Amidst the blurriness, he saw the large, ten metres tall metal door again.
The borders of the door were filled with dark red rust marks that left faint patterns, as though fine, complex and gorgeous lines had once been engraved there.
Garen realised that he had turned into that pitiful, little Dual Headed Salamander again.
His entire body was covered in dirty scales, and he was only slightly more than three meters long. A strong sensation of hunger rumbled throughout his belly continuously.
Garen unconsciously hit one of its heads against the large door violently.
A loud noise echoed from the metal door as a slit revealed itself when it was pushed open.
Bang bang bang!! Bang bang bang!!
The sound of loud footsteps echoed from behind the door suddenly as if a large creature was pacing back and forth with heavy rhythmic stomping noises, that walked and stopped continuously.
The little Dual Headed Salamander could not suppress its hunger any longer. It was starving and it followed its instincts by attempting to push the large door open, before crawling inside slowly.
Garen hid inside its body and looked out quietly while experiencing everything, as if he was the Dual Headed Salamander.
Behind the door was a large black wasteland that was surrounded by broken and damaged walls.
A rotting stench permeated the air.
The little Dual Headed Salamander crawled inside clumsily before noticing that right in front of it, stood a tall, large black church.
The church was sturdy and well-built, but the sound of the heavy footsteps from earlier had echoed from within it.
The loud footsteps rang from the church once again.
The little salamander raised its head and looked towards the sky.
The sky was filled with large grey clouds that gave off a heavy feeling of hopelessness. It looked like someone had used a pencil to scrawl on a sheet of white paper, staining it with grey blotches that gave off an unclean sensation.
He did not know why, but Garen currently felt more awake than before.
He could vaguely feel that this little Dual Headed Salamander seemed to be a native ancestor from the ancient times, of the Nine Headed Dragon that he had evolved.
That was from an era when countless salamanders still existed, possibly more than ten thousand years ago in the Totem World.
In the history of humankind within the Totem World, there was only about six thousand years of history that up to the present day. This included the time periods from two different calendars; the current solar calendar that had spanned almost three thousand and five hundred years, and the ancient calendar from the past that spanned over two thousand years. When added together, there were almost six thousand years in total.
This was the journey of human civilization, from the wilderness to development.
Moreover, the period where the Dual Headed Salamander still existed was at least twenty million years away.
To think that during an era in which humankind had yet to plant the seed of civilization, a man-made building like this actually existed…
A sense of curiosity began to bubble up inside Garen suddenly.
For such a large door and an enormous church like this, how had it been built?
Perhaps everything would be revealed when the Dual Headed Salamander entered the church.
The little Dual Headed Salamander walked towards the large church clumsily.
The large black church resembled a tall black mountain that stood in front of it. It cast a large grey shadow.
As the Dual Headed Salamander got closer, the loud footsteps inside the church began to quieten down, and soon stopped completely. Everything was immersed in the silence of despair once again.
This whole world seemed to lack any signs of life; there were no green plants, no flying insects, and no chirping of birds.
Unable to see any of its brethren or any remaining living beings, the little salamander was all alone.
It stood in front of the enormous black copper door of the church and glanced at the remains of the door, which resembled the strange face of a bat. The little salamander suddenly hesitated.
Garen could feel the incomparable fear rising up in its heart. That strong sense of fear was caused by the incomparable terror that existed within the church. From the sound of its footsteps, he could tell that the bastard inside the church was at least fifty meters tall, and was definitely a humongous giant. One stomp was all it needed to crush the three meter tall salamander into meat sauce.
But the little salamander had been wandering the vicinity for far too long, and this place was the only area where it had found the existence of other living things.
The other places were all filled with silence and despair without any other life forms, not even plants. There was only wreckage, as if the whole world had been rent and destroyed. It felt as though it was currently walking towards its death.
To go in? Not to go in?
The little salamander’s brain was wrestling with itself violently right now.
In this world where the sun did nothing to warm the land, it had wandered for many years, eating roots and wet soil and barely surviving. Now that even the roots were beginning to wilt to death, it had no other options to turn to anymore.
Finally, the little salamander pressed its main head against the large door steadily, and began to push strongly.
Garen opened his eyes suddenly and woke up.
His surroundings were still filled with white misty water vapor. He was still half-lying inside the hot spring pool.
His bright golden hair was spread out on the surface of the water, and he could see himself vaguely from the reflection in the water, before he noticed that the three red marks on his forehead were beginning to bleed suddenly.
He reached his hand out to touch it, before bringing his fingers downwards, and noticing that his fingertips were stained with fresh red blood.
"Is this an after effect?" Garen murmured to himself.
Obtaining strength quickly would always require one to give a designated trade-off in exchange. This was the biggest disadvantage of not acquiring the basics. Garen had always been worried about the after effects that would occur in himself.
Initially, he assumed that his heart might have undergone a rejection reaction, but now he found out that the most troublesome part was that he would have to relive the memories of the salamander’s ancestors that were encoded in its genes.
These memories were merely parts and pictures to a simple-minded salamander. However, to Garen, as a human, he could use them to find important information.
"Leader? Are you okay?" Red Umbrella was sitting a short distance away from Garen, and had noticed that his forehead was bleeding as well as the scent of blood.
"I’m fine, it’s just a minor issue," Garen answered lightly.
Red Umbrella saw from his expression that he did not want to say anything else, and thus he stopped asking.
He looked on as Leader’s handsome pale face began to sink into the water slowly, and noticed that the three dot marks on his forehead continued bleeding slightly. Leader’s face was completely expressionless, as if everything was normal.
