Chapter 41: Death of The Poet (6)
A well sat solitarily in the middle of the hall, bathed in the cold moonlight.
The moonlight shined through a glassless window in the shape of a flower on the dome roof.
The pure white roses poked out from the well, all the way up till they pierced through the window yet still left a gap for the moonlight to come through. As the window directly faced the well’s opening, the moonlight looked like a stage spotlight that singly illuminated the well, waiting for the audience to explore the darkness behind.
Tang Cuo and Jin Cheng walked to the well, looked in together and finally saw water for the first time in this Kingdom Hidden In The Moonlight.
The roses grew so deep in the water that their roots couldn’t be seen.
The entwining vines were full of dangerously sharp thorns, but they were also packed with blooming roses in the purest shade of white. The rose stems were rather fragile, making it hard to imagine that these were the same Chinese roses that spread all over the city.
Tang Cuo was very sure that these were the only roots of all the roses in the Kingdom Hidden In The Moonlight.
He could feel it.
“There’s no trigger. It seems that something else still needs to be done.” Jin Cheng sensibly didn’t try to touch the roses. He looked at Tang Cuo: “For example ― we need to break the magic.”
Tang Cuo understood, and took out the small golden scissors.
These Chinese roses were the Boss, and if they went berserk, they could even snap off Jin Cheng’s arrows. It was obvious why the system gave them a pair of golden scissors. And if Lancelot’s wish was to bring the most beautiful flower back to the Kingdom Hidden In The Moonlight, Tang Cuo of course couldn’t destroy them.
After weighing his choices, Tang Cuo picked the rose closest to him and cut it off with utter care.
With a soft “thud”, the Chinese rose fell on Tang Cuo’s palm. There was no bleeding at the spot where it was cut, and the vines also stayed still. Just when the two of them thought that nothing would happen, the Well of Time suddenly rippled.
They looked into the well together to find the water surface where the vines grew from was shining dazzlingly. Tang Cuo quickly stretched out a hand to cover, and after a few seconds of blindness, a brisk laughter and a faint noise of a bazaar suddenly rang in his ear.
He subconsciously followed the sound and finally saw some lights and shadows in front of him.
“Hey, Little Jack, did you bring your harp? Today is the festival, isn’t it a good time to perform?!”
“Beautiful Cecilia, you are such a kind girl, thank you for your bread. Old John is lying in bed again today. We went out in a hurry because we were afraid that we might miss the time to fetch the water, but we didn’t forget our breakfast.”
“Toke! Toke! Have you prepared the fireworks?!”
“I heard that Mr. Gilbert will return on the day of the Flower Festival. I think the hair accessory that I asked of him must be here. If my sister receives this gift, she will be the happiest girl at the Flower Festival. “
Many different dialogues and cheerful tones filled Tang Cuo’s surroundings. He stood there unstirred, watching the blurry lights and shadows in front of him turning into both familiar and unfamiliar faces, as though all of this came from a revolving lantern.
Cecilia was a beautiful girl with blond hair in a long dress.
Little Jack was the same as he was in the photo, but more energetic.
Toke looked like he had drunk until intoxicated. No wonder he forgot where he put the key to his toy trunk.
The blind Billy was still sitting in the doorway, eternally looking at the glass lamps on the street.
The Flower Festival on September 1st, 1228 of the Sicilit continental calendar was clearly unfolding before Tang Cuo.
He didn’t try to touch anything, nor did he call anyone’s name. Those shadows ran past him or simply passed through him like a fog, which meant that all of them were only phantoms.
He also had no idea where Jin Cheng was.
After a long, long time, cracks suddenly appeared before Tang Cuo’s eyes like a glass mirror. Amid loud cracking sounds, they became larger and scattered across the entire surface.
Then the whole thing broke into thousands of shards.
Reality had come back to him.
It was still the empty hall with the Well of Time standing there alone, with the pure white roses still blooming gloriously, but a coffin had emerged beside the ancient well.
The coffin lay close to the opening of the well. Someone was sitting next to the coffin with his eyes closed. He was wearing a broken knight armour, with long silver hair and a few drops of blood on his handsome face. His complexion was bright, as though he was still alive.
A pure white rose bloomed from his heart.
Not from the well.
The entire hall was a huge magic formation, and the golden arrays slowly appeared with every step that Tang Cuo took. The center of the magic formation was this well.
Jin Cheng seemed to have come a second earlier than Tang Cuo. He stood at the side of the coffin and asked: “Who do you think he is?”
With Lancelot’s [Nightingale] on his hand, the moment Tang Cuo laid eyes on that unfamiliar face, an indescribable sorrow engulfed his heart.
He looked at the coffin again. In the coffin, Lancelot lay quietly, a small harp with broken strings resting beside him.
Death of The Poet.
And another next to it. Death of The Knight.
“It’s a Chinese rose. There’s also a Chinese rose crest on his chest.” Jin Cheng showed a rarely seen serious expression. He knelt down and looked carefully at the crest, making sure that it wasn’t a common rose but a Chinese rose.
