Winning the VALDRO anniversary event, Ken and his team were teleported straight to the VALDRO castle, the final fortress of the whole gaming contest. The quantum teleporter transported the trio about a day’s distance from the VALDRO castle near an inn which was maintained by an old drawf with her drawf sons. The inn wasn’t too big but it was leisurable enough to offer comfort to a worn out Ken who had lost his consciousness during the battle with Amano.
Opening his eyes <while lying on a bed in the inn>, “where am I?”.
“Ken!” exclaiming with joy, Amber said as she rushed towards Ken.
“Are you okay? We were worried about you”
Sitting up on the bed with his face clearly showing the sudden pain which ran through his body. “Slowly Ken! don’t over exaggerate yourself.”
“I am Fine. Where’s Harry?”
“He’s downstairs having his breakfast!”
“Is he alright? How about his ribs?”.
“He’s fine! He took the health potion and is doing well now.”
“So where are we?” opening the player’s tab while talking to Amber.
“We are near the VALDRO castle. The game’s final frontier.”
“I don’t think so. There is a player at the same distance as ours and he’s heading straight to the castle. We should better make a move.”
“Wait! you are not fit enough to go anywhere!”
Staring towards her “Fit or not, we have to go or else our all efforts will go in vain.”
Getting up from the bed Ken stumbled across the room as Amber, got hold of him and helped him to move outside the room, downstairs.
“Ken! how are you?” Harry asked as he rushed towards Amber to help her to bring downstairs.
“Good. Just a little pain here and there. What about you?”.
“The health potion transformed me into the same old Harry.”
“That’s nice! <shaking hands with him >. So let’s get started”
“To the VALDRO castle. It’s nearby and we have to reach there before the anyone else”<holding his waist as the pain arose again>.
“Look at yourself first. You have cuts all-over your arms and chest and you want to travel? ”
“It’s alright! It’s not about my fitness, it’s about our hard work that will pay-off as soon as we reach that castle.”
“I knew that this was going to happen and so I have already arranged a bullock cart for our traveling.”
And so finishing off their meals, all three of them headed towards the ‘Finserv’ village, the place where the VALDRO castle was located.
The bullock moved down up and down the muddy roads as our trio finally arrived at the VALDRO castle after a days hectic and tiresome journey.
Harry smiling while standing infront of the castle’s gate, “Finally, we have arrived at our destination.”
“Yes! We finally did it!” Amber exclaimed as she hugged Ken and jumped in excitement.
“Hurry up guys, the other player is not far off. We were lucky enough to get a cart and it seems that the other player was travelling on foot.”
“It’s fine Ken. Don’t load yourself with too much of these thoughts. It’s just a game. So enjoy it’s every moment to the fullest.”
“It’s just a game but the reward of winning this game is too big to be avoided. I require that money. Someone is waiting for me outside. I want it to win for her so that I can help her to overcome her disease.”
“You have a girlfriend?” Amber asked with a tense expression on her face, taking a keen interest in what Ken was about to say.
“Girlfriend……………. I don’t know exactly but I’ll be happy to have one” dragging the word girl as if he was lost in some thought.
“If you want, I don’t mind becoming one.” She mumbled as Ken looked at her and she turned her face Away from Ken to hide the blush on her face.
“Apart from this, I have to defeat him!” staring towards to huge gate as he said to himself.
The VALDRO castle or the foothold<as it was originally named> was a huge castle made up of solid bricks stacked up against each other to form hard invincible walls. It had three long towers that shooted upwards from the castle wall and they had purple conical caps over them.
The castle was guarded on the outside by a long white, stone wall that had large poky spikes over it and had a huge gate in the center. The castle was similar to what they are generally portrayed in fairy stories and covered a very large area in the Finserv city.
“Let’s go inside!” Harry said looking at the edges of the gate.
“but how do we have to open this huge semi-circular gate?” Amber asked with a childish expression on her face.
“See their” Ken exclaimed pointing towards the palm detector placed at a corner.
The palm detector was a green touch-sensitive screen that had a green background with a radar-like appearance on the front. Figuring out how to use the detector Ken, Harry and Amber, all three placed their hands on the screen as the gate opened slowly and steadily.
Walking down the long passage which followed the gate, out trio found multiple ways and passage similar to the one in which they were walking. Neither the current passage seemed to be ending nor does the other aisle’s which originated from their passageway.
But one thing as common between all the paths. They had the same monotonous brownish-golden walls with dead silence covering the whole passage.
“Umm! I’m getting tired Ken to do something ” with a child-like voice, Amber exclaimed.
“I agree with Amber, Ken. This path is becoming a maze now! And most importantly what the hell are we supposed to do here”, Harry shouted as his voice echoed through the empty corridor.
Ken replied nothing as he opened up the map to check whether they will find any clue or not. To their luck as soon as Ken opened the map he found a green dot blinking at the center of the castle which was close to their current location.
“Harry! Look at this. (as Harry immediately looked into Ken’s screen) this dot here seems to be the location where we have to reach”.
“Wait I’ll check on my map also” opening up his map, Harry found the same dot blinking somewhere near them.
“It’s showing straight from here. Let’s go and check.”
“Ya, let’s go”. Holding Amber’s hand and pulling her up from the ground, they rushed towards the spot where the blink was on the map.
“Straight!” ”Left!” ”Right!….almost there” “twenty steps straight” navigating the path, Harry lead Ken and Amber to a huge empty hall which had sparse lightning and the same monotonous appearance.
It wasn’t actually a hall but it was more of an outpost, in the middle of the castle walls made to keep an eye at the surroundings similar to the one that was built long back ago during the rule of kings to maintain their castle’s safety.
“There is nothing here” Ken prompted examining the whole area<of the hall> closely.
