It happened a long time ago.
Not only was Old Moran not old when it happened, he was in the middle of his youth.
Sixteen-year-old Moran. He was a handsome man with delicate, silver hair and strong eyes and nose. This was when he was a child of nobility and attended the Elenoire Academy.
He was serious in his studies and was always at the top of his class. He would read books alone and gave off a certain air that made it difficult for others to talk to him.
He was very obstinate, with a tendency to look down on others and he was also quick to anger, but his good looks made him popular with girls. Which of course, meant that he was most hated by the other male students. And because of all those reasons, he did not have a single person he could call a friend.
One day during recess, he was seen staring at something instead of reading his beloved books.
His silver hair flew in the wind as his sharp eyes looked intently at a single woman.
At 16, the young Moran had discovered what it was to be in love.
He was looking at her with a hard expression, but inside, his heart was thumping.
The woman who had caught Moran’s eye was finally notified about his passionate stare from a friend, and she finally saw him. Her expression suggested that she was not pleased by the attention, and he quickly ran from the spot. Other girls may have been glad of Moran’s passionate stare, but this woman was not moved by such things.
The girl’s name was Harp Helan. As her name suggested, she had a beautiful voice. She was an arresting woman with short, red hair. Always smiling, like she was enjoying herself, and her large eyes shone brightly as if they endlessly saw things that drew her interest. She disliked being in large crowds and preferred to be alone and do as she pleased. In other words, she too was a little eccentric. It is not certain if that was what drew Moran in, but he was unmistakably in love with her.
His feelings grew as the days went on. But his feelings were not conveyed. His legs would not allow him to act. And there were no signs of her turning back to notice his presence.
Moran lived idly for days. His distance to her was not closing.
While the days went by, he was slowly able to see the relationships she had with those around her. Generally speaking, she did not have any friends that she was especially close with, but there was one place that she would always visit at least once every two days.
Moran felt a sense of guilt at his own actions but followed her anyway. It is something that has been a constant throughout the ages, that people are moved to foolish actions once the fire in their heart has been lit.
The place that she regularly visited was an underground storehouse that was full of old books. It was a dusty place with library books that were almost never read. They were the types of books that even an avid reader like Moran would not have touched.
“You came nari! Harp came nari! Hurry up and take a seat nari!”
There was a man in the corner of the storehouse, and he was reading a book by candlelight. He was the one that Harp had been coming to see.
And Moran knew him as well. He was in the same year, the same class. How could he forget?
His name was Petel, and he always ended his words with nari! He was quite peculiar. He had a thin frame and was short in stature, his eyes drooped and he had a large nose and mouth. He could hardly be considered a handsome man.
Were Petel and Harp in that kind of a relationship then!? Moran felt like the ground was crumbling beneath his feet. After all, this man named Petel was incredibly eccentric, even more so than Moran.
When did this happen!?
Moran cursed his lack of action. Maybe things would have been different if he had acted first. He was bitter. And that emotion turned into anger.
He angrily stormed in while the two were chatting away happily.
The two were given a nasty shock. No one was supposed to come down to this underground storehouse, and yet the famous Moran from the Academy had stormed in with a furious expression. It was no wonder they were astonished.
This is was the moment that all three finally knew of each other. And from then on, it did not take long for the three of them to become good friends. Once Moran discovered that Petel and Harp were not lovers, he quickly started to see Petel in a more favorable light.
“So what is it? What are you two been doing together in this underground storehouse?”
Moran asked one day. Harp and Petel looked at each other’s faces and hesitated to answer. This annoyed Moran even further. He was incredibly jealous that the two shared a secret that he was not a part of.
The two of them had started to understand that Moran had a short temper, and they decided to share their secret as proof of their friendship.
“Harp Helan. As my name suggests, my family is from the Helan territories.”
“Ahh, nobles form those borderlands. I heard about that.”
“Borderlands? How rude. Well, I suppose it is true. But it’s a great place. It’s rich with nature and the flowers are so beautiful. You couldn’t taste such luxury as playing a field of flowers in the imperial capital, could you?”
“Hmph. I wouldn’t call something like that a luxury. Luxury is precious stones and metals.”
“You really don’t get it.”
“Both of you don’t get it nari! Luxury is having books nari!”
All three of them had their own idea of luxury.
