Chapter 1 The Well of the Ultimate
Translator:Nyoi-Bo StudioEditor:Nyoi-Bo Studio
In the dead of night, rain was pouring from the sky.
A man wrapped in a large coat held up his lantern in the dark street.
The rain poured down on his long coat relentlessly, with a cold, insatiable drive chilling him to the bone and soul.
The cold air frosted the lantern, making the light dimmer than it already was. In the dim yellow light, the path a few feet ahead was visible to him, but anything further along faded into pitch blackness in the rain.
The surroundings were distorted by the rain and darkness. Only when lightning struck could the towering castle be revealed. Stone statues of beasts covered in green moss sat on the rainspout, rainwater streaming out from their mouths.
When the lantern was held up, the man’s face was also faintly illuminated.
He was an old looking man with emerald eyes and a silver beard.
There was a sense of abnormality in the air. A twisted weirdness lurked in the rain falling to the ground, in the lightning that cracked through the clouds, and in the deep breaths that the old man let out.
There was not a single sound anywhere!
In this world of silence, even the realness of breaths and heartbeats were fading as time passed. Not even a coward would fear this world, because all fear had already been frozen by the dead silence.
Gaius had been here many times before, but each time, he felt ruined city was assimilating him, making him as cold as the city–turning him into a walking corpse.
This dead silence may not even be a good place for a ghost to live.
When he raised his head to take a deep breath, he could feel all the invisible beings that filled the city. They were the “aether” that roamed the atmosphere and the earth. Aether resonated within his internal organs, and harshly pulled away all existing sound.
When he looked down, he could see the rain water on the ground flowing with aether. Among the waves and streams, the aether spread out beautifully like Eastern silk laid before his feet, flowing to the end of the darkness.
This was a gorgeous, extravagant cage.
Sound was devoured in this city by the enchantment, a magical force field. Aether slept here eternally. Not even the musicians that understood the heavens and earth could communicate with it–this was the Wyrmrest Enchantment.
In the silence, Gaius raised his head suddenly. He felt a presence approaching. The darkness thickened.
Through the twisted screen of rain, the darkness looked as if it were a living being. It tried to tear itself apart, struggling with its teeth and claws, wanting to break free, wanting to get the thing out.
And so the darkness was separated.
In this silence, the rain and the wind blew wildly. Gray shadows emerged from the darkness. The color was like boiled lime, or the sharp edges and corners of a marble.
There had been thirty-one of them when they set off but only nine came back, their gray robes almost completely covered with blood. The leader staggered, his hands holding a slender object. It was wrapped in a dirty white cloth, supporting his body so he did not fall.
When Gaius saw him, he could not help but take a step back.
Half of his face was charred. The wound had not yet healed, white and clammy from the rain. Water dripped from the side of his face–even the droplets had a faint tint of blood.
“Hein?” he mumbled in dismay, but suddenly realized that he could not make any sound.
Hein made an effort to pull the corner of his mouth up, as if he were smiling. This man was once known to have the face of an angel, but now it was as hideous as the Asura in hell.
There was no time for Gaius to say anything. He turned in a rush to save time, and pushed open the door of the fortress.
For a moment, he watched behind Hein carefully.
Behind Hein, the grey friars stood silently, carrying something large and heavy. The object they carried was wrapped in layers of white cloth, revealing only a sharp edge.
Gaius felt a sting in his eyes, and did not dare look again.
The door closed silently, devouring the trail of the group.
Lightning flashed in the clouds and on the fort. The stone beasts stared at the sky, their grinning mouths almost sneering.
The creeping wind blew from the darkness as if it were walking into the Underworld.
They walked down as if there was no end.
The torch on the wall illuminated the long corridor. Gaius led the way in the front. The heavy copper keys shook at his waist but made no sound when they collided.
As the key twisted, the sixth black iron door opened. Every time, Gaius could feel the bronze hub in friction with the huge structure behind the door. There was a violent tremble, like a key going into his own body, attempting to completely destroy his weary bones.
With every step he took, he could not help but want to look back at the thing Hein carried. That thing was calling to him, telling him to turn around quickly, to look carefully, and imprint its image into his eyes.
Immersed by the object’s call, his mind was shaken up. It was like an invisible hand was pulling at his soul from within his body, softly urging, “Turn around.”
The voice said, “Come and turn around quick. Look at me. Look at me now. Look at me!”
He trembled as the silent murmur summoning him spoke relentlessly, echoing in his ears!