This Chinese rose represented Theodore, so it bloomed from his heart.
He was the Duke of the Kingdom of Hundred Flowers, so it wasn’t surprising that the family crest was a flower.
Tang Cuo was silent. His mind had been affected, and the indescribable sorrow inside made it difficult for him to think clearly. Lancelot’s wish was to bring the most beautiful flower in the world back to the Kingdom Hidden In The Moonlight. Now that the flower was blooming, his wish had been fulfilled.
So Theodore brought Lancelot’s body back to help him fulfill his lifelong wish?
But who killed them?
Did Lancelot turn up here after he died, or did he come back to stop the Rose Sect’s greed? [T/N: To elaborate, for the Rose Sect, the ‘Rose’ here refers to the common rose. Theodore’s crest has a Chinese rose pattern, while the Rose Sect’s crest has a common rose pattern.]
As those complicated thoughts came over him, Tang Cuo tried hard to suppress the despair from within, and he slowly moved his eyes to the sword in Theodore’s hands. It was a simple-looking knight sword with a black hilt and silver blade.
As though possessed by some other being, Tang Cuo bent over and picked up the sword. The moment he held it, a wave of energy pierced through his palm, cleansing his whole body and making him almost unable to stand.
Jin Cheng quickly held his arm and said in a low voice: “What’s wrong?”
Tang Cuo shook his head. The sorrow in his heart and this scouring energy made him unable to not lean against Jin Cheng, but his eyes were still fixed on Theodore.
In the end, who is the protagonist of this dungeon?
At first Tang Cuo thought it was Lancelot, but now he felt it should be Theodore.
The next second, the magic formation shimmered with light. Theodore and Lancelot’s flesh and blood began to turn into spots of light and dispersed, as though they were just dust and sand blown by the wind, and at the same time they looked like fireflies under a moonlit night. Gradually, only the scarred skeletons remained.
The flow of time had come back.
The whole palace was now covered in dust while the glassless window above their heads was scathed with the winds and the rains. Even the Well of Time itself was shrouded with moss. The only thing that remained unchanged was the pure white roses that entwined with the skeletons. They embraced the old coffin and grew all the way up, poking through the window and filling the entire city.
“Let’s go out and have a look.” Tang Cuo took a breath and said with absolute resolution in his eyes.
Jin Cheng wanted him to sit down and rest, but seeing his eyes, he didn’t say anything. They walked out of the palace together. As the run-down gate opened again, lots of dust came falling down, and there were even cobwebs scattering around.
The two of them couldn’t rush, because everything in front had them in awe. Their footsteps froze in place and they didn’t move for a while.
All over the ground were skeletons.
The Flower Festival on September 1st, 1228 of the Sicilit continental calendar was originally a day of celebration for the whole kingdom. Some people prepared fireworks, some put on beautiful dresses, some waited for letters from afar and some were eager to give their sister a hair accessory.
The festival ribbons were still hanging on the trees, but the trees were now withered and people were dead. The food stalls along the street were desolate and the musical instruments in the corners were also covered with a thick layer of ash.
It took a long time for Tang Cuo and Jin Cheng to start moving again. They slowly walked past the skeletons that were stacked on top of each other or lying randomly at any spots. Sometimes they would stop and take a look, picking up the items that lay beside the skeletons.
This might be blind Billy’s cane.
This might be Cecilia’s lacy headband.
If those 99 side missions didn’t happen, Tang Cuo thought, my footsteps wouldn’t hesitate like this.
Tang Cuo and Jin Cheng walked for an hour and a half from the palace in the center of the city to the tower in the west. The tower had fallen, and the bronze bell hanging on the spire was lying atop the ruins, covered in green rust.
The roses climbed over the ruins and embraced the bronze bell. It was a crumbling yet strangely beautiful scene.
Arriving in front of Mr. Gilbert’s carriage, they found a skeleton lying halfway through the carriage door, with a sword stuck in between its ribs. Jin Cheng drew the sword out and stroked the crest of an inverted pentagram with a rose in the middle that was carved on the sword hilt, a cold light flashing in his eyes.
The closer they walked to the city wall, the more golden sand was found in the city. The roses protected the city, but after all, they couldn’t shield it entirely from the wind. At this time, it was unknown how long had passed since 1228. Maybe a hundred years later, the Kingdom Hidden In The Moonlight would be completely buried in the golden sand, and even the roses would no longer exist. .
The moment they climbed up the city wall, Tang Cuo and Jin Cheng looked back at this city in the desert, and the system announcement finally came again.
“Travellers from a faraway land.”
“When you reach the end of time, when you pick up the sword that symbolises courage and justice, please always keep your blood hot and your faith strong. Don’t forget where you come from.”
“Now let’s go back to the beginning of everything.”
“Congratulations to the players for successfully completing the first round of the serial mission [Kingdom Hidden In The Moonlight]: Death of the Poet. Difficulty: Normal, No. of completed missions: 100, Rating: A, Character points to be earned: 2.”
