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Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
After the welcoming ceremony on the airship platform, it was followed by a welcoming banquet in the Palace of the Golden Roses. The king and nobility of the ancient kingdom gathered to enjoy food as well as wine in the Aetos Hall. The hall was decorated with crystal lamps and gold-plated tapestries. They drank toast after toast, passionately and carefully, building rapport with the dignitaries who could bring more benefits to them. At the same time, every noble kept an eye on the Royal Valets wearing blue and red uniforms. They were standing at the end of the long hall. Whenever the Royal Valet read out a family name, there would be at least one noble coming up to the stage and paying respects to the princess as well as the knights who had won the battle. They raised their glasses above their heads, again and again, tirelessly reciting all of Veronica’s titles. They grinned from ear to ear, as though they were truly happy for the knight princess’ safe return.
People seemed to have forgotten the defeat in the western front. And no one had ever mentioned about the total wipeout of the defenses in the Shadowy Forest. The nobles used the word “triumph” to describe today’s grand occasion. Though the feats of leading the knights through the realm of Chaos, bringing back the vital frontline information from the dark side and helping the Fort West to fight off the army of the Chaos were indeed commendable, no one knew if this glory was what the knight princess wanted.
From the very start, Hao Ren did not like this seemingly lively but virtually meaningless banquet. So after a while, he excused himself and went outside the hall to catch some fresh air. Rudolph III thought that the guardian from a millennium ago was not used to this unfamiliar environment, so they readily let him be. The banquet was initially meant to welcome Veronica and the knights while the appearance of the ancient guardian was something unexpected. In that sense, the King had been worried that he might unwittingly slight the ancient guardian. But since Hao Ren was excusing himself, the king was happy to accept.
Hao Ren closed the silver-embedded oak door of the Aetos Hall behind him, and the surroundings instantly quieted down. With the palace guards showing the direction, Hao Ren had come to the terrace outside and took a deep breath of the clean air of the land of Order. White City was located in the middle of the Great Plains. The forest in the south was blocking the hot and humid air, while the mountains in the north were a natural barrier against the cold winds, making the climate in the hinterland pleasant. Tonight, the breeze was a bit cold but carried the right amount of humidity; it was still refreshing.
Bustling with light and people, White City probably had the most vibrant nightlife of the entire continent. There was still a continuous display of fireworks in the city as if the celebrations during the day had not ended. Hao Ren’s eyes fell on the white stone columns beside him. These ancient elf-style pillars supported a ring of ring beam above the terrace, surrounded by blooming roses and some unknown alien plants. The celebratory sights and the exquisite and luxurious decorations made a stark contrast to their experiences in the realm of Chaos.
It was hard to imagine that this world had been in an endless war that had raged on 10,000 years. Collow was different from all the “doomsday” worlds that he had ever seen. And the difference was the befuddled life of its people. But when considering what the old knight Morian said on the airship, Hao Ren began to understand why.
Footsteps were coming from behind.
Hao Ren turned his head and saw Veronica in purple hair. She had changed her battered knight armor into a gorgeous light blue princess dress. Even her hair had been meticulously combed and set into a hairstyle that was favorite among the noble ladies. The princess looked different. But when she strode like a colossal toward him, Hao Ren knew that nothing had changed. The gorgeous long dress had only become a cumbersome rag hanging down her body.
“Your Venerable Guardian.” Veronica came up to Hao Ren, just like the way when she was in her knight costume. “Why are you here alone?”
“It’s a bit stuffy inside,” Hao Ren smiled. “Want to get some fresh air. You?”
“Disgusted.” Veronica made an exaggerated face. “I have waited for them to finish their flatters finally and found a chance to slip out. This damn dress is driving me crazy. I can’t wrap my brain around how sister could walk in those dresses every day—it is more difficult to wear than the scale armor of the Snow Guards.”
Hao Ren, of course, knew the temper of the princess. So far, he had not met a more ‘normal’ princess. So she shrugged it off. “It seems that you do not like the nobles.”
