Rockwall Lou – V9 Chapter 6

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟔

(6)

That place was peculiar.

It might be better described as above the clouds just before dusk.

The sky was dazzlingly yellow. The ground felt like mysterious clouds that one could step on. There was no wind, and no sound could be heard. In the distance, there was a hill made of clouds, and a castle-like structure was visible.

“Huh?”

At first, Saji thought he was half-asleep.

It was so surreal.

Just a moment ago, he was in a shop with no customers. Suddenly, something resembling a shimmering window appeared in his vision. A radiant woman claiming to be a goddess began to speak, and Luo’s face was reflected in it.

Realizing he was alive brought relief.

In Saji’s village, which was also Luo’s birthplace, more than ten rock lizards appeared from the Grand Canyon. The village temporarily plunged into chaos, but fortunately, there were no casualties. On the ground, the rock lizards were slow, and they had reserves of a herb called “red grass” that the demon beasts detested.

Once in several hundred years, such anomalies occur. As the old tales go, the villagers always stayed alert, day and night, living as if holding their breath.

Only Gordu, the boss of the moss collector guild, hastily fled the village in a carriage.

The city of Arche, adjacent to the “wilderness”, might be facing even worse circumstances. Knowing the risks, Saji was pondering whether he should go and check on Luo’s safety.

Various scenes were reflected in the shimmering window.

For Saji, who lived in a frontier village, it seemed like a tale from another world. But after Luo appeared, he began watching intently.

That shy child who could barely converse had met a girl burdened with a harsh fate. They journeyed together, and in the end, he even proposed, saving the girl’s heart.

“He did it.”

“Perhaps he has his father’s blood,” Saji thought admiringly.

When the story ended and the goddess started talking about marriage, he suddenly realized he was above the clouds.

How much of it was a dream, and how much was reality?

Or, is he still in a dream?

He noticed a figure not far away.

“Hey, over there!”

Approaching slowly, so as not to alarm the other person.

“Ah, the ‘Star Guardian’.”

It was a familiar face. They were the dismantlers from the city of Arche who looked after Luo.

“Oh, is that you, Saji?”

Bekios, in formidable armor, took his hand off the sword’s hilt and raised his hand with a smile.

There’s Theresa, Maasa, the transport team of Gangi, Bekios, Chara, Bon, Totom. The organ dealer, Sumi, Nura, Morin. And also Crozet.

As Saji greeted them with a chuckle, Crozet courteously bowed.

Everyone seemed safe, but only Theresa, who was always so energetic, looked down, supported by Sumi and the others.

Saji noticed another figure.

A little distance away, a woman with impeccable posture stood hesitantly on her own.

She probably found herself here, just like him, and was equally bewildered.

“Hey, you over there, come join us!”

 ㅤ

A woman named Rayza joined in response to Saji’s call.

“Just moments ago, I was supposed to be in a room within the palace. The next thing I knew, I was here.”

“Same with me. I was tending the shop.”

How did people from different places end up here? There probably wasn’t a straightforward answer, but Maasa speculated.

“The scene we were watching earlier might not be unrelated. I believe this phenomenon is the will of Goddess Mail. It might be related to Luo-san and Princess Tweney.”

Rayza’s eyes widened.

“You know of the princess and the wizard Luo?”

Rayza revealed she was a maid to Princess Tweney and had also met Luo, who had come to clean Akkare Castle.

“I had accompanied them on the journey of trials, but we got separated along the way.”

Maasa nodded as if she expected this.

“We are the survivors of the Mail Cult. In the city of Arche, we rescued Princess Tweney and accompanied her to the ‘Altar of Endings’.”

“R, Really?”

Unable to follow the conversation, Saji discreetly asked Crozet who was next to him.

“What happened?”

“I’ll tell you later.”

Saji took a weary breath.

What should he do next?

He might find some answers if he makes it to the distant castle. But there were elderly and women here.

Perhaps he should go scout.

As he pondered, a faint light emanated nearby. When he looked, there was a massive iron door floating above the clouds. Intricate patterns glowed on the door, and six women emerged from it.

He had never met them, but he recognized them.

They were tragic princesses from a distant past, sacrificed to save their nation.

[Well, it seems everyone is here.]

Suddenly, the voice of the goddess echoed.

Clouds gathered in the distance, and a figure emerged.

It was an enormous woman, many times larger than an average human. Her fan-like silver hair shone brightly. She had strong facial features, mysterious symbols on her forehead and eyes, and wore iridescent robes that flowed like they were underwater.

It must be the goddess.

Truly divine and beautiful.

“O, Oh, my. . . . . .”

“Theresa-sama!”

The very object of millennia-long devotion appeared before them with an overwhelming presence. Theresa collapsed onto the cloud-covered ground, and a flustered Maasa supported her.

[Now, we shall commence the marriage ceremony.]

The gigantic goddess spread her arms wide and held them in front of her chest.

Led by her movement, bridges like clouds extended from both sides.

At the ends stood a boy and a girl.

They were too distant to be seen clearly. But soon, a glowing window appeared, magnifying and showing Luo and Princess Tweney.

Both were dressed in iridescent robes, with symbols on their foreheads similar to the goddess.

The cloud bridges almost met but stopped just short of each other.

However, they were close enough to touch if they reached out.

[This is an ancient ritual of vows. Both hearts must be true. If there’s even a hint of deceit, they will miss each other forever. They won’t see, hear, or touch each other. Thus, it will be an eternal separation.]

The goddess started to say something ominous.

 ㅤ

[Even if you vow, you gain nothing. Nevertheless, this ritual exists to prove a true heart.]