Red Umbrella had always felt that Leader emitted a strange air throughout his entire body. It seemed as if this body he was approaching was not human, but a monstrous wild beast instead.
He glanced at Kid who was standing on the other side, and thought about how this child was no older than fourteen or fifteen years old, yet possessed terrifying powers and had managed to reach the peak of Form 3.
Meanwhile, his body was covered by deathly pale skin, without a single sign of blood.
Even after soaking in the hot spring for such a long time, in forty degrees water, not a tinge of red coloured his little face.
Kid seemed like a corpse when he immersed his whole body in the water like that.
These two people were stranger than others, and Red Umbrella felt that as a normal person, he should not come into too close proximity with them.
He inched away slowly and quietly to rest at the other end of the hot spring.
At this moment, Old Man approached Garen quietly.
"Leader, can we speak alone?"
"Speak alone?" Garen lifted his head out of the water and wiped the water off his face. The blood on his forehead dripped down his nose to the corner of his lips, and Garen stuck his tongue out to lick at it. He was unsure why his emotions were beginning to feel an inexplicable sense of irritability.
"What do you want to talk about?" He closed his eyes again and waited for Old Man’s next words.
Old Man tidied up his train of thought and looked at Garen’s calm face, before glancing at the other two people, before softening his voice.
"I don’t know whether you are aware that I’m actually a Totem User under the command of the princess?"
"Princess?" Garen had no impressions of this person. "I’m not that familiar with her, I’ve only heard that she is very competent. And she’s also a wise leader."
"During this quest, I was actually sent with the Princess’s sincerity. Not just for yourself, but also for the other members in the group, as her Majesty the Princess wishes for an opportunity to work with all of you," said Old Man with an honest look in his eyes.
"What do you mean? You want me to join you as one of the princess’s subordinates?" said Garen as a playful look appeared on his face suddenly. Him? A=He was a first class fighter that could even take on Obscuro Society’s Marshall God Cloud head on.
He still had a high level friend like Goth by his side, and he was also part of a loyalist family that had received Avic’s trust, giving him a high position in the interior of the empire. To think that this princess would not solicit him personally, but chose to ask Old Man to pass on the message instead.
"You’re not wrong about that," nodded Old Man. "The princess wants talented individuals, and prioritizes those who are strong and competent. If a strong individual like yourself joined our ranks, it would truly be a large blessing to our camp."
"So what kind of remunerations can you give me?" said Garen as a somewhat playful expression appeared on his face. "I’m treated like an Earl in the Secret Service, so what kind of promises can you grant me?"
Old Man did not say much, but withdrew a black scroll from his clothes beside the pond instead, pulled off the string, and opening it delicately.
This scroll was resistant to water, and had started to emit a faint black light in the midst of the mist. The rows of handwritten words on the scroll began to vibrate slightly.
Garen looked at the scroll and noticed that the writing was engraved in a secret language using Totem Light. It was written in a type of secret cryptography, and could only be read after it was decompiled.
"What is this?" Garen looked up at Old Man.
Old Man remained silent and outstretched his hand to point at the end of the scroll carefully.
Garen looked in the direction of his finger and noticed faint traces of a seal there.
He was slightly shaken when he realised that this was the special seal used by the royal family of the Kovitan Empire, which was also the emperor’s seal that only Avic possessed.
"This scroll was sent by His Majesty the Emperor?"
Old Man nodded.
"Do you still remember the incident where the king’s daughter was stabbed in the kingdom some time ago?"
Garen’s heart skipped a beat.
He’d assumed that the incident had occurred silently, and that he had destroyed all of the witnesses, he did not think that…
"What do you mean?" he asked quietly as he looked at Old Man.
"It’s very simple, now Avic has started to doubt you as well. Meanwhile, the ones that can truly help you within the entire kingdom, are only limited to us!" He said his last sentence in a louder tone, while a confident expression appeared on his face.
"Tell me the password." Garen’s expression had changed slightly.
If he wanted to beat God Cloud now, the battle at Snowy Peak would shake the world. However, the strength to face an entire empire was something that he still lacked right now.
It did not matter how much hidden strength Avic kept hidden, as the professionals on the surface of the empire were bad enough. The two Grand Dukes, defense minister Veska, and the three pillars of the empire were all extremely powerful strengths that were hard to understand. Once the stabbing incident was exposed, he would turn from a loyalist of the empire to a wanted convict immediately. It did not matter to him, but Big Sister Hathaway, Goth, and his other relatives would not be able to escape. They would all be involved.
After Old Man told Garen the password, he decoded the entire message carefully, as all of the contents of the scroll displayed themselves clearly.
‘Permission granted to examine the head of the Trejons household thoroughly, but it must be done in secret.’
Garen narrowed his eyes.
"This doesn’t mean anything, right?"
"Does it really not mean anything?" Old Man replied with a smile.
Garen grew silent for a moment.
"You aren’t worried that I hand this over to His Majesty?"
Old Man continued to smile but did not answer.
Garen knew that if this was real, even if he did hand it over to His Majesty, it would not benefit him at all.
Moreover, just like what he’d said earlier, the only one that could help him was the princess who was seated in a high position. With an important individual in the palace grasping the entire situation, his own control of his dangerous position would increase greatly as well.
Furthermore, for the other man to give this to him so confidently, it meant that he was not afraid that he would hand it over to His Majesty.
"His Majesty’s doubts are doubts. In the end, the stabbing of the king’s daughter was not something that I carried out, so I have nothing to worry about," smiled Garen, as he steadied his emotions.