“They said that it was a triumphant return.” Veronica’s brows knit together. “But I know what happened at the border. An entire legion was almost delisted. I heard that the remaining soldiers had been reorganized, but their number was not even enough to form two brigades. It’s a defeat.”
“In the war with the Chaos, as long as you come back alive, you win. And when you come back you have not let the Chaos cross the Wall of Order barrier; it is a big victory.” Hao Ren recalled what Sir Morian had said to him and retold the adage, “Staying alive is triumphant—don’t you people say that?”
“I know,” Veronica said with a sigh. “And I also know that the nobles are not stupid. Of course, they know what happened and what they are doing. It is their job. They must maintain an all-is-well atmosphere to convince the people that our kingdom is still strong. Even if the wall collapses one day, they have a responsibility to ensure that people get to enjoy their last meal before they die. Just like the Kordian saying: wine is better to drink it in the stomach than to sprinkle it on the ground.”
“It makes a lot of sense.” Hao Ren smiled.
Veronica shrugged. “Yes, it makes sense. Unfortunately, I don’t like it. I feel that I am more like a soldier. It is only worth celebrating when the soldiers win, not when fleeing.”
“It’s not like what the princess should say.”
“You sound like my father.” Veronica turned her head and looked at the starless night sky. “But it is no surprise; you are a 1000-year-old ancient after all.”
Hao Ren could not help coughing violently.
Taking a few sheets of paper out from the dimensional pocket and handing them to Veronica, Hao Ren said, “I have talked to your father. He agreed to mobilize the power of the kingdom to help me find my friend. He said I need to give you the information. Here is it.”
Veronica took the papers in her hands, curious as to who his old friend was. But she knew that the friend of the ancient guardian must naturally be another guardian—a warrior who could survive from the ancient time would not be small potatoes. If there were such a great recluse in the kingdom, it would be great news if the ancient guardian could help arrange a meeting with the hermit.
However, when Veronica saw what was on the papers, she froze.
It was the beautiful portraits of someone. It was not the exquisiteness of the pictures that was unusual, the gadgets that the alchemists made could print a similar thing. But the people on the portraits had Veronica scratching her head in bewilderment. The first piece of paper was the portrait of a girl with short black hair, bright smile, sitting on the sofa eating a melon. There was entirely no ‘ancient warrior’-kind of look on the girl, but more like an eccentric girl next door. The second portrait was still the same person, but with long silver hair, a pair of triangular wolf ears, and a big furry tail. She seemed to be standing in a wilderness, staring at the moon in the sky with an out of this world look.
If the changes in the second portrait were acceptable, then the third one was utterly ridiculous.
It was a huge wolf. Maybe a dog—because Veronica had never seen a wolf that could smile like that.
Though it sounded a bit rude, Veronica had indeed recognized the silly face from a canine creature.
“These are…” The princess raised looked up at Hao Ren.
“The three portraits are of the same person. I have no idea what image she would appear before you, so have listed all three of them. Oh, right, there is a lack of reference in the third picture. The big white dog… I mean the wolf is roughly equivalent to the height from here to the small balcony below.”
Veronica was stunned. “Three forms?”
She then took a gander at the balcony below. “That tall?”
“Well.” Hao Ren nodded. “She appears in a different form when facing a different enemy, could exert ten times her usual strength. But she can communicate with others only in the first two forms.”
“Does she lose her sense when she is in the third form?” Veronica had a complicated expression, and she had somehow accepted the logic of this form-shifting theory. “She would completely turn into a beast?” she asked.
Hao Ren tried to make himself look serious. “Not losing her senses. She could not speak when she is in the third form, where she would be mostly barking. You better find a dog trainer to talk with her to prevent misunderstanding. An entire group of knights might not be her match.”
“Was she a guardian beast during the ancient time?” Veronica mumbled to herself. Without waiting for Hao Ren to speak, she continued. “The wonder of an ancient secret technique.”
Hao Ren was dumbstruck.
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