He felt a hand on his shoulders, calming down his wildly beating heart. He was sober, but felt himself soaked with cold sweat.
It was not until now that he realized he had been standing in front of the last door for a long time, immersed in a hidden temptation, unable to extricate from it.
That thing had magic!
Gaius turned and tried to smile, but Hein just took his hand off him, and gestured him to move on.
When the last key was inserted into the keyhole, Gaius felt so tired that he thought he was about to die.
The gate, three meters thick, opened with a tremor as the machine twisted. The torch was lit, and the darkness dissipated. Cold wind blew in from behind the door, with a pungent and hot scent enough to make one dizzy.
Yet Gaius was slightly relieved. He was finally about to complete his mission, just like the others.
He looked up at the inscription on the gates: The Well of the Ultimate.
Behind the mighty iron gate was the abyss.
In the darkness, the light rose from the abyss, swung, and illuminated their pale faces.
According to legends of the East, at the end of the ocean, there is a whirlpool called the Ultimate. It is the remains of the last world after its demise, representing death. The fallen stars and the dead waters converged in the whirlpool, into the endless darkness, never to be recovered again.
But if only darkness existed within the Ultimate, where did this light come from? It seemed able to burn the world.
Blazing light burned in the black abyss.
Like silver and gold melted together, or hot copper and hot iron rolling in the kettle, the light converged into a whirlpool, forever twisting. The silver and gold light lit up every one of their faces.
Looking into it for a long time, they began to feel dizzy, but along with the dizziness was an urge to lose themselves to the light and jump into the whirlpool.
This was the Well of the Ultimate, the end of the world–where all life withered.
Even the aether would be killed here.
Elements with divine power floated within the Ultimate, like spilt ashes. But before they died, they converged together, like molten iron boiling with its steam rushing up to the air, into a swirl of pain.
Under the whirlpool was death.
“We’re finally here,” Gaius silently whispered and looked back again at Hein, but saw amusement and fear flashing in his eyes.
There was suddenly a faint sound in the dead silence.
The sound itself was very subtle, but in this terrible silence, it was very clear. It roared, surging like a tide. It spread through the air, creating layers of ripples.
On the shoulders of the friars in gray, under the layers, that thing was…breathing!
Gaius and Hein’s faces froze in shock. They turned back, only to see the following scene–among the injured friars in gray, one friar had suddenly collapsed and slumped to the ground.
Just a swift moment beneath the ripples and his face had been crushed. His body collapsed to the floor like falling gravel. There was no blood on the ground because all the blood had vaporized and merged into the breathing sound!
Thus, the breathing sounds became a raging tsunami!
A sharp shriek broke out from the breathing like metals screeching against each other. It was a high-pitched scream, yet tender as well. Their eardrums were shattering but, at the same time, they felt that someone was singing.
Ode to this world!
At first it was just faint tremors, but now it had turned into a roar!
It was like an ax chopping down wood, or dragon scales scraping. The stars fell and the earth broke. The endless screams spread, condensing into one huge ripple trying to break apart the shackles that restricted it.
The ground shook tremendously while gusts of air started to swirl up from the ground.
The Wyrmrest Enchantment had broken!
Light rolled in the deep abyss within the Well of the Ultimate.
The flowing iron whirlpool suddenly created a huge burst!
The hot silver fluid was boiling again! A huge amount of bubbles rose like fog coming off of a lake’s surface, accompanied by a wild wind that filled the air, creating ripples in the sharp screech.
In the presence of the screeching noise, the human body would be swept up like a fallen leaf and slammed against the wall. Their lungs were stuffed with iron sand and unable to breathe. The power was going to press them into the stone wall and crush their flesh and bones!
Then, the layers of cloth were torn.
In a spinning illusion, Gaius felt his mind go blank, but he finally saw that thing’s shape. It was a steel coffin!
On the cross-shaped coffin, layers of chains were trembling in unrest. As it landed with a thud, the chains fell apart. The iron and steel were completely vaporized by the power of the heat!
The iron coffin shook so forcefully that the copper spikes nailed in the coffin popped out. They feared the monster inside and wanted to flee. Fine cracks emerged at the top, growing like a living creature, spreading quickly.
The screech was growing even more high-pitched!
Screams, like the hands of demons, turned the friars into bloody flesh slapped onto the wall one by one. But the terrifying pressure bounced off Hein’s body.
When Hein looked up, his eyes flashed with a golden fire.
As if the Gods had taken over his body, he broke the bond and crawled toward the iron coffin with incredible speed as if he was falling into the Ultimate.
