized Sungchul at first glance and fled back into the tower.
The master of the tower, Porypyrius, may have given Sungchul his permission to come and go as he pleased, but he was still a subject of great fear to the other hermits of the tower.
The door remained closed for a few moments before it opened again and a familiar person came out. Beneath the turban moving with the wind, a fiery red colored hair and reptilian eyes became visible to him.
Half Dragon hermit Kha’nes.
She came out to greet him.