Saji almost blurted out, but he reconsidered, believing that the goddess who had been supporting the two wouldn’t impose such a trial on a child.

This is probably a form of theatrical performance.

“M, Mother.”

However, the six princesses also looked pale.

They couldn’t voice their protests. Crozet, who was next to him, watched closely, her hands tightly clenched and swallowing hard.

[Beloved child of the spirits, Luo. And my daughter who carries my blood, Twenetie. Any objections?]

[Yes!]

Without hesitation, the two replied.

[Very well. Recite the oath and unify the emblem.]

Luo and Tweney touched and held each other’s hands.

In that moment, with a sound like breaking metal, the world split in two.

The sky that was golden changed.

On one half, where Luo was, pure white clouds spread across the blue sky. On the other half, where Tweney was, it became a starry night.

It seemed as if time flew by, clouds moving and stars rotating.

In the midst of such cataclysmic events, the boy and girl smiled at each other.

The boy muttered.

[Cherish each other.]

The girl muttered.

[To live together.]

And both of them together.

[We vow.]

Forehead to forehead, they came together.

The divided world shattered, and an indescribable light and vibration spread. Instinctively, Saji embraced Crozet next to him for protection.

It lasted for a few breaths.

A distant sound was heard.

The sound of a bell.

When they opened their eyes, the surrounding sky had returned to gold.

In the shining window, the boy and girl were still holding hands.

[Hmm. That was quick, wasn’t it?]

The goddess chuckled. The chuckle grew into a hearty laugh.

[The true heart has been proven here. Let your voices reach out. Bless my brave daughter and her husband!]

As the goddess spread her arms wide, countless shining windows appeared in the golden sky.

Unfamiliar faces reflected in them.

They probably watched this scene through the shining windows.

Mixed with the bell’s sound, there was an overflow of applause and cheers.

Some were smiling, others were crying.

Everyone expressed gratitude, praised the two, and blessed them.

A bridge made of clouds, extending towards where Saji and the others were. At the end, Luo and Tweney waved to the countless shining windows, hands firmly held.

The cloud bridge connected to the cloud ground. Luo, lifting his head, seemed more nervous than during the vow ritual.

“Um, thank you all for, um, coming for our. . . . . .engagement?”

He seemed to try speaking a formal address he wasn’t used to, but it became vague, and in the end, he seemed resigned.

“Thank you for coming.”

“Luo-kun!”

Crozet ran out and embraced both Luo and Tweney.

“I’m glad you’re safe, Star Princess.”

Afterwards, words seemed unnecessary, and there was just nodding in agreement.

 ㅤ

“Luo boy!”

“Luo-chan!”

With shouts of joy, the seniors of the transport team and the elderly women responsible for body disposal surrounded him.

Rayza approached with an uncertain step.

“Greetings, princess.”

“Rayza!”

Tweney was surprised to learn that the only maid who had come with her on her journey of trials was here.

“You’re safe.”

“Yes, I am.”

Rayza, who usually doesn’t show emotions, shed a tear.

“Only I. . . . . .”

In Tweney’s view, Rayza had returned to the capital as planned during the “journey of trials”, but for Rayza who had fallen into Ozma’s trap, there was a sense of guilt for leaving his master with the wicked wizard and guilt for the Royal Guards who sacrificed themselves to save her.

But knowing Tweney was safe gave Rayza a slight sense of relief.

Tweney gently hugged Rayza, who had covered her face with her hands and knelt down.

Timing the release of Luo, who was being mobbed by the “Star Guardian”, Saji spoke up.

“Well, well, you did great.”

“Ah, Aniki!”

Luo was delighted and then looked surprised.

“What brought you here?”

“It’s you.”

The emotion of the reunion showed no sign of subsiding.

Supporting the seated Theresa on the cloud ground, Maasa watched quietly from a distance.

Theresa’s strength faded, and she leaned in.

“Theresa-sama?”

“. . . . . .Don’t make a fuss.”

Her voice was weak.

“Quietly, listen. Isn’t this a joyous occasion?”

After handing over the position of “Star Guardian” representative to Maasa and sending Tweney, the “Star Princess”, to the “wilderness”, Theresa’s health deteriorated frequently.

Her behavior changed too.

As if a string of tension had snapped, she began to show an unstrained smile and uttered words of gratitude and apology with tears.

“. . . . . .It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”

Nearly half of the old woman’s life, which spanned almost a century, was fraught with hardships and despair. But now, Theresa wore an expression of relief, and faint tears glistened in her closed eyes.

Maasa’s hand overlaid the elderly hand. It was a dry hand, almost weightless.

“Maasa, I entrust the rest to you.”

Without uttering a word, Maasa listened to those words.

“Come on, compared to what we’ve been through, it’s nothing.”

With a contented smile, Theresa mumbled her words.

The “covenant” was no longer necessary, but it would still be important to convey the truth to future generations.

Not as a myth, but as history.

“I believe you can do it.”

For that, authority needs to be re-established.

In other words, the revival of the Mail Cult and goddess worship.

First, negotiations with the royal family.

But the royal palace, swirling with power struggles and conspiracies, is a den of iniquity. The conservative bureaucrats also move slowly.

Reason alone won’t suffice. Behind-the-scenes maneuvering, bargaining, and in some cases, coercion might be necessary.

Can the naive “Star Guardian” negotiate on equal terms and move the country?

 ㅤ

“No, that’s harsh.”

“Theresa-sama?”

To restore the lost prestige of the royal family, there is a high possibility of being intentionally praised and used.

Therefore, one must ride that trend, gain overwhelming support from the public, and exert pressure.

To do that. . . . . .

“Hmm?”

Theresa opened her eyes slightly.


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