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Translated by Wook
Edited by Iris Sakura
Ganje harshly criticized the disruptors. The plump male nobles of Balta were approaching.
“It looks like I have to leave this here today. I hope we can talk more deeply next time, Your Highness Ricardis.”
“It was a short but enjoyable meeting, Princess Ganje.”
Ganje bent her knees slightly in farewell. As she moved, the golden ornaments fluttered down.
“I hope to see you again soon.”
She turned around and smiled.
“Till then, take care, Prince.”
Ricardis walked towards the large temple inside the palace. It was a place that Princess Ganje recommended to him right before she left. Perhaps there is more to see than the dizzying venue.
It was a place markedly different from the banquet hall’s atmosphere. The magnificent interior, lit by a few candles, was full of carvings and murals. There was a large spring in the center of the temple, and the ceiling was wide open above it, allowing the moonlight to come in. The smooth, round shape of the spring indicated it was created artificially.
All important ceremonies on the continent have always been conducted using water. It was to imitate the ‘Lake of Promise’, which is closely related to the myths of Idelavhim and Crean Tidanion.
Ricardis looked away from the artificial spring. There was a mural engraved showing the wedding ceremony. Carved inside was a round circle, and beneath it were also carved two people praying in the middle of the lake.
The wedding ceremonies of Balta and Illavenia were very similar. The water to soak in and the ceremony happening when the sun rises over the water’s surface was the same. The sun is the symbol of Idelavhim. When the sun shines on the water’s surface, the two get married and receive the blessing of Idelavhim, the god of light. It was a practice widely believed in.
The wedding ceremony is the same not only in Balta and Illavenia but also in the Kingdom of Lagos. Located on the continent, small tribes that could not be called a country also had the same ceremony. Of course, each country had slightly different details, but the basic framework was the same. ‘Why does it not feel right?’ Ricardis frowned.
Ricardis turned to check the face of the person who greeted him first. He was, as expected, Prince Haqab. ‘After the sister, now the brother?’ Ricardis could feel the fatigue coming. Haqab looked at this and smiled brightly.
“So much trouble. You must be suffering, Prince.”
Unable to organize the thoughts in his head, Ricardis was not happy with Prince Haqab’s arrival. Ricardis stood at a distance, not hiding his expression. Haqab walked over to Ricardis’ side and stood there, unconcerned. He had a relaxed attitude, and it was as if he stood here to appreciate the mural he was looking at.
Looking back, Ricardis saw Rosaline suppressed by several senior knights. Perhaps she was stopped for trying to excessively protect him again like she had been doing these past few days. Senior Knight Pardict tapped her on the head.
“Your job is to protect His Highness, not to stop him from meeting other people!” He angrily said.
“Why am I the only one who’s suffering? I’m aware that Prince Haqab is also troubled with the Black Moon.”
Ricardis’ words have different meanings depending on their interpretation. One could interpret it as ‘Black Moon has been messing around these days, but as a prince of Balta, you must be very busy to make up for it.’ Of course, only in the context of an unprecedented and strong alliance between Illavenia and Balta could he interpret it like this. Haqab softly smiled while grasping the double meaning. Ricardis was a tough opponent.
“After personally walking to Balta, I think the Prince will bear good fruit soon.”
“Is that so?”
The two exchanged words as if they floated about a span off the ground [Note: their conversation was meaningless and not grounded in their current reality.]. Even though they were having a conversation more meaningless than talking to themselves, Ricardis did not take his eyes off the murals. A circle symbolizing the sun. It was darker than other murals would have it because it was deeply engraved. ‘Isn’t it common to emboss the sun? Why is it different?’ Something bothered him.
“By the way, I heard that the Black Moon created a new poison…”
No one expected that Prince Haqab would be the first to bring up this topic. Ricardis answered with a ‘hmm’ while taking a shallow breath.
“It is a mixture of magic and poison. ‘Fragment’… That’s the name.”
“Oh, that’s original.”