He whispered something, and suddenly pressed his hands directly onto the iron coffin!
After a moment the screech disappeared.
The momentary silence seemed to last forever, but then the screech broke out a thousand times stronger!
The terrible tremor took a physical shape and drove from his arm into his body.
The skin on his arms cracked, blood splashed out but vaporized in the twisted wind. Some blood got into the gap in the iron coffin, disappearing without a trace.
First his palm, then his arm, and then the last half of the body; Hein’s body withered quickly. He began to dry out, and his life was about to be exhausted as his blood was drawn from him! He struggled to look back at Gaius. His lips opened and closed, wanting to shout something.
Looking down, he saw that the slender parcel had rolled down beside him. It was what Hein had carried all the way back. With all the shock and tumbling it had endured, its covering had been removed, revealing the holy object inside.
Like a spear made with raw iron materials, it was rough and wild. The blade was dull but stained with layers of blood. In the screeches, its front blade lit up, buzzing and releasing a burning light.
The light was so hot that it cracked the shackles restraining Gaius.
He used all his power to bend down, and clenched the spear.
For a moment, he felt an infinite power rush into his body, and along with it he gained courage. The frightening roar disappeared. His ears could only hear his heart beating like rolling thunder.
Divine power filled his body, boiling his blood. His heart almost burst, and he was obsessed with the feeling–he wanted to release it all.
If iron was in front of him, he would break it. If a dragon was in front of him, he would drive a spear right through it. If his enemies were in front of him, he would tear them to their very last bone. If a God stood before him…
His consciousness was dominated by this power. He stood up involuntarily, and moved forward seven steps, his footsteps printing into the stone beneath him.
Now he was standing in front of the enemy.
The iron coffin shook endlessly.
He glared at the cracks on the iron coffin, glared at the darkness within. His hands clenched the spear, and he gathered all his strength and courage. He stabbed the coffin with the spear!
There was a sound like a bubble bursting.
As if the iron coffin had been just a phantom, the spear drove down effortlessly between the cracks, piercing the darkness, stabbing all the way through to the other end.
As if it was an illusion, he heard a sad cry, like the sorrow of a giant dragon before falling to its death.
Within the sorrowful cry, the screeching stopped abruptly and the dancing and sparkling aether suddenly stilled. Then the cry condensed, turned into a raging storm and dropped back into the deep Ultimate.
Silence swept back, and the iron coffin once again fell into stillness.
The power that had filled him disappeared. Gaius stumbled back to help Hein up. This burly man had now withered into a baby. Broken at the touch, he turned to ashes. Only his head remained and fell to the ground, his withered eyes staring at Gaius.
He had died.
Gaius closed his eyes and turned to the iron coffin.
Like a child trying to reach a tall tree, the old man struggled to push the iron coffin, squeezing every drop of strength out of his bones. Little by little, he moved it towards the deeper Ultimate.
Exhausting his last bit of power, he pushed it into the boiling iron flow of the Ultimate’s whirlpool!
As the iron coffin fell, it rolled through the air and was immersed in the whirlpool.
The thick sword still deeply penetrated in the iron coffin sank to death along with it.
In its last moments, he saw the horrifying totem engraved on the coffin.
As if it had walked straight out of a nightmare, the totem had a face made of brass and a body of black iron. It had three skulls, with traces of birds, beasts, and humans. It was bulky and hideous, with countless arms holding flames, ice, disease, knives, axes, and bones.
Obviously, it did not resemble the human form, but somehow the totem was so beautiful!
So perfect that it was frightening.
It was a creation from mythology. The son of God and Mother of Earth, it was a demigod filled with hatred and strength–The Hecatoncheir.
When Gaius came out from the ruins of the city, he heard the sound of ocean waves.
Perhaps he had been in silence for too long, but even the sound of the waves was salvation.
In the cold rain, a carriage waited quietly in the dark. The man in the car waved to him. He froze for a moment, then got into the carriage. It took him on the returning path.
The carriage was very warm inside. It had an underlying infused scent and very intricate, beautiful decorations.
But he still felt a coldness surrounding him that he could not shake loose.
The man sitting opposite him handed over a personal heater. He felt the essence of its precious warmth, but his face was still very pale.
“Welcome back to earth.” The white-haired Eastern man brightened the light, illuminating his face.
Like all Eastern noblemen, Bai Heng wore a silk robe, with a faintly embroidered pattern made of silver silk threads. This kind of mark was like a flame–both majestic and arrogant.