“For personal rewards, please check the system panel by yourselves.”
“Welcome back to Yong Ye City!”
After the familiar darkness, Tang Cuo returned to the room in East Cross Street.
This time he didn’t rush to check the rewards. He sat in the room for a long time, waiting for the sorrow in his heart to slowly fade, then he opened the system panel.
There were many grids that popped up this time, but most of them were rewards from the side missions. The items marked were mission items that couldn’t be used under other conditions.
In addition to these, there were some rewards that wouldn’t restrict the conditions of use.
[A white Chinese rose]
Description: Theodore’s rose. Contains an extremely high amount of time magic energy.
[Sword of Judgment]
Description: The sword of Theodore, Duke of the Kingdom of Hundred Flowers, with the blessing of the 13th King of Elves Aimee. An enchanted weapon (damaged). Legend has it that when the Holy Light of Judgment shines on Earth, all evil will be exposed.
Both items were of remarkably high quality, but one was temporarily unusable material and the other was damaged. Tang Cuo wasn’t sure how much power the damaged [Sword of Judgment] could exert, but compared to the goblin’s blade, a legendary weapon should be superior.
Let’s not talk about whether the sword could be repaired. It would be good enough to be able to swing it, and he could use it to bluff others too.
In addition, there were magic skills such as ‘Fireball’, which gave Tang Cuo the title of ‘Magic Apprentice’. These skills all came with an indication of proficiency, which should be the key to skill upgrading.
Going back to the Character panel, with this mission’s rewards, Tang Cuo had a total of 16 points.
Once he had decided on his future combat style, Tang Cuo no longer wanted to keep his points idle. He added 10 points to his Strength and 4 points to his Intelligence, while his Charm value was ignored for now. The remaining 2 points were reserved for buying potions, just in case.
After he was done, Jin Cheng came over, holding the harp with broken strings in his arms. If Tang Cuo’s memory wasn’t fooling him, this harp should come from Lancelot’s coffin.
Tang Cuo: “You took it?”
Jin Cheng: “What kind of man do you actually think I am?”
Tang Cuo: “A Jin Cheng kind of man.”
Jin Cheng: “Again?”
What kind of man was Jin Cheng?
A thief never came home empty-handed, so a Jin Cheng similarly went all out.
Tang Cuo didn’t want to discuss with him about this topic for fear of blowing up a war, so he took out a bundle of [Spider Silk] and put it on the table: “Try it. It’s a reward from the dungeon [Conquering Demon City].”
Jin Cheng raised his eyebrows, fully aware that Tang Cuo wanted to change the subject, but this [Spider Silk] really caught his attention. High-quality [Spider Silk] might be able to repair the strings.
“This little harp is a reward from the mission.” Jin Cheng conveniently took the [Spider Silk] and said: “The situation is getting interesting now. You have Theodore’s sword, I have Lancelot’s harp, do you want to guess what the second round will be?”
Tang Cuo: “Role-playing. Two-player mode, back to where everything started. Their first encounter.”
Jin Cheng smiled, then he leaned against the window and looked down: “Now it seems that the first round is just an introduction, as long as we’re careful enough, there’ll be no significant challenge. But the next round will open a new map. Role-playing isn’t easy to do, once we deviate from the plot, there will be punishments. Injuries, if we’re lucky, or death, if we’re unlucky. “
Don measures: “What kind of punishment?”
Jin Cheng: “Like a lightning strike.”
Tang Cuo: “…”
Jin Cheng felt a bit sad that Tang Cuo wasn’t made to be Lancelot. He wanted to hear the little bastard sing. He heard that Tang Cuo’s voice was awful, like singing from Hell that could be lethal.
“Let me tell you a secret.”
“I happened to enter a role-playing dungeon with Leng Miao before. I was a hero and he was a beauty.”
Now I no longer have to wonder why Miao Miao wants you dead.
Tang Cuo became even more determined to not let Jin Cheng see his Survival Assessment Report. After that, he thought of another issue: “We were in the dungeon for so many days, have those people come out of prison yet?”
Jin Cheng spread his hands: “Most people are coming out, so let’s stay at East Cross Street and continue the serial mission. I don’t have another movement to command laws.”
As his words fell, Jin Cheng sent a signal flare out of the window.
Tang Cuo’s eyelids twitched: “What are you doing?”
Jin Cheng smiled: “I made a deal with the owner of the Ruby Bar. When someone gets out of prison, he will note them down and compile a list. Shouldn’t I tell him that I’m back now? So that he can send the list to me.”
Tang Cuo had nothing to say.
The instructor had just said that he wouldn’t go looking for death and honestly stay in East Cross Street, then he turned around and blatantly told the enemies that he was back. As though he feared that the whole world wouldn’t know.
What a daredevil.
Translator and reviewer at Strictly Bromance blog. In essence, she lives to indulge in plot-driven stories sprinkled with camaraderie and slow-burn drama-free romance, especially more so if they belong to adventure, mystery or supernatural genre. A trope that she always thirsts after: “Comrades who go through life and death together”.