He had a voice that expressed interest as if it was the first time he had ever heard such a name. The prince’s performance was top-notch, but Ricardis didn’t pay close attention to his reaction. It was because the sun, which was deeply engraved, was still on his mind. He couldn’t take his eyes off the mural. Looking at Ricardis like that, Haqab put a smile on his lips.
“‘Fragment’. That’s a funny name. If it’s Fragment… Then a fragment of what?”
A strong wind blew through the open ceiling. Some of the candles that were illuminating the temple went out. The wall which Ricardis stared at grew darker. A fragment of the sun, carved deeply, also turned black enough to not be able to see inside. Black, round…
“The Black Moon, perhaps.”
Ricardis’ voice echoed in the quiet space. Ricardis looked away from the mural and faced Haqab. It was darker than before, but the way Haqab raised the corner of his mouth and smiled was straightforward. Ricardis realized he must have guessed right. This round circle carved so deep inside was not the sun. It was the moon. Black moon. It was just a subconscious utterance in response to Haqab’s question, but it fit as if he had found a lost key.
Ricardis had a fruitless conversation with Haqab. He looked calm as usual, but his head was pounding as if an earthquake had occurred. Many memories shattered and merged back together. The big and small clues of the white night he had been looking for in the past became bigger and intertwined.
Weddings are the same all over the continent.
It was strange. Even Balta, who does not believe in Idelavhim, and the small tribes at the edge of the continent, who do not even know the existence of God, have the same wedding ceremony? Maybe this was an indicator of something more important that he didn’t know. The important thing. What’s more important than the promise of two people to be together for the rest of their lives? Perhaps related to life itself…
A night when all things bloom and life circulates. The Blessed Night is an important event not only for Illavenia but for all countries and all people. If the continent is aging, no life can survive. So, if this was a piece to summon the white night, it was understandable. The mural before him did not picture a wedding ceremony. It was expressing the night of blessings that have come down from the distant past.
‘Ah, so it was like that?’ Ricardis’ fingertips trembled. The Illavenian Imperial family kept secret the ceremony to call the Blessed Night to maintain their Imperial power as if they were messengers of the gods. However, people have not forgotten. Within the promise of people who will not disappear even after several generations, the secret of the blessing remained.
[Whether you are able to bring back the white night with the presence of Idelavhim alone. I will watch from this darkness…]
It was the words he heard from a woman called a witch in the depths of the dungeon. Ricardis guessed that he should find the black moon instead of the white night.
Ricardis saw the two people under the black moon painted on the mural. He didn’t have to find only the white night nor the black moon. The white night and the black moon were a piece, a blessing, an interlocking cog.
This made his goal clear. There must be someone who can handle powerful magic. They are called demons: those persecuted, killed, and forced into hiding for dealing with ominous powers. Ricardis rubbed his face roughly. He didn’t even know where to start.
It was the day they were going to leave Balta. Macaron, who had disappeared throughout the banquet, returned.
“Macaron, where have you been?”
If the snacks in the room, such as fruit or cheese, did not regularly disappear, she might have thought that an accident had occurred somewhere. Macaron’s cheeks were full. It looked like she had saved some food in her cheek pouch.
‘Macaron is back!’ It then spat something out, and Rosaline picked it up. It was a shattered black stone. It looked like an ordinary stone, but something like dark red sand slowly moved inside. The energy felt from the black and red pieces was not unfamiliar. It was magic that could be seen everywhere in the Baltan Palace. It rampantly ran about as if it was about to devour everything.
In her days as ‘It’, she had seen such stone pieces, sometimes they even resembled jewels. It was a crystal that could sometimes be seen in the corpses of dead beasts. But even after eating dead bodies for hundreds of years, she didn’t often find it either. Balta seemed to have found this gem through rare odds. She now understood why it was hard to find a magic beast in Balta. A great massacre must have taken place to find the magical crystals within the corpses.
Macaron took a walnut and gnawed it. She said she found it in a room while wandering the depths of the palace. A few boxes were full of these gems, and no one would know if one was missing. Macaron was boisterous and snorted. Rosaline rubbed Macaron’s head with her fingertips.
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