Harp said this wasn’t important, and tried to continue her story. Moran looked at her with a passionate stare. He was interested in what she was saying, but he was more interested in her. Petel seemed oblivious to this as he sat next to him, reading a book as if this had nothing to do with him.
“We can debate about this another time. First, about what I and Petel have been researching. It all started from a legend passed down in the Helan family.”
“Legend? Hmph. You still have things like that?”
Moran mocked her a little. It was a habit for him to look down on others. He was also quite a logical thinker, he disliked old myths and legends immensely. They were always so vague and unclear, and that is what bothered him about them.
However, Harp was quite insensitive to the feelings of others, and she was not bothered by Moran’s off-putting attitude.
“Yes, an old legend that’s been passed down. My now dead grandmother told me when I was very young, it was very important.”
“What was it?”
Harp took in a deep breath. It was so important, that she did not want to start light-heartedly. Moran was a good friend. So she would tell him. This was right.
“Hundreds of years ago, the lands of the Helan territories were known for being cursed. Not only was it impossible to live there, but grass and trees would not grow. It had such a dark history, that it was even said that people who stepped foot into those lands would never return safely. The lands were within the domains of the country of Kudan, yet none of the nobles ever sought it…”
Moran listened intently. Harp’s earnest face demanded no less.
She usually had such a light-hearted air about her, yet she told the story so seriously. He had no desire to make fun of her now.
“It all started when a certain nobleman was ordered to go and live within those treacherous lands.”
He had been involved in a power struggle at the Royal Castle and was chased from the Capital. Likely, as an insult, he was given new lands, the Helan territories. This man named Helan would be the first lord of the Helan territories.
♦This is a story that happened several hundred years ago.♦
He lost his old family name. He would live alone in his new land, under the one name, Helan.
This man named Helan had bright red hair, a slender yet strong body and a vitality that prevented him from ever getting sick. But what distinguished him the most, was that this young man was always smiling. He could talk easily with anyone, and he loved to laugh. While he was descended from a great house, he would often mingle with common people and visit ordinary alehouses. He would freely offer his help to others, regardless of their station. He was loved by many, but he had little regard for the fact that he carried noble blood.
Helan had no interest in power or wealth. It had really been incredibly unlucky that he was involved in the power struggle. But he had no will to fight back, he accepted the order to live out his days in the cursed land. However, he did not think that the order to live in the cursed lands was ill luck in itself. He had always enjoyed working his lands. Because he was born a nobleman, a talented one at that, he had no choice but to stay in the capital. But now, he was able to make his own way in life. He had something to be happy about.
He was alone in a land with no grass or trees. His sentence was practically banishment, yet he felt a liveliness every day that he was there.
He would sleep in a natural cave during the nights, and at the breaking of the dawn, he would plant grass and trees. He was always alone as he worked, he was so engrossed that he would often forget to rest. The days went on, sometimes he had food, sometimes he did not. His body grew thin, his once beautiful appearance had burned dark under the sun, and he looked like a different person. But he had no interest in that, he continued to fight alone in the cursed lands.
The grass and trees would not grow…
Nothing had happened. The barren lands stayed barren. The world may be changing, but these lands alone would not change. But there were some changes around Helan. He was no longer alone here. Thirty in all. They all had their own reasons for coming here, but come here they had. Helan did not question each of them about what their reasons were. He did not deny any of them, he shared what little food he had and they lived together.
All of them felt grateful towards him, and they admired his humanity. There were some who had other places that they could have went, but they decided that they would carry on here, with Helan. Helan’s will was to change this cursed land into a livable, rich place.
One day, Helan gathered together all the residents of his land. He said that he had something important to say.
“Everyone, I have long overlooked this fact, but there is something strange about the flow of magic in these lands. The magic that flows within the natural world is in disarray here. And not only is it in disarray, but it is being done intentionally… It is no wonder these lands are said to be cursed.”
And what does that solve… Will this not only weaken our resolve? That was what some thought as they heard his words
“From now on, I will search every corner of these lands. I will even search the deeper corners that I’ve avoided. And I will expose whatever is causing this disarray of the flow of magic.”
“And then what?” somebody asked.
“I will return it to normal, of course. And then this land will be free from the curse.”
“But, how will you do it?”