“puff!……” with an angry child face, Amber looked at Ken and said, “Do something quickly!”
Ken didn’t replied as he dropped his head slightly and closed his eyes. Both Harry and Amber knew that whenever Ken does that he always comes up with a brilliant idea. And hence, they left him alone. Meanwhile, they started to think of their own as Harry and Amber both started to look here and there, shuffling and strolling their maps and other tabs.
By mistake, Aber opened the player’s tab and observed something there. With a smile on her face, she quickly closed the tab and hid her smile without anyone noticing about it.
“You found anything Harry?”
“Nope!” examining the walls of the hall.
Opening up his eyes, Ken said “It has to be somewhere here only. Maybe above this floor or somewhere even higher”
“What do you mean?”
“Look the dot blinking is showing this location only. If it’s not this place, then it may be above or even under this floor.”
“Hmm….! You may be right. But I searched the walls but there are no secret passages here or there.”
“I suggest that we should split up and look for a staircase or an opening. I’ll go straight from here, Harry you take the left path and Amber you go right” <pointing towards the extension of the hall which diverged into three separate parts.>
”And one more thing. Find anything or not, we all meet here exactly after half an hour. Take care of yourself guys, we have a game on our hands, see ya!“.
Wasting no time, Ken vanished from the sight as Harry and Amber followed his orders and went to search in their respective direction.
(Sounds of footsteps echoing in the long empty hall) “……………………”
“I have to find the path to that blinking dot. It has been Ken all over the way, so I have to prove myself useful for the team. Think Harry! Think!”.
Looking around the way, Harry found a small dragonfly hanging from the crack in the wall. As he moved closed to the dragonfly, he found that the insect wasn’t dragonfly but instead it was a golden case, molded in the form of a dragonfly.
Delicately, he took the cast from the wall and holding it in his palm he opened up the cast to find a white piece of paper inside the mould. The paper reads as,
‘If you are reading this, then congratulations you are on the verge of winning this contest. But first you have to pass this simple riddle:
Luck won’t find me. only intelligence will. What you seek is just below your knees, lying deep down In dust. You see me and ignore me. I am hexadic and I am where you came from. So smile, cause you are capable of making others smile ’
Confused and puzzled, Harry read the riddle twice and thrice but couldn’t find a clue.
“I need to crack this……this is definitely the key. Think Harry! Think!……… I am where you cam….Gotcha!”.
Running back to the trio’s meeting point, Harry started to once again examine the hall. But this time he examined the floor closely.
“Found you!”. A stone brick moved backwards as Harry pressed it. A green laser emerged as the brick got stuck like a click-button and never came back on the surface. Illuminated by the laser, the hall got easier to examine as the Harry quickly found two such similar buttons.
Meanwhile, Ken ran out of time and unable to find anything he returned to the hall as planned but only to find three intersecting green beams illuminating the hall.
“What is all this Harry?”
“Nothing. Just our key to winning this game.”
“But where do you find this? And how”
“Long story made shot, just find six buttons near the floor ”.
With no further questions, Ken and Harry both found out six buttons as the light from the six layers mingled to form the symbol of VALDRO Corporation, few millimeters above the floor.
“This is amazing? Isn’t it” smiling at the display, infront of him.
Slowly and Slowly! The logo cum symbol began to rise up from the floor towards the roof/ceiling. Reaching the top, it touched the roof as a blue colored board dropped from the ceiling onto the floor.
“I think we are supposed to stand on it!”
Putting his right foot forward, followed by the left foot Ken boarded the round platform. Suddenly, it started to move upwards as he jumped from it and the board came down again.
“Harry! I think I have figured it out. We need to stand on this platform now!”
“But where is Amber? And how can we leave her behind?”
“I’m getting very strong vibes of someone’s NIX. If we don’t hurry, I am not sure whether anyone of us could face him or not.” Harry’s face went blank as Ken said this. He knew that Ken is saying something like this, then it’s something big.
“Look Harry, I know that it’s not fair to leave Amber behind like this but if we don’t do it know, our whole efforts, the time that we gave to this game will go in vain. Amber is not a kid and I am pretty confident that she will make it to us. So I’m leaving this decision to you. You are the one who found it and so the call is yours!”
“Umm..!. let’s go. I trust Amber and I am pretty sure that will make it to us”. Without a second thought, Harry made a quick call as the two landed the board. Moving upwards, the platform immediately gained momentum after halfway and like a sonic dash, vanished in thin air.
The scenes went from monotonous walls to complete darkness and back to the same walls as the platform kind of transported them from one place to another. The new location was similar to what they were in. the same walls, the same silence and the same hall. The only thing that changed was the no of distinct paths.
Narrowing down from three to only two, the no of sub-parts originating from the main path decreased. Checking the map again, the dot changed its color to red as now finally, their destination was within their reach.
But the only problem was the two paths. Which one to choose and which one to leave.
“I’ll go on the left one. You go straight.” Harry prompted as he signaled Ken to move quickly.
Without any dialog, ken moved down the long alley that had nothing in it except the stony ground which made the floor.
Walking down the path for five to ten minutes Ken observed a bright light, illuminating the near dark alley. Running towards the source, he saw a red button kept on a well-crafted metal stand under a ray of sunlight that came from the top. It was the same light that illuminated the whole passage and now this very light was the endpoint of Ken’s journey.
Seeing the button at one corner from <his current position> Ken ran towards the button. The button which was going to sum up all teamwork that Amber, Harry and he himself had put into it.
“………………” Sounds of claps began to echo in the vacant passage as Ken’s running footsteps came to a halt right before the attic like place cum hall where the button was kept. Ken knew that he had come. Taking his sword in his hand, he concentrated on the sounds as they seem to come closer and closer.
“Congratulations! Congratulations!” a voice came as looked around but found no one.