"Sisters, that's the Holy Mountain! We've found it!"
Cara screamed to let out her overwhelming joy. Many of the witches stayed in place, frozen in wonder. Others embraced their companions around them.
However, Scarlett wrinkled her eyebrows. "Is that really Holy Mountain?"
"What's the matter? Is there anything wrong?" Asked Leaf, whispering. The same question echoed in her mind. The city in the sky looked unlike those in the ancient texts, which were glittering and magnificent. Although the spires were spectacular, the whole of it was gray and black, and even in the day, it was dull. Not to mention the city was filled with a thick red mist akin to blood.
"There is something... crowding in those caves." Scarlett's voice was a bit dry. "I can't see it clearly, but those things don't resemble gods..."
A layer of goose bumps rose all over Leaf. Scarlett could see the farthest out of the members of the Witch Cooperation Association, and the way that she spoke made Leaf uneasy. Unfortunately, Lightning had left with Nightingale, or else she could have flown closer to look.
"Sisters! Holy Mountain lies before us." The mentor waved her hands as she shouted. "Just a bit further, and we'll find our eternity!"
She immediately urged Stone to move her forward. Leaf wanted to step forward to stop them but her feet stopped her. She remembered what happened to Wendy two weeks ago. She was afraid that if she discouraged them, it would not make sense to the Respected Mentor, and she would not stop.
The walking women began to speed up. After leaving the foot of the mountain, the snow seemed to get lower and the surrounding temperature also raised. "This is what was forbidden in legend, a place where humans can't step," Leaf thought, "but there're footprints in this no-man's land. If Lightning was here, would she be joyful?"
Looking back, the towering mountains behind her rose and fell, like a barrier that could not be crossed. Leaf could not help but guess that it was precisely because of the Impassable Mountain Range that the demonic beasts could not directly attack the hinterland, but rather must pass through the northernmost regions.
If they could somehow find Holy Mountain, no matter the method, they would not have to wonder any longer and could have peace... She gently sighed. To tell the truth, she was moved when Nightingale spoke to the cooperation about all that she had seen and heard in Border Town. When Wendy asked who wanted to leave with Nightingale, she could not help but try to move forward and tell her name. But until the end, she still failed to cross the heart of the threshold, and she was left as a shadow of the past.
Leaf shook her head, she did not want to think about things that had already passed. She moved to keep up with the group and crossed the yellow and white line into the wilderness.
However, it was not long before strange things began to happen. No matter how they sped up, the city retreated at the same speed. After two hours, the "Holy Mountain" was still in the clouds, neither smaller nor bigger. It was as if... they had not moved at all.
"Respected mentor, let us rest, our sisters are tired," said Stone. Over this period, a number of women had carried the mentor, but Stone had kept it up the longest.
"No, how could we stop now!?" Cara refused the suggestion without hesitating. "This is the test from the deities, sisters. If there's no firm will, we can never reach Holy Mountain! We can't stop. We must continue until the gates of Holy Mountain appear before us!"
Seeing that persuasion was futile, the women marched forward.
However the situation did not change, and while wandering the witches also encountered two waves of demonic beasts. The second wave consisted of two deformed beasts. Leaf created long weeds to trap the beast, but it could not stop one of her sisters from being hurt and bleed.
The monsters were finally killed and the crowd found that the sky was gradually darkening. Twilight had approached. The city remained in front of them, but the silhouette seemed to fade, like the city itself was disappearing.
According to their past experience, they must find suitable camping place to set up a camp. However this area was completely different from the Impassable Mountain Range, which seemed to be almost flat and was littered with the occasional demonic beasts. They simply could not stay there overnight.
"Respected mentor, we must return to the foot of the mountain! Let Scarlett lead the way, with Red Light lighting the path. Then maybe we can make it back by midnight."
"No!" Cara shouted, "We've spent all the afternoon coming here without stopping. At this point, we've spent more than half of our strength and it'd be impossible to return at the same speed. Sisters, let us move on. We'll rest once we've reached Holy Mountain."
"How about Sherry?" People asked, pointing to a witch who had collapsed lifeless on the ground.
"We've no time to bury her," the instructor shook her head and said, "Leave her here. The earth will take her."
Leaf closed her eyes in sadness. A sister had left them. If she had had more strength, then she would not have needed to die in this desolate land where even a tombstone could not be left.
As the crowd sat there undecided as to whether they should move on or retreat, Stone suddenly exclaimed, "Look at the sky, the city is gone!"
Leaf opened her eyes, looked up, and saw that the sky had become gray-black. The clouds had hidden in the night, and with them, the city had disappeared without a trace. It was as if it had never existed.
Everyone stood still, and for a while, there was a terrible silence.
There was the city you could never get, for it was an image floating in the air, and when the sun fell the illusion vanished... Leaf suddenly remembered a story from Lightning's adventures about those at sea who saw bizarre fantasies. She shivered. "We were cheated..." she whispered before shouting, "We were cheated, it was not Holy Mountain! What we saw was a mirage!"
"A mirage?" Cara looked back, her face terrifyingly ferocious. "What's that?"
"Lightning mentioned in a story that this phenomenon often occurs on voyages, but on the land is much rarer. All we saw was a phantom. The real city may be far away from us if it's not even there at all!"
"Does that mean that it does exist and just teleported?"
"I..." Leaf was stifled. "I don't know."
At this point, Scarlett suddenly called out, warning them, "Be careful! Something is coming!" She stared at something moving on the left, and her face was disgusted.
"Are they demonic beasts?" Windseeker crouched, ready to fight. "How many are there?"
"No..." Scarlett took two steps back, "I don't know what it is..."
As she spoke, a shadow closed in at lightning speed directly towards Scarlett. Although she saw the light enclosed by shadow, she could not dodge the bolt. It was just too fast.
In the blink of an eye, the shadow pierced through Scarlett's chest, making her fly backward. She was nailed to the trunk.
It was a spear.
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