“Fortunately, I’ve been blessed with a gift for magic. I promise you that I will find a way to lift the curse with magic. This gift was bestowed upon me for this very reason… That is what I’ve started to believe.”
“I don’t know if you should change the flow of magic within the natural world, something on such a scale could have consequences.”
Someone with an understanding of magic pointed out.
“I do not think that there won’t be consequences. However, this is my dream…”
There was no need to discuss it any further. He decided to abandon this area where they could barely live off of, and explore further, deep into the cursed lands.
Everyone agreed to this decision, and everyone wanted to go with him. Helan’s dream had become a dream for them all. They were all drawn to his blinding smile. His red hair would be a guide. No matter how far they were, they would not lose sight of that red hair…
The journey was a lot harder than anticipated. There was no end in sight, there was no guarantee that they would be successful. And yet no one abandoned the journey, and no one complained about the futility of it.
However, the harsh environment took Helan’s companions one by one. Those with weaker bodies began to fall.
After three years, he was finally able to see the entire picture of the flow of magic in the Helan territory. And he was even able to determine where the source of all the magic was.
It was a place that would later be known as the Cursed Swamp of the Helan territories. Only thirteen of them reached this place. More than half of them had been lost.
“Long ago, when there was a different country here instead of Kudan. They say that a man known as a philosopher had eloped and ended his days in these lands. The old legend says that he sang a cursed song as he died. Who would have thought that the legend was true?”
Said one in the group who was knowledgeable of history. The swamp was proof that the story was true. The magic that erupted in a whirl from the bottom of the swamp was hurting the lands. The philosopher who slept in the depths of the ground continued to sing, even in death, keeping the land under his curse. Everyone was frightened by the power, by the deep-seated hatred. But this land was also their hope. If they could heal it, the cursed lands would return to normal.
This land near the cursed whirl was oddly covered in nature unlike everywhere else. This place that could be compared to the eye of a typhoon, where the curse was the strongest, appeared to have been affected the least.
The thirteen survivors decided to make this spot their base. Here, they would attempt to break the curse. Their conviction was renewed.
And after a long ten years, the magic was finally complete.
Children were born, newcomers joined, their total numbers had grown to fifty. Helan was preparing for his final battle with the curse.
“Everyone, please listen to me. I am going to put an end to the curse on this land. I have finally completed the magic to do it.”
Of course, everyone already knew this without him telling them. They had been thinking of little else during the long years, and they had all become specialists in magic, thanks to a long time of research.
They all knew the small details well, even too well. And yet they all had dark expressions. When this was supposed to be the moment that they would finally, finally defeat the curse like they had always hoped…
“Everyone, you will also know that we cannot defeat the curse completely. My strength alone is not enough. I will offer my own life. But even with that, it will only last for around three hundred years. My descendants must continue this magic three hundred years later. It pains me to pass on such a burden to my descendants, but there is no other way. In three hundred years the curse will return. However, a male child with the same type of magic as I will surely be born among my descendants at the same time. Then, this cursed whirl will be reversed. The life of my descendant will also be lost, but the curse will also be broken for good when this happens.”
No one there had strong feelings towards this descendant of Helan that would be born three hundred years from now. They were all pained by the thought of losing Helan for three hundred years of peace. He, who stood before them, had been their symbol of hope. But they all understood that they would not be able to win against the curse, not even for a moment, if Helan did not offer his own life. They understood, but they could not hold back their emotions. Helan was their hope, they had all come to this point because of him.
Even if they did return peace to this lands, without him, the world would be…
However, the decision had been made. Helan’s choice to sacrifice his life would surely bring happiness, and he had no intention of backing down now. There was no possibility of someone else taking his place. This could only be accomplished with the ultimate magic that was the fruit of his talent and efforts.
The day before it was to be done, Helan headed for the swamp alone in the early morning.
The plan was for him to do it the following day, as everyone looked on, yet the farewells would be too hard for him. He told no one as he walked towards the swamp, his brilliant red hair flowing behind him. He stared quietly at the swamp. Everyone had seen that red hair and followed him. They had always been encouraged when seeing that red hair. However, Helan’s life was lost on that day. As everyone slept in the early morning, he had used the ultimate magic.
The whirl of the curse stopped, and Helan’s magic reversed the direction of the curse. When it was finished, the dried land healed, flowers grew from the center of the swamp. Rain fell for over a month. Flowers, grass, and trees grew as rivers formed, and in little more than a month since Helan’s death, the cursed land had become a blessed land.
