Hertz pushed away the rock with caution, sticking his torch into a crevice. The cave seemed to be filled with rubble and there was no way in.
Hertz the Woodlands Walker: Darned Gods and Demons!
Hertz cursed in his heart. If the Gods and Demons had not been fighting nearby, the ruins would not have collapsed. From the ancient relics brought back by adventurers, he knew that the ruin under the rubble had a history of over a century. Hertz hoped he could move all the relics out before the sand buried everything.
Hertz wanted to be a musician but he later grew bored with music. Then, he followed his father to study and learn about relics of ancient Gods. Hertz outdid his father and was especially proficient in machinery. He was obsessed with ancient Gods’ ways of using power. Later, a war broke out between Gods and Demons. Hertz then went to the realm of Humans alone and searched for ancient relics, protecting wisdom of the past from destruction.
With difficulty, Hertz finally found the main hall of the ruins. He took out another torch, lighting up the room of stone. On a platform, a metal pony stood on its hind legs, its head held high. The delicate structure, not covered by any armor, seemed a deliberate exhibition.
Hertz the Woodlands Walker: There is no way I can move this thing out...
Hertz could only try to remember its structure with as much detail as possible, but as he focused on this, gravel fell on his head. Knowing it could not hold long, Hertz hurried and packed his things to be on his way. While escaping, rubble rained down and blocked the only escape route. Hertz was at a loss when the metal pony suddenly showed up beside him. Usually guardians of ruins would not welcome outsiders, but this pony had lowered its head and kindly approached. It nodded its head at Hertz and abruptly turned around. Hertz followed its footsteps immediately and ran into the heart of the ruins...
Even though his godly powers meant his body was immortal, Hertz was drained by the flow of time. He had always wanted to find a successor, but the realm of Humans was in a mess and Astralists failed to find one for him; Even when they found a trainable person, Hertz would be strict on them. He would ask them to remain in the realm of Humans and accumulate experience. As a result, many of the candidates died in war or gave up the chance of entering Court-hood...
Exhaustion gradually pressed itself upon Hertz, leading him to a life lived according to his heart’s desire. Once, he passed through the territory of Elves while searching for ancient relics. His way was blocked by a battle between Elves and Demons. Hertz stood high and shot down rains of arrows. He did not plan to help the Elves. All he wanted to do was to clear the road.
Bull King: My friend! Nice job! Warrior of Gods!
‘Friend?’ Hertz glanced from the corners of his eyes. An elf bull with a mace said:
Bull King: Where did you find that big artifact you’re riding on?
Bull King: It’s as good as my son’s products!
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: Your son?
Bull King: Right! He’s super clever!
Bull King: Every treasure I bring back, he can figure out how they work in moments.
Bull King: He’s not a yokel like me...
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: Treasure? You mean ancient —
Bull King: I don’t care if it’s ancient or not.
Bull King: If they were gonna be taken by Demons anyways...
Bull King: ...I’d rather take them home and make my son happy.
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: You bring manifestation of ancient wisdom home for your child to play?
Bull King: I just said my son is a genius! Did you even listen to me?
As if the comment landed on a sore point, Hertz was uncontrollably furious —
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: Ancient wisdom has drowned in history because of people like you!
Bull King: Why would you suddenly want to fight? You’re so unreasonable!
Bull King: Hmph! I’m not to be sniffed at!
The elf gave its best after the fight with Demons, but was eliminated by the outrageous Hertz.
If not for their resistance, Hertz would have calmed after killing the elf bull, but the bull’s men retaliated in anger, giving Hertz a bitter fight. Even strong as a Court of Zodiacs, Hertz could barely gain an advantage, let alone hold back.
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: It was too much...
The worn out Hertz walked to the edge of the battlefield. The legs of the artifact shifted its form and fixed on the ground. Hertz pulled the legs and drew out a fire protection zone enclosing the whole field. He went back onto the heights and gathered his power of a Court of Zodiacs and transferred it onto an arrow. The head of the arrow gave a blinding light and even lit up. At sunset, Hertz shot the fire arrow onto the field full of bodies. The fire blazed like burning grease and the flame stressed on Hertz’s heart...