Apart from the white hair, Bai Heng looked young and vigorous, with no wrinkles on his face whatsoever. Only when looking at his eyes did Gaius feel that this guy was really as old as he was.
“When did you come?” Gaius whispered.
“I came right after you, but always a step behind. I was only able to see from afar.” Bai Heng lowered his gaze. The lingering fear in his heart had not disappeared with time. “Just looking at it shook my mind and soul. It really made me feel hopeless.”
“Nothing to feel hopeless about,” Gaius whispered in a low voice. He remembered the face of Hein, with his withered skull and dried up eyes. He started to look bleak. “Wasn’t paying the price all we were ever able to do since the very start?”
“I am afraid we cannot afford to pay that price,” Bai Heng also whispered. “We have lost dozens of musicians. The dragon-slaying spear was given the name ‘St. George’ just to deal with the Hecatoncheir’s sleepy murmurs. To those monsters, humankind’s struggle to fight back must have looked funny, I suppose? Like ants, their deaths had no value.”
Gaius was silent. After a long time, he sighed softly. “Bai Heng, twenty years ago, when ‘The Disaster of the Silver’ destroyed the City of the Wolves, I was right there inside the city.”
“Oh?” Bai Heng was surprised for a moment.
“At that time I stood on the city wall and watched it emerge from afar, the waves spread to every corner of Heaven and Earth with a magnificent neon light. It was really very beautiful. So, rest assured, that magnificent destruction will make people feel that it’s not a pity to be buried with.”
Bai Heng was stunned, but then suddenly he laughed softly, “Humans are indeed ridiculous. Hearing that they can die a prettier death can make them feel less regretful about dying.”
“So, we should first worry about the problems of the living for now.” Gaius closed his eyes and recited the dogma, “Fear and respect the aether.”
Bai Heng fell into silence.
The silence continued until the carriage stopped.
Outside the carriage was a port where a ship was waiting to set sail in the rainy night.
Even with the window in the way, Gaius could hear the sound of the ocean waves. He had left the lands of the Wyrmrest Enchantment; the world was full of sound again.
Having been in silence for so long, he was grateful to hear the noisy waves that he heard in his everyday life. Gaius could not help but look back to the faraway land.
Yet nothing could be made out in the faraway darkness.
“So we part ways here. His Holiness, the Pope, is waiting on my report,” Gaius said. He got off and looked back at the carriage. “Are you going back to the East?”
“Yes. After all, there’s a considerably proud and arrogant Empress at home.” Bai Heng sighed, “If I am not there, who’s to say she’s not wreaking some havoc?”
Gaius laughed. “It must be hard being a treacherous minister, Bai Heng.”
“It’s ‘regent’,” Bai Heng carefully corrected him.
“Well, goodbye, Mr. Regent, sir.”
“Goodbye, Duke Gaius, your highness,” Bai Heng said.
The carriage door closed.
In the rain, Gaius stared quietly at the man’s carriage disappearing into the rain.
With the sound of countless raindrops, he looked back at the darkness of the fort, as if through the blockade of numerous layers, he could still hear the roar of the monster.
“I really don’t understand.” His gaze was deep. “You monsters. Why do you keep wandering and lingering in the human world?”
This year, a rare phenomenon appeared in the night sky–two moons shone together, the White Moon and the Blue Moon, hanging high in the sky at the same time.
There were six earthquakes in the lands. Some areas were in a bad drought, yet there was tragic flooding in other areas. Some people claimed that in the desert areas, a flammable black liquid was found. Some claimed that the continents were shifting. Some claimed that the earth was round, and some claimed that the ancestors of humans were monkeys.
These were all just minor details.
This year, the Revolutionary Army that occupied the New World was only just starting to grow, and the dark world of natural catastrophes was still raging.
Some countries relentlessly borrowed bonds that they would never be able to return, and some places were militarized to expand their own regimes. The war between nations over the ruins and ancient technology was still continuing.
The Sacred City was responsible for forgiving the sins committed by men, and the Aristocrats of the East were responsible for selling silk to the dead.
Those who fought were fighting. Those who killed were killing. It was as if everyone had a good time keeping themselves busy.
Few people noticed that the dark age had already been over for hundreds of years.
The fragile peace between humankind and natural catastrophes had been maintained for too long.
The world was still so large, but most of it remained hidden in the dark.
The once twelve kingdoms were now only nine, struggling to occupy a small corner of the world and slowly, yet cautiously, exploring the territories in unknown directions.
Some people turned their attention to the other side of the ocean because the wind brought the tide of a new era.