Chapter 56 Between the Mountains
Nightingale was slowly moving forward on the mountain path.
The path under her feet was only shoulder width. On either side of her was a huge rock wall, separated by ten feet. But between them was a bottomless ravine and the shoulder wide path she was walking on, so directly next to Nightingale’s feet was a steep cliff and a huge wall out of rock. When she looked into the deep ravine she could only see darkness. While traveling on her shoulder wide path, Nightingale was always carefully leaning on the rock wall next to her, trying to avoid losing her footing and falling into the ravine.
When she looked up, only a thin shimmer could be seen from the sky, like a silver thread hanging in the night sky. However, she knew that it was just a little after noon – even during the day, she still needed to hold a torch. The light coming down the cliff was not sufficient enough to illuminate the road ahead. Walking on this path for a long time even gave birth to the illusion that she was walking in the mountains.
The only advantage here was that not much would fall down the gorge, despite the cold wind whistling through the mountains and lifting up the fallen snow.. Occasionally there were a few natural snowflakes that fell on her head from, and landed on the mountain walls or on the trail, turning into water vapor. Down here, the temperature wasn’t the same as it was in the outside world, occasionally she could see the hot air rising up from below the cliff.
If it weren’t like this, she wouldn’t dare to pass the Impassable Mountains during the Months of the Demons. She could hide herself in her own world of fog, but there, it would be still the same temperature. If she were to brave her way through the snow, she estimated that she would freeze to death after an hour of walking.
Nightingale didn’t want to spend an extra minute down here – she could always feel something in the dark, always watching her, making her blood run cold.
If she could, Nightingale would stay in the fog the whole way, but it was a pity that her strength wasn’t enough to do that. When she used her ability for a long time, she would quickly become exhausted.
Nightingale raised the torch and let it illuminate the opposite cliff. In the faint firelight, she could occasionally see dark shadows on the walls. Nightingale knew that those were caves, which were so deep that light couldn’t reach the end of each cave. They looked like orbs of darkness. But on the other side, nearly at the same position, was also a deep hole. It reminded her of the North Slope Mine’s rumors, which said that the mine used to be a monster’s underground lair, with many forks in the road that extended in all directions, dug out by monsters. The Northern slope was part of the mountain range, but it was so far and wide with so many caves, who could say that the caves weren’t connected to the mine?
The idea made her shiver.
To the West of the Impassable Mountain range was the abandoned barbarian wasteland. It was known that the Impassable Mountain range extended for several hundreds of miles, with countless undiscovered caves. Nightingale was afraid that this wasteland could give birth to countless monsters.
She did not dare think of going into the caves and only concentrated on moving forward.
Finally, she could see a change in the road further ahead. The shoulder-wide path split into two, one leading slightly upwards and the other one leading downwards, leading deeper into the darkness without end; no one knew where this pit lead to. While standing on the bifurcation point, the feeling of being stared at had become very intense, as if countless eyes were motionlessly looking at every move Nightingale made, making her have a dry mouth and tongue and giving her a creepy feeling.
Nightingale grit her teeth as she opened her world of fog and quickly stepped into it. Soon, the creepy feeling began to disappear.
While following the path leading upwards, the surrounding air temperature soon begun to fall, but above her head the small thread of silver became bigger. A quarter of an hour later, a huge cave opened up directly in front of her, with its entrance slightly higher than the path she was following. When she set foot into the cave she could see a faint fire deep within.
Finally, she had reached the Witch Cooperation Association’s hiding place.
When Nightingale left her world of fog, she was immediately detected by the witch in charge of defense, who instantly set up a wall of black smog to block her. However,soon the wall disappeared and a surprised voice could be heard from the darkness, “You’re back!”
Nightingale thought, “Yes I’m finally back,” but when she noticed that the girl had two bands tied around her arm, Nightingale’s good mood turned directly into grief, “Once again two sisters were…”
The others witch’s voice stalled for a moment and then she sorrowfully said, “Uh … ah, yes. Airy and Abby had their day of adulthood five days ago and didn’t survive it.” She forced herself to smile, “It happens often, doesn’t it? But let us not speak about them, you have to go back to the camp, Wendy is always talking about you.”
Airy and Abby, a pair of twins who left their lives in a wealthy family from the Fallen Dragon Mountain only to die within the Impassable Mountain range. Nightingale sometimes wondered if what they did was alright. If the twins hadn’t left their town with the Witch Cooperation Association, they could have at least enjoyed their lives with their family, rather than following everyone, wandering from one place to another, without any fixed home.
However, when she thought of Wendy, Nightingale’s heart was filled with warmth. If she hadn’t given her a helping hand when she desperately needed it, she was afraid that she herself would still be living a life as a puppet, always fearing to be disposed of just like every other tool. Yes, she should tell her the news as soon as possible, and she should tell it to all her sisters. They weren’t required to hide like little mice any longer. Someone was willing to accept all of them, and there maybe… they could come out unscathed through their annual Day of Awakening!
When she stepped into the camp, Nightingale saw that a familiar figure was squatting near the campfire handling the food. Until now, the other person hadn’t seen that she had arrived, so she couldn’t help herself and shouted, “Wendy, I’m home!”
The other witch turned away from her meal and looked towards Nightingale, welcoming Nightingale with her usual smile, “Veronica, welcome home.”
Wendy was the embodiment of a good woman and also one of the first witches of the Witch Cooperation Association. Now she had turned 30, but still any wrinkles couldn’t be seen on her face. She had red-brown hair which fell straight down, almost reaching her waist, with mature and charming facial features, which gave her the appearance of a big sister. She was always concerned about each and every sister of the Witch Cooperation Association. Whether it be about their daily life or psychological counseling, she would always try to help no matter what happened. If it wasn’t for Wendy, there was a big chance that the Witch Cooperation Association wouldn’t have gathered so many witches.
She was precisely the reason why Nightingale decided to run away from her family when she met her, embarking with her on a journey into the Impassable Mountain range, trying to find the Holy Mountain. She was also one of the few people who knew her original name.
“How many times have I already told you that I’m no longer that cowardly little girl from the past?” said Nightingale while smiling and shaking her head, “I’m now a powerful witch, Veronica doesn’t exist any longer.”
“You will always be you, breaking away from your former nightmares doesn’t mean to part with important and happy moments of your past.” said Wendy softly, “Of course, I’m glad you like your new name. Nightingale, I’ve been waiting for you to come back, surely you had to suffer throughout the whole journey.”
“Well,” Nightingale stepped forward and hugged her friend, “Thank you.”
After a moment Wendy opened her mouth and asked, “What happened to the girl, you … were you too late to save her?”
When hearing her speak of this, Nightingale’s spirit immediately began to rise again. She grabbed the Wendy’s arm and said excitedly, “No! She did not need me to save her. On the contrary, maybe she is able to save us all!” Then she began to describe in detail her experience of her time living in Border Town, “Border Town is governed by Lord Roland Wimbledon, 4th Prince of the Kingdom of Graycastle. He is willing to shelter all of us, and he also promised, that one day, that all witches in his territory could live the life of a free person, just like everyone else!”