Roel found himself standing in the midst of a dark valley, surrounded by towering mountains that blocked off the sun, allowing only bits of sunlight to spill through the small cracks between.
This dim environment highlighted Peytra’s glowing golden hair. She wore a white robe that looked divine and authoritative, giving her a look of inviolability. She was seated atop her throne with closed eyes, seemingly in deep sleep. It was only when Roel walked over from the distance that her mysterious eyes opened.
“How unexpected. You don’t look very anxious.”
Peytra observed the approaching black-haired boy as she blinked her eyes in intrigue.
“You like that girl, don’t you? She’s bound to lose her life at this rate.”
“I know that, but venting my fury blindly does nothing at all. It might bring me a moment of solace, but ultimately, nothing would have changed. What I want to achieve is Charlotte’s survival. I want to save her. I don’t want to lose her. So, I have to remain calm.”
Under Peytra’s gaze, Roel responded to her question with a quivering voice, surprising her. She noticed that the boy’s fists were so tightly clenched that blood was flowing through the cracks of his fingers.
“I understand your intention now. Answer my question then, Roel Ascart. What’s the most beautiful thing about fate?”
Peytra slightly straightened her posture, and her expression also grew a little solemn. Under her intent gaze, Roel revealed his answer.
“It’s hard for me to give a decisive answer to your question. As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, if it’s fate we’re talking about, I believe that the answer is ‘choice’.”
Peytra narrowed her eyes as she repeated Roel’s answer, and the latter nodded in affirmation.
“Isabella told me that fate is a tug-o-war. Nothing is decided until the present becomes the past. Before then, everything is possible. That’s why she staked her entirety on the side of the humans to fight against the civilization destroyers. In the face of overwhelming odds, she chose to struggle.
“I once thought that the ability to struggle against fate is the most beautiful thing about it, but after careful contemplation, I found many loopholes with that line of thought.”
Roel raised his gaze to look at the towering mountains behind, as he thought about everything he had seen and done ever since arriving in this Witness State. Somehow, he could still taste the alluring aroma of the ginkgo wine he had that day on the tip of his tongue.
“If I had revealed the results to Isabella beforehand, telling her that this escort mission will be her last voyage, would she have bowed down to the monsters and worshiped them as God’s Envoys like Gordon and the others?
“No, she wouldn’t.”
There was a gleam of respect and admiration in Roel’s eyes as he shook his head.
“That’s because Isabella is a ruler. Not just for the Sofya Kingdom, but for all humans. Even if the conclusion awaiting her is death, she would still follow the tides of fate and embark on this voyage, all so that she could seal off the egg in the depths of the sea for the sake of the entire human civilization.
“There are soldiers who choose to fight for their homeland despite knowing that the odds are stacked against them. There are doctors who persist in saving patients during a plague despite knowing the dangers. These are people who have chosen to fulfill their fate, but they still glow as brightly as anyone else, if not more. These people are worthy of respect.
“Choice, and the ones who choose to make noble choices; they are the most beautiful things of fate. Whether they choose to submit or struggle, they don’t content themselves to being the slaves of fate. They are the ones who decide their own fate.”
Roel’s voice was firm and powerful, and his words echoed within the valley. Peytra stared quietly at the boy standing before her, peering into his golden eyes. She silently murmured his words.
“… It’s neither struggle nor submission, but the power to choose between them that is the most beautiful thing of fate?”
The golden-haired woman quietly leaned back on her throne, as she raised her eyes to look at the sky above the valley. Her thoughts seemed to have traveled thousands of years back, returning all the way to the era of myths. A long time later, the edges of her lips curled up into a smile.
“Young lad, thank you. Your words have brought meaning to my life.”
“… It looks like you’re satisfied with my answer.”
“Yes, you have managed to find an answer that I like. It looks like I can’t remain a bystander here anymore… Perhaps, this is, in a way, fate too.
With a slightly bitter smile, Peytra raised her head to stare into the distance, where a golden force was clashing with a black monstrosity. Slowly, her face turned sombre.
“Young lad, I’m willing to lend you a hand, but there’s something you need to know… The strength of that ancient monster far exceeds your imagination. You have a powerful defensive spell imbued in your body, making it easy for me to save you. However, if you insist on fighting against the ancient monster to save that girl, I’m afraid that I can’t give you any guarantees. You don’t have enough mana for that.”
Roel’s heart sank upon hearing those words. His worries became reality.
Both Grandar and Peytra were legendary existences who had made their name back in the ancient era, when gods still ruled the world. However, no matter how powerful they used to be, they were now deceased. Their only connection to the present was through Roel.
In the previous Witness State, despite having the aid of Grandar, he reached his limit fighting against the Origin Level 2 Wade, not to mention that Wade had only just made a breakthrough and was severely injured.
But what about the Six Calamities?
Sire Darkness was an unfathomably powerful monster that even the Golden Fleet under Isabella’s command couldn’t stand up against. Using that as a gauge, its strength was likely to exceed even that of Origin Level 1 transcendents.
To make matters worse, different from the previous time, the current Roel had just been through a battle and was already expended.
“You should think things through. The cost of saving her far exceeds your imagination. In the worst case scenario…”
Peytra didn’t finish her words, but from her heavy gaze, Roel implicitly understood what she was going to say.
There was a chance that Roel would die attempting to save Charlotte.
But what of it?
The image of that auburn-haired girl shooting the seven-colored gemstone into his body with a tearful smile on her face was already seared into his mind. What she had shot into him wasn’t just the power to live on, but an imprint of her very existence too. If she was willing to die for him, why couldn’t he do the same for her?
“We’ll either get through this together or die together.”
Roel’s composed iteration of these words had Peytra blinking her eyes. She was surprised, yet also not really, by his response. Looking at the obstinate boy standing before her, a gentle smile surfaced on her lips.
“Is that so… Well, I understand it now.”
The golden-haired queen rose to her feet, and the earth trembled along with her movement. The dark valley began rumbling loudly, and a dusky ray of orange light suddenly shot right into Roel’s face. It was the rays from the setting sun.
Perplexed, Roel raised his gaze to look at his surroundings, only to widen his eyes in disbelief.
The entire mountain range was moving. No, to be more exact, something that looked like a mountain range was moving! Amidst the shaking of the earth, a humongous entity rose to the sky, and realization finally dawned on Roel.
It was a snake.
It was a snake so unimaginably massive that just looking at it squeezed the breath out of one. As it rose up, its towering body divided the distant setting sun in two.
Flocks of flustered birds darted away in all directions, but it was meaningless. The snake was the entire mountain range.
Gazing at the wondrously grand—perhaps divine even—lifeform before him, Roel got a vague idea about Peytra’s identity, as well as what king she was.
She was the Queen of Saint Beasts.
In the ancient legends, the saint beasts were one of the primordial races who had accompanied Sia in conquering the world, but they died out swiftly after Sia’s passing. As Sia’s Envoys, they once stood at the top of the world, but as the world stabilized, they quietly disappeared from sight.
One of the renowned saint beasts was the Earth Goddess created personally by Sia herself—the World Serpent. Legend had it that the World Serpent had a body that was impossible to see the end of.
“It seems a little late for me to introduce myself at this point in time. This is my original body. You must have been taken aback.”
“… I’m tempted to deny it, but there’s probably no one in the world who can remain calm after witnessing the emergence of such a deific being.”
“Haha, you do have a way with words. So, what is the relationship between us?”
“Friends… So be it.”
The Earth Goddess smiled as she gently held onto the boy’s hand.
“Let’s go then.”
With those words, Roel’s consciousness gradually faded away.