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Backstory

        On the other side of the door was the castle’s grand hall. When he entered, the king and his officials rejoiced in his arrival. Escorted by two of his men, the king walked down to personally welcome Morse: “Marvelous! No wonder you are the one who solved nine out of the top ten most difficult puzzles in the country!” Upon hearing the king’s words, Morse took out the 100x100 magic cube and tossed it toward the king before coldly saying, “The tenth puzzle.” After examining the cube in his hands, the king smiled with content. After a short pause, the king said, “I am curious as to how you figured out the relationship between the flowers and the paintings.”

        Morse replied with a sigh, “You already know the answer. I wouldn’t dare waste your time.” “You...!” One of the men wanted to teach him a lesson, but the king gestured him to stand down. Morse closely looked at the king before he began to slowly explain, “At first, I wondered if the paintings had to be arranged in a certain order, but I soon realized they didn’t because they could go in any order. The three flowers were strange. They were placed together, but were not pleasing to the eye. They also seemed to indicate withering, which meant their presence was not to decorate the corridor. I then recalled the space behind each golden plate, so I figured out the relationship between the paintings and the flowers.” “How did you know where to put which flower?” The king probed further, which Morse answered with a sardonic smile, “Flower language. Plum represents loyalty; crown-of-thorns represents self-defense; and red spider lily represents disaster. The first painting portrayed a swordsman pointing his sword at the sky. That meant he was taking a vow — loyalty. The second was about a warrior holding a shield as if protecting something — self-defense. The last one depicted the swordsman and the warrior fighting each other. I believe that was the fight that honored their promises. A fight does not end without injuries — that is the disaster.”

        After hearing Morse’s explanation, the king was particularly pleased, but Morse added, “Now, can you give me back my design draft?” “If you help me solve the most difficult puzzle, I will give back your draft.” With that said, the king gestured one of his men to show Morse a peculiar box. Morse picked it up and closely observed it — the box was completely sealed and its lock was connected to a picture on the box. At the center of the picture stood a warrior surrounded by thorns. The warrior was holding onto a strange hole, as if filling it in was the key to opening the box.

        “Our country has always been famous for having ample resources and throughout the years, we have peacefully coexisted with other countries. However, they are now trying to unite and attack us to plunder our resources. Although we have an abundance of resources, we do not have enough forces to defend ourselves because we advocate peace...” The king deeply sighed before continuing, “The box in your hands was given to me by my late father. He asked me to open the box when even I, the king, feel incapable of dealing with a situation. What lies within the box shall help me overcome this crisis, but perhaps it is too valuable or contains power beyond imagination that it had to be sealed with such a sophisticated lock. Everyone here has failed to open it, but if it is you, maybe it will...” Morse interrupted the king’s sentence. He coldly asked, “What are some of the memories you shared with your father?” “What?” The king did not understand why Morse asked that question. Morse was actually not listening to the king; he had entered his palace of thoughts and began pondering over how to open the box.

        “Is there anything else your father gave you that you think is valuable and memorable?” Morse asked the same question with another approach. It was not until then did the king recall his father giving him a shield: “At the time, my swordsmanship was much better and I was proud of myself, so my father gave me a shield as a gift and said, ‘True greatness comes from protecting your people. Do not use war as a tool to achieve your goals.’ His words have always been close to my heart.” “Then do you still have the shield?” “Of course.” The king asked one of his subordinates to get the shield for Morse. He observed it for a while and said, “Just as I expected.” He took off the ruby on the shield and put it onto the box. The ruby then completely merged into the hole and the box immediately opened. Morse handed it back to the king, who only looked at him with bemusement: “But...it was something only my father and I shared together. How did you know the two things were related?” “First of all, I did not know anything about the two of you. I only deduced it. The warrior on the box is actually you. To insist on upholding peace requires an extremely strong will and that determination will be tested by unforeseeable challenges which are represented by the surrounding thorns. The gem signifies your father’s hopes for you — that even if you obtain the power within the box, you do not forget about peace.” The king listened to Morse’s explanation as tears unconsciously streamed down his face. All of his father’s love and teachings surfaced in the king’s mind.

        Inside the box was surprisingly an old lamp. The king picked it up, lightly rubbed it and read the ancient language carved on the bottom of the lamp. A gigantic genie then floated out from the lamp! “I am Genie, the Wish Granter, of this lamp. I can fulfill three wishes for you. What do you wish for?” Everyone, including the king, were all too shocked to respond. Just then, Morse reminded the king, “Weren’t you trying to use his power to save your country and subjects?” The king then cleared his mind and said, “Right...thank you for the reminder.” “You’re welcome. I only want my draft back.”

        The king smiled and walked to the genie: “Great Genie! Please grant my country ever-lasting warmth!” Upon hearing this, Genie conjured light particles and let them flow with the wind; all that were present immediately felt the comfortable change of temperature. “Please protect my country from storms!” Genie then shot his power toward the sky and created an aura of light. “And my last wish. Please protect my country from any invasion.” Genie then took a design draft from one of the king’s men. Using the design, he controlled rocks and mud to create a maze that enclosed the entire country. After granting the king’s three wishes, the lamp suddenly disappeared; and the king believed that they had avoided peril.

        Morse walked forward, picked up the design draft and carefully put it into his pocket before murmuring, “Stole my idea, huh? What kind of genie is that! Even I haven’t figured out how to get out of the maze!” The king laughed beside him: “Isn’t it great? If you cannot get out of it, then it must be fool-proof!” The king patted Morse’s shoulder and extended his gratitude: “You have saved this country. What do you want in return? Do you want to be my chancellor?” Morse pushed away his hand and turned to leave. Before he left the hall, he turned back and said, “That maze is the best reward. I will go and find the way out.” Morse then stepped out of the palace’s grand hall. Although he was too arrogant to be a chancellor, the king believed he was the only one capable, and that only with his help can the country prosper...

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