Besides acting on the requests of the other Courts of Zodiacs, Hertz stayed out of the realm of Humans’ business. He accepted the Gods’ request to elevate an enormous maze ruin into the air and let Gods who stayed in the realm of Humans live in it. Hertz also kept bringing in ancient relics, hid them in the maze and guarded this treasury on the edge of the realm.
Since he started guarding the Lost Relic, Hertz seldom came across decent prey. In the prolonged search and protection of relics, the drawing of his bow has become reflex. In an instant, the arrow would take the life of any hostiles. Hertz even quit checking who the invaders were. Hence, when the enemy dodged his first arrow this time, Hertz unintentionally turned serious.
In the square of the Lost Relic, Hertz and the intruder danced through the air. Hertz pushed hard on the floor with the legs of the artifact attached to his back and sprang up from the flat ground below and onto an edge of a broken bridge. He looked down at the square, aiming at the green shadow travelling around the pillars. He drew his bow and released. By the time the arrow was released, Hertz had already leapt to another spot, conjuring his power of God onto the head of the second arrow.
The green shadow evaded the first arrow agilely, only to have jumped into the track of the second arrow. It turned around sharp and raised its peculiarly shaped gun, halting the arrow with a blast of air. However, the arrow exploded into scorching flame. The invader was blown into the debris of the tier when Hertz reached its side just then —
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: You are —
His enemy subdued, Hertz could finally clearly see its face. He never for a moment thought that the invader was a puppet powered by elements. In its helmet, there was a glow indicating the presence of a sentient mind composed of elements.
In the past, Hertz was rescued from a ruin by an ancient mechanical beast. It led him to a skylight, saving him from being buried alive. Returning to the surface, Hertz looked back to see a boulder hitting the metal horse, and the primordial elements within swallowed by sand and stones.
Hertz could not help but to be glad that he did not break the puppet. It reached out its palm towards the Court of Sagittarius. He gripped its hand and heard a emotionless sound from the puppet.
Mark: ‘Hello. I am Mark. Can you fix me?’
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: You are...
Mark: ‘Compared to the tools you use, my structure is definitely simpler.’
Mark: ‘Please examine me. Resolve my errors.’
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: Why do you have a perfect body but such a simple mind?
Mark: ‘Please define “simple”. I will create an entry for this term.’
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: You...Who created you?
Mark: ‘No records.’
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: Even if you don’t say ‘I don't remember’...
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: ...at least you should have answered ‘I don't know.’
Hertz was palpably disappointed as from what he had seen, this elemental mind was only capable of searching for an answer. It does not know how to think about the question first and process it according to its status.
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: Why do you call yourself Mark?
Mark: ‘Because “Mark” is my only entry that has no definition.’
With clues from Mark, Hertz stepped into the territory of Elves again. The revitalized Humans had conquered every inch of the land, while Demons and Elves only wandered on the periphery. The so-called dominion of elves had disappeared without a trace.
Hertz could only return to the Lost Relic, not realizing a little elf followed him. It confined the power of Astralists with a peculiar artifact and teleported with Hertz to the Relic. Inside the Relic, the elf was like a fish in water. Hertz could only seize the little elf only with the Astralists’ help. He was surprised by its skill, that it could create artifacts with ancient relics.
Hertz questioned the elf but it refused to answer. The child-figured elf sat on the floor with folded legs. Its milky face suggested the elf was still new to the world.
Red Boy: Why should I answer?
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: You like studying these relics, right?
Red Boy: So what?
Tiredness always filled Hertz’s heart. Looking at the obstinate child, he surprisingly softened.
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: What if I told you I can teach you?
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: ‘If I have one more chance to try again...’
Villager: You mute piece of crap! Trying to steal from me?
Hertz the Woodlands Walker: No! Let go of her!
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: Why do you want to learn these techniques?
Red Boy: You answer my question first. Why did you become a mechanic?
The Court of Sagittarius could not figure out why he was not able to be strict with him.
Red Boy followed and learnt from Hertz. He always tried to sneak into the Relic only to be caught by Hertz. Though Red Boy was naughty, he had the most profound insights towards mechanisms. Hence Hertz brought him everywhere, searching for relics and passing on to him his knowledge about machines.
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: When I was small, I wanted to become a musician, but I gave up.
Red Boy: Why?
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: As to why...