The surviving companions named the land after Helan, and Helan’s son became the second lord. The magic that Helan created was recorded in five magical tomes and the story was passed down through the generations in order for his descendant to defeat the curse when it returned three hundred years later.
“In three hundred years, one who carries the blood of Helan will completely erase the cursed whirl. He will have the magical properties of the whirl, and he will have an uncommon gift for the use of magic. Someone much like the red-headed and fearless Helan.”
“That is all. The last part is especially important, my grandmother repeated it to me many times.”
Moran had been listening so intently, that he was at a loss for words.
He was amazed that he was ignorant of such a history. It was hard to believe and quite shocking to him.
“Why would you two…keep such a story to yourselves? If it is so important, you should let it be known more widely, have everyone help you.”
Moran’s opinion was logical.
“It is because we cannot, that I and Petel are working hard like this together. By reading through these old books.”
“Hmm? Why can’t you? If anything, this is something that everyone in the Helan territory should know.”
Moran said this as someone who did not know the hardships the two of them had faced, but his words were very annoying for them regardless.
After this, it took a week for Moran to be able to hear a more detailed explanation.
“A lot has happened in the Helan territories in the past few hundred years, the old historic texts were lost, the legends began to fade. To be honest, there are not many who take this problem seriously. When my grandmother repeated this story on her deathbed, everyone just brushed it off as the ravings of an old woman. My parents, my brothers…everyone. And so, it’s up to me and Petel to do something about it.”
“Why is Petel helping you?”
“It is because I have an interest in it nari! Also, I have fun when I am with Harp nari!”
It was because of these interactions between Harp and Petel that Moran would become incredibly jealous and say things he would later regret.
“Hmph. I think the whole thing is a lie. Clearly, it’s a made up story to try and make thase boring borderlands look interesting…”
“You go too far nari…”
It took a full month for Harp to forgive Moran for that one.
But Moran was very fond of Harp, and once he saw her resolve on the matter, he too began to do some serious research in order to help her. The days the three of them spent together were fun, and fruitful as well.
“This is the fourth magical tome… But we still can’t find the most important fifth one.”
“Yes. The first four were for the purpose of laying down the foundation, but it is the fifth book that the ultimate magic was recorded in. Ahhh, why can’t we find it?”
“There is no need to panic nari. We will surely find it eventually nari. The important fifth must have been kept safe somewhere nari. It’s just that it’s been forgotten and we can’t find it yet nari!”
“That’s pretty sad in itself. We only have one year left as students. We need to accomplish what we can.”
At around this time, Harp was starting to be drawn to the kindness deep within Moran, and his serious attitude. Petel had noticed their feelings on the matter, and he gently watched them.
“In any case, I do wonder if it was fate that Harp has the same hair color as the first lord of Helan. Harp has the same beautiful red hair. Maybe Harp is the descendant in that prophecy?”
“It’s not me. It won’t be for another sixty years, and I don’t have the magical abilities of the first Helan. If there is any meaning to my having red hair… it is that I am supposed to continue passing this fading legend on to future generations.”
“You also have to find the magical tomes.”
And so the three of them spent their youth in service to the future of Helan. But even so, the three of them enjoyed being together, they were happy.
The disaster occurred during their last year as students.
Moran had always been gifted, and now that he had read through many books on magic and Helan, his knowledge grew and grew. And it was soon decided that he would go to work at the Royal Castle after he graduated. And it was no ordinary post. This was an advancement that would offer him so many opportunities, even the possibility of becoming a future prime minister.
Harp was determined to return to the lands of Helan once she graduated. Petel decided to go with her. Moran had decided to go with them…had decided, but the alternate path had a strong allure to him as well. His heart wavered with the choice, and eventually, he chose the path that he would come to regret.
Moran chose to advance to the Royal Castle. In this country, he could attain a position second only to the king. He was young, and he obsessed over this possibility. His talents, the competitive spirit that was in his very blood waved aside any objections.
It wasn’t easy, but his life went on smoothly after that. And one day he received a letter from an old friend.
It was from Petel.
It was now several years since he had fallen in love with Harp. The feelings had weakened now, but they still remained. And so, he had decided that he would go for her once he had become prime minister. He also felt nostalgic about Petel. Because of this, he was genuinely happy when he received the letter.
