Sunny passed through the wall and stepped into the portal room of Undelumi Castle. It was a simple room with only a floor mirror at its center. The mirror had a thick wooden frame and along it was the carvings of gnomes and precious gems. Though it appeared ordinary, it was actually extraordinary.
Because Undelumi Castle was below Avalsnow Land, it was perpetually cold. Thus, according to the legends, the gnomes sought for a way to procure warm and hot water, which prompted the gods to gift them the enchanted object, Mirror of Latrop: a floor mirror that could open a portal within its range. By using it, the gnomes were able to open a portal in Floating Lake and Liquire River to procure warm and hot water respectively. Also, it helped them in transporting items and traveling in and out of Undelumi Castle.
After providing an explanation of the Mirror of Latrop to Sunny, Richard asked, “Are you able to swim?”
“Of course,” Sunny replied.
“Okay, remember only to swim upward and take a deep breath.”
Sunny sank his foot into the mirror and plunged into the warm water of Floating Lake. The portal he had exited from was situated deep within Floating Lake, and because he had disregarded the reminder of Richard to take a deep breath, he did not have sufficient air to last until he surfaced. Flailing his limbs about, Sunny dog paddled harder to speed his ascent. Behind him, Richard, Westin, and Myrine watched in horror; they had expected his swimming ability to be more than just the dog paddle. And suddenly, they realized that his actions were growing frantic and surmised that his breath was running out. Quickly, Richard swam ahead of Westin and Myrine to pull Sunny up to the surface.
“Argh!” Sunny sucked in a massive breath. “I nearly drowned.”
“Why didn’t you say you couldn’t swim?” Richard asked just as Westin and Myrine surfaced.
“I can! I dog paddle.” Sunny said in earnest.
Suddenly, everyone turned mute.
Sunny scanned the panorama. He was swimming in Floating Lake, a lake that hovered a distance above Liquire River, had still water, and no bank. But as unique as Floating Lake was, Sunny thought that Liquire River was far more impressive. It was a river that coursed and seared through the expansive snowfield of Avalsnow Land and its water surface burned perpetually—with aqua flames.
Examining the surroundings, Sunny comprehended three things: the reason for Floating Lake having warm water, the reason for Liquire River having hot water, and the reason for swimming upward in Floating Lake.
Firstly, the water of Floating Lake was warm because the flames from Liquire River were heating it. Secondly, the water of Liquire River was hot because it was a burning river. Thirdly, Floating Lake had no bank; if one were to swim carelessly elsewhere besides upward, he might accidentally exit the lake and drop into the burning river.
“Richard, are we staying in Combattre?” Westin asked. “Brain and Brawn are opening tomorrow and I want to try its protein buffet.”
“We’re staying for a few days,” Richard said. “I need to go to Thunder Reception to listen to my t-mails and send e-mails to the others. Myrine, I’ll trust you to get our travel supplies?”
“Of course,” Myrine replied.
“What about me?” Westin asked.
“You can bring Sunny around Combattre. Guard him well!” Richard said.
“Um,” Sunny suddenly interrupted, “aren’t you guys tired of swimming? Dog paddling is tiring…”
Suddenly, everyone turned mute—again.
By manipulating and freezing the water, Sunny formed a platform that had four chairs and a round table. He then waited for everyone to get onto the platform, before drawing water out of their wet clothing to dry them off—and to craft a vase with seven roses. Gingerly, he placed it on the table as everyone seated.
“You’re good!” Richard praised. And beside him, Westin nodded in support.
“It’s nothing much! So, which direction is Combattre?” Sunny asked.
“Just cruise along the lake and you’ll see it. Afterward, we’ll have to walk there.”
“Since there’s still some time before we reach Combattre, I’ll brief all of you,” Richard said with a heavy gravitas. “We’ll be executing the plan to take down the headquarters of outsiders. Currently, we have the location of three of them: they’re at Glacial Needle, Forest of Dry Bones, and Shark High.”
“I assume we’re going to hit Glacial Needle,” Westin said to which Richard nodded.
“Why’s that?” Sunny asked in puzzlement.
“Because Glacial Needle is in the Land of Frozen Wonder, where we are,” Westin replied, “whereas Forest of Dry Bones and Shark High are in the Land of Scholar and Land of War respectively. We might as well hit the one closest to us first.”
“But aren’t we going too fast?” Myrine asked. “We’re attacking Magician Headquarters, which is managed by Zasoka, Magician of Saws and Halves. He’s quite a lot of subordinates around here.”
Smiling, Richard explained, “Exactly. It’s because a lot of his subordinates are still stationed here that we’ve to attack their headquarters quickly.”
“Alright then, but how’re we going to fight while protecting Sunny?” Westin asked.
“We don’t have to protect him. I’ve seen him fight and he’s talented; he’ll be fine as long as he doesn’t go against those with sobriquets.”
“But what about the outsiders that’d swarm him when they figure out his identity?”
“Why would they target me?” Sunny asked.
“Because it’s been said that the one who’ll be summoned will possess immense viger,” Richard said, “and they seek to use your immense viger to revive their ruler.”
“What? But my viger is pretty average.”
“I know. That’s why you’ll be safe as long as you don’t tell anyone that you were summoned.”
Westin laughed aloud. As crazy as the plan sounded, it was highly feasible.
“Next will be positions,” Richard said. “The three of us will be attackers while Myrine will be a supporter.”