Hertz threw firewood into the campfire. He never thought the question through. Red Boy stared at Hertz from his side. The boy’s focused expression directed him to dig out a figure of a girl in his memory and the unforgettable incident.
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: ‘So all was interweaved.’
Hertz never forgot. It was the last time he played the flute —
When Hertz was small, he would always go to the realm of Human with his father and help them fight. One time, they lived in a village of Humans. He met a girl who was called ‘Little Crow’ by fellow villagers.
Young Hertz: She has white hair. Why is she called a ‘crow’?
Hertz did not understand at the time. He was still immature and acted egoistically since he had blood of Gods after all.
On a day, Hertz witnessed a group of boys bullying Little Crow. She was about to cry when Hertz exploited his identity as a God and drove the bullies away. He even fought with the boys. The conflict attracted villagers who came and separated them. They scolded the boys and apologized to Hertz.
The next day, Hertz was strolling around and whistling when he noticed Little Crow peeking at him from behind the wall. Pompously, he motioned her to approach. Little Crow walked towards Hertz shyly and stood nervously in front of him. Seeing her silence, Hertz walked away, but Little Crow followed him. Hertz was happy to have a sidekick and left her be.
In those days, Little Crow had never spoken a word. She listened to Hertz and messed around with him. Every time listening to his casual whistles, Little Crow would be on cloud nine...As time passed by, Hertz started to like this little “bird” but she never talked and not even laughed when she was happy. He was unsophisticated at the time, and therefore, thought that Little Crow was simply too shy to talk.
On the day before Hertz left, he took out the flute he treasured. He planned to play a song for Little Crow and leave the perfect impression as a God. In the morning that day, he asked Little Crow to sit on the grass and clumsily played the flute. She focused her mind to listen Hertz’s music, switching her funny smiles to a serious face. This made the boy nervous and played even worse.
Hertz ended the performance hastily and grouched for the music fell short of expectation. But Little Crow stared at him dumb-founded and closed in to his chest, touching his lips with her fingers. Hertz pushed her away and lay on a rock in a sulk, but he accidentally fell asleep.
When Hertz woke, he opened his eyes and saw Little Crow imitating his moves on the flute and playing a discordant tone. At the time, Hertz thought Little Crow had stolen the flute from his chest. However, thinking back now, he may have dropped the flute when he was sleeping; only then did Little Crow nervously pick it up. But back then, anger had risen within Hertz. He took back the flute and accused her as being a thief. Villagers happened to be passing by. One of the men who heard Hertz came and grabbed Little Crow, lifting her up into the air.
Villager: You dumb piece of crap! How dare you steal from Mister!
Shocked, Hertz had stood there without intervening, as the villagers berated and hit the girl. She wailed in pain, sounds of “nghh” escaped from her damaged larynx, which went into Hertz ears with the admonishment of the villagers. The inharmonious scene disgusted him—
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: ...then I ran back to my father’s side.
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: And the next day, I returned to the realm of Gods.
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: Since, I have lost the mood for music, turning to studying ruins and machinery.
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: I never realized these events were related in such a way.
Red Boy: You deserve this.
The day had done dark. Hertz thought Red Boy was already asleep and surprised to find that he was still listening only with his eyes closed.
Red Boy: You’ve never really grown.
Red Boy: Just because one touches anything in the Relic, you take them as enemies.
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: What? You’re still moaning and groaning about that?
Red Boy: This time, I am the one trying to teach you something! Don’t stray!
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: I admit that I was too stubborn back then.
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: But the intruders didn’t know what they’ve encountered.
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: What’s inside the Relic isn’t just treasure.
Red Boy: I have my own ways of dealing with them!
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: Yeah, but you couldn’t deal with me.
Red Boy: Hmph! Let’s wait and see. One day...
Hertz just let the boy grouch, but in his heart, he had decided to pass on his power to this baby-like “boy” in the future.
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: Go to sleep. I’ll bring you to the bottom of the Relic tomorrow.
Red Boy: Just now...
Court of Sagittarius - Hertz: Mm?
Red Boy: You asked why I want to learn these techniques...
Red Boy: It is because I lack strength.
Red Boy: I need their power to find my father and bring him back.
Hertz zipped the sleeping bag for Red Boy, not noticing his blushed face under the light of the campfire.