The contents of the letter were mostly things that made Moran miss his old friend, and reading it filled him with joy. But there was one thing that bothered him. It was that Harp was not in good health. The letter included a request for Moran to come to Helan, for Harp would surely feel better when she saw his face.
Moran wanted to fly there as soon as possible.
But, he could not go. He was nearing a promotion examination. He could not neglect this exam if he wanted to become prime minister. Ultimately, Moran chose to take the examination instead of going to Helan.
Of course, he achieved the highest score for the exam, and he was at the forefront on this course for social advancement. Day after day, he participated in parties held by those in power. Wanting to maintain his connections, he appeared at every event even if it meant sacrificing sleep.
Moran’s life was going very well. No one doubted then, that he would become the youngest prime minister there ever was.
…and while this was happening, he received another letter from Petel.
Harp was in a bad state. It asked him to come quickly. The sentences begged him to come.
The exams were finished, he could go if he wanted.
However, he had been invited to a birthday party that a distinguished nobleman was holding for his daughter. If he attended, he would be guaranteed a formidable backer. He would be able to become prime minister. He had come that close.
…Once again, Moran chose to ignore the Helan territories, and attend the birthday party of some girl he had never seen before.
Indeed, Moran felt that he had made the right decision, and he had felt good about it. After all, he was treated as special no matter where he went. He could go to the Helan territories any time he wanted. Any time…
Half a month later, another letter from Petel arrived. Moran felt a tinge of irritation as he opened the letter. He had guessed that it would be another entreaty for him to visit the Helan territories.
But the letter contained something far exceeding his imagination.
It said that Harp had left this world. It said that she had been calling Moran’s name until her last moments. But her prayers were not answered, hopeless, her soul had been returned to heaven.
He could feel Harp’s regret, Petel’s anger and sadness through the letter. Moran could no longer stand on his legs. His knees buckled, his spine gave in.
His mind had stopped functioning. Not just his mind, his whole body had halted. It was only for a moment, but Moran was attacked by a sudden feeling that he was dead. Petel had written a farewell at the end of the letter.
With just one letter, Moran had lost two lifelong friends.
It was then that he finally understood his own foolishness.
That the road he had chosen had no worth to him. No, it was not that it was worthless. But that it was too small compared to the what he has lost. It was close to nothing.
Had he gone to the Helan territories, he would have been able to see Harp one last time. He might have seen that brilliant smile one last time. She might have been miraculously saved. But he had closed this door by his own free will.
Moran lost everything that day.
He no longer cared about advancement, becoming prime minister, station and wealth.
He abandoned everything and left the royal castle. His heart was empty, and he traveled on without a destination. A journey he would take completely alone.
He did not know how many months and days had passed since he left the royal capital. One day, he saw a single flower blooming. He did not know why, but this flower looked especially beautiful to him. He had been so long in a darkness, feeling nothing… Moran was surprised that his heart had been moved. After gazing at the flower for a while, he noticed other flowers nearby. He continued to walk on, looking at the flowers.
…before him was something shocking. A beautiful field of flowers stretched out before him, with colors so vibrant that they seemed to paint over Moran’s long colorless heart. There was a whole hill covered with flowers. Flowers that grew in nature. Red, blue, green and yellow. They grew in so many places that they gave an illusion of growing into infinity.
Before Moran knew it, he had fallen in love with this land. Perhaps this could be the end to his journey… He had become tired of this long road.
A peddler just happened to be walking by, and Moran asked him the name of this land.
“Here? This is Helan territory…”
So this was Helan territory… Moran’s eyes suddenly filled with tears. It was a strange coincidence. He regretted immensely that he had not come to such a beautiful land sooner. And he recalled his old friends. He recalled the one he had loved.
He recalled what she had been worried about. Her resolve to protect this beautiful Helan territory.
On this day, Moran decided to live a second life.
He decided that he would protect the peace of this land. For her, for the wish of she who he had loved. For she who was no longer here. It was much too late to be granted forgiveness. But he had finally found a way to live that he felt was right in his heart.
After that, Moran used his talents to gain the occupation of librarian at the Helan mansion.
And for decades since, he dedicated himself to researching a way to defeat the curse that would likely come, no, that would surely come.