“Supporter? You sure you can do without me on the front lines?” Myrine asked.
“Yes, I’m sure. Feliciel is coming so it’ll be fine.”
“She’s here? Isn’t she with Shannen shopping around the world?”
“Something popped up.”
“Something more important than shopping?”
“Yes,” Richard said with a laugh. “She’d to infiltrate a place, but it’s not related to outsiders.”
Upon the frozen landscape, icicles protruded like trees in a forest: they were innumerable and varied in sizes. Just then, sunrays beamed through the slivers in the clouds to reach the area, and the icicles started to shimmer.
“It’s so pretty! Argh, so bright!” the woman in a blue shirt said. She was a part of the tour group that was visiting Glacial Needle.
“Wear your sunglasses,” the tour guide instructed.
The majority of tourists started to wear their sunglasses but a few disregarded the instruction. Soon, the clouds that shrouded the sun sailed away and the sunrays intensified, and the area detonated with unadulterated light.
“Argh!” the tourists who did not wear their sunglasses screamed with squinted eyes. But they were ignored. Everybody else was preoccupied with the wondrous sight.
“It’s incredible!” the old man with a mustache said.
The wife of the old man replied, “I know! It’s like the light has crystallized!”
The excitement escalated even more.
“No, it’s like a forest of light!” the petite woman said.
“No,” the boy in a black shirt rebutted at the petite woman. They did not even know each other but he could not resist the urge to correct her. “It’s a sword of light!” He pointed at the center of Glacial Needle, where an unbelievably gargantuan icicle extended into the sky. It was like a massive glass tower and it made the icicles that surrounded it looked like tiny needles. Also, it stretched so far into the sky that its peak could not be seen.
Glacial Needle was a tourist attraction close to Aquice. It was named as such due to the myriad icicles that spanned the snow ground and its gargantuan icicle. However, it did not offer only the beauty of ice—it also offered the beauty of light. Glacial Needle boasted of Frozen Light, a sight that could only be seen when the sun was unobstructed by clouds. This was because in order for it to start, the sunrays over Glacial Needle had to be pure and concentrated. When this happened, the icicles of Glacial Needle would dazzle so brilliantly that tourists would often depict the myriad icicles as a forest of light and the gargantuan icicle as a sword of light.
But unbeknownst to the joyful tourists currently in Glacial Needle, a battle would ignite near there in just five days time.
“Is it me or is the platform lopsided?” Westin asked.
“I’ll freeze it again. I forgot that the lake is warm,” Sunny said.
“No, it’s not feasible for you to keep freezing the platform. I’ll make a boat.”
Raising his hands, Westin grew out branches from thin air. Instantly, they flourished aggressively and convoluted into a simple boat, with the branches intertwined and layered with leaves to cover up any openings. But that was not the end. Westin snapped his fingers and sprouted luscious leaves at the stern of the boat, and eventually they heaped into a bush and grew out green berries, which continually swelled until they were corpulent, and then they blushed red.
“Sorry,” Westin said. “This is the best I can do without any earth to grow wood from.”
“You’re sorry? You made a boat with a strawberry bush!” Sunny said. He knew he would not be able to achieve this level of competency with the element of wood. Westin was talented.
“You shouldn’t be amazed; this is my best. Others with better affinity with wood can make a tree grow with little effort.” Westin started to urge everyone onto the boat. “Don’t worry about it sinking. I’ve grown balloon plants below it.”
After everyone got onto the boat, Westin melted the platform and the boat slid into the lake.
“Sunny, you’ve witnessed the skills of Westin and Myrine,” Richard said. “What do you think?”
“Impressive,” Sunny replied while he chomped down the strawberries that had been iced by Westin. “I assume they’re also my teachers.”
Westin smiled. “I’m Westin Creed, Element Artist of Rueful Ruin. I’m your teacher on element combat.”
“And I’m Myrine Creed, Devil Doctor of Angelic Wings,” Myrine said. “We’re twins and I’m the younger one. I’m teaching you medicine and defense combat.”
“What do you mean you don’t know the location of the place?” Zasoka asked. He was an old man with white hair but his youthful visage belied his years. Twirling his black cane dexterously, he said, “You led your teammates to death and you alone scurried back to tell me you don’t know a thing?”
Suddenly, Crescent strolled into the room that was made of compacted snow. She was a curvy woman who wore revealing clothes and a crystal ball hovered near her. “There’s no need to be angry, Mr. Zasoka,” she said. And as she eyed the boy in front of her, she saw that he was brown like dirt, and he had cracks over his body and a flaking face. He was Borrit. “His memories must’ve been erased.”
“Ms. Crescent, what do you supposed I should do now?” Zasoka said with a smirk.
“Don’t tease me,” Crescent replied coyly. She then peered into her crystal ball, peeking into eventual events. At first, she smiled. But abruptly, the smile was erased and she ruminated for a moment.
“You’ve seen it?”
“No more questions from you,” Crescent flirted and sat onto her crystal ball, which had grown large.
“Where’re you going?”
“Home. I don’t need a live replay. Have fun.”
Crescent left the room and cast a sideward glance at the trembling form of Borrit. “Why’s he so afraid to die?” she thought. “He’s already dead the moment he used the sacrifice of life.”
At that moment, a magician box appeared and enclosed Borrit, and Crescent turned away from it, only to hear a bloodcurdling scream. Pulling her lips into a slight smile, she drowned the scream out by humming a soft tune.