Even without considering the historical significance, just thinking about the fall of Coldfrost Citadel and its consequences, Hao Ren would not let the mad Council of Elders out of Coldpath.
Several demon hunter masters brought Hao Ren and his entourage deeper into Coldfrost Citadel. Under their feet was permanent ice while above them was the clearest sky on the planet. They could hear the wind whistling past them occasionally. The heavily-armed demon hunters who were clad in black quietly stood guard in their respective positions. Hao Ren had a strange feeling like he was standing on a watchtower, which had been nailed to the North Pole in the thick ice sheet. It was hammered through thousands of years of history, and all the races as well as cultures of the planet. It ended the Mythological Era, and human civilization grew up under its watch. The demon hunters stood in this place and watched the world quietly throughout the countless dark nights.
However, people never knew about them.
Lily was feeling very spirited in the cold wind and happier than anyone else. The husky maiden ran around Hao Ren eagerly, enjoying the feeling of the cold wind blowing into her face. "I feel like I'm home. But then, this place is inhospitable for ordinary humans," she said.
"It's the same for demon hunters," said White Flame who seemed to be smiling. "I've never found my hometown comfortable. It's dry and cold. Other than ice, there's nothing here. I can't see any other colors. All we can eat are fish and seals. Other food is delivered from the inland. Life on the ice sheet is boring with only constant training and patrolling, day after day. So, my biggest dream when I was a kid was to become an adventurer. Although it was a rather low position, it gave young demon hunters the opportunity to travel around the world. Unfortunately, I detected in me the blood of my ancestors, so I had to train 20 years more than other demon hunters. I envied those young demon hunters who were born outside the Arctic," she said.
"You were born here?" Lily asked, looking at White Flame in amazement. "I thought you came here to receive elite education. It's a common thing in the movies. Are your parents also in this citadel?" Lily asked.
"They died many years ago," White Flame said faintly, "when I was very young."
The atmosphere suddenly turned awkward. Everyone could not help but think of the long war between the demon hunters and the unusual creatures. Hao Ren's mouth twitched unnaturally. "Was it because of the war?" he asked.
"Ah, no," White Flame replied. Knowing that they had misunderstood her, she hurriedly waved her hand. "My mom was sick, while my dad overdosed on magic potions and went to challenge a volcano," she explained.
There was a cold silence, which was colder than the big ice sheet outside. Even Lily, the witty maiden was at a lost for words. While everyone thought that White Flame's parents had been killed by demons and monsters in the war, she dropped an anti-climactic bombshell that her dad had actually died from potion overdose.
But White Flame seemed to have not noticed the awkward atmosphere. She continued, "It all happened a long time ago. I can't even remember the details. It was Teacher who raised me. Why are all of you silent?"
Vivian replied, "Umm, nothing. We just find that your life is somewhat different from our imagination. I thought you had a vendetta like others. At least, that's what I thought of demon hunters."
"Is that what you think of demon hunters?" White Flame shrugged. "We also have our own lives, friends, family, passions, and hobbies. Killing is just a part of us. My teacher likes chess, I like comics. Don't you think that's incredible?" she said.
Vivian said faintly, "How many demon hunters have ever thought that those demons they killed are no more different from you?"
The conversation suddenly became tense. Before it got worse, Master Kesuzov, who led the way, suddenly hemmed and said, "Let's focus on the important things. Keep the little talks to yourselves."
Usually, Vivian would have talked back when she was lectured by a junior. But this time, she just shrugged it off and nodded softly. "I didn't mean that."
White Flame looked down. "Me too," she said.
Observing from the sidelines, Hao Ren felt a tinge of regret. Demon hunters and unusual creatures were supposed to be no different. Even the strange creatures who came from Holletta were distant relatives of the demon hunters. However, the 10,000-year confrontation had utterly severed the connection between them. Their differences were more severe than the conflict among the unusual creatures. The demon hunters no longer treated the otherworldlings as beings capable of feeling but prey. Likewise, the otherworldlings no longer cared if the demon hunters had emotions. They regarded them like a plague. This absurd conflict and division eventually produced an even more ridiculous outcome. When a demon hunter talked about her family life, the unusual creatures would find it unbelievable.
Even if they knew from common sense that this was normal, they could not emotionally believe that the other party was just like them, that they had flesh and blood too.
No one knew when this absurdity would end.
Master Kesuzov's voice suddenly interrupted his train of thought. "The Stellar Spire is right in front. The gate is closed. The situation on the other side isn't looking good," Master Kesuzov said.
Hao Ren immediately looked up, curious. He had been wondering where the Stellar Spire was as he could not see any spire on the way in. But according to White Flame, the steeple was a magnificent structure and something hard to miss.
Now, Hao Ren finally found out why he could not see the spire from outside the citadel.
There was a big and deep hole before them.
At 100 m in diameter and perfectly round, the hole looked like a shaft that extended to the center of the earth. A kind of chaotic darkness filled the shaft, and fog-shrouded its deeper part, as though there was another world down at the bottom. There was a spiraling staircase, and a complex support structure attached to the shaft's walls, The whole thing looked like an access road to the bottom with rest stops.
Surrounding the shaft was the largest square in Coldfrost Citadel. Heavily armed demon hunters were patrolling the place.
This was the Stellar Spire.
"Wait, didn't you say it was a spire?" Hao Ren asked, staring at the hole for a long while, feeling conned. "It's a hole!"
"This is indeed the Stellar Spire," White Flame said with a blank expression. "It goes all the way down, into the Arctic Ocean. But at certain depths, it goes up and sweeps into Coldpath's entrance," she said.
"Back home, we usually call this thing a well." The corner of Nangong Sanba's mouth twitched. "Are you sure they didn't hold the plan upside down during construction?" he asked.
"What a load of nonsense," Nangong Wuyue chided and whacked him on the head with her tail. "It's a spire when looking up from the bottom of the ocean."
"Spire or not, can we open the door now?" Hao Ren asked as he turned to look at White Flame.
"Now?" White Flame was a little surprised. "Don't you want to wait for the main troops? They'll arrive soon," she said.
Hao Ren nodded. "I'm not going to wait. I want to check out the situation on the other side."
White Flame then asked the old demon hunter beside her, "Master Kesuzov, is it convenient to open the door now?"
Kesuzov put his hand on the icicle next to him. The icicle shimmered and emitted a sound. After a while, the old demon hunter exhaled and said, "You can all go in now."
As soon as the old demon hunter's voice trailed off, the strange chaotic darkness and dense fog inside the hole dissipated